Human Leopard ConflictsIn 2020, 13 leopard deaths were recorded, out of which 11 were due to illegal snaring. Snares are the leading cause of death among Sri Lanka’s leopards. As of July 12th, there have been 6 reported leopard deaths in 2021, 4 of which have been deliberate killings in hill country estates. There is a clear trend of increasing leopard killings across tea-estates and plantations in the hill-country. The number of annual leopard deaths could be far greater than what is reported, with much of these deaths going unreported for fear of being persecuted.
The Sri Lankan leopard is listed as a Vulnerable (VU) species by the IUCN Red List. The Human-Leopard conflict in the hill country has intensified in the last few years as more wildlife habitat is encroached upon due to human activities. Furthermore, with the advent of the Covid 19 pandemic, most estate persons that were working in Colombo lost their jobs and have gone back to their estates. It is suspected that a lot of these individuals, due to the lack of income have resorted to full time poaching, thereby reducing the Leopard's natural prey species.
This has resulted in leopards presenting themselves more frequently in human habituated areas in search of easy prey, like dogs, cattle and other livestock. The human-leopard conflict is intensifying year on year and there is still a clear lack of understanding of the unique challenges faced by this species, especially in the area they seem to be most vulnerable, in Sri Lanka's hill-country. Focused conservation efforts are needed to protect this iconic Sri Lankan species for future generations.