Sri Lankan leopard
|Sri Lankan leopard|
|Sri Lankan leopard in Wilpattu National Park|
P. p. kotiya
|Panthera pardus kotiya|
|Distribution of the Sri Lankan leopard|
The Sri Lankan leopard has a tawny or rusty yellow coat with dark spots and close-set rosettes, which are smaller than in Indian leopards. Seven females measured in the early 20th century averaged a weight of 64 lb (29 kg) and had a mean head-to-body-length of 3 ft 5 in (1.04 m) with a 2 ft 6.5 in (77.5 cm) long tail, the largest being 3 ft 9 in (1.14 m) with a 2 ft 9 in (84 cm) long tail; 11 males averaged 124 lb (56 kg), the largest being 170 lb (77 kg), and measured 4 ft 2 in (1.27 m) with a 2 ft 10 in (86 cm) long tail, the largest being 4 ft 8 in (1.42 m) with a 3 ft 2 in (97 cm) long tail. The Sri Lankan leopard has allegedly evolved to become a rather large leopard subspecies, because it is an apex predator without competition by other large wild cat species in the country. Large males reach almost 220 lb (100 kg).
Melanistic leopards are rare. Only four records exist, from Mawuldeniya, Pitadeniya, and Nallathanniya. In October 2019, the Department of Wildlife Conservation recorded live footage of melanistic individuals for the first time, reportedly documenting four different animals – one female, one male, and two cubs.
Sri Lankan leopard life span range from 12 to 15 years in the wild, up to 22 years in captivity.
Distribution and habitat
The Sri Lankan leopard used to occur in all habitats throughout the island. These habitat types can be broadly categorised into:
- arid zone with <1,000 mm (39 in) rainfall;
- dry zone with 1,000–2,000 mm (39–79 in) rainfall;
- wet zone with >2,000 mm (79 in) rainfall.
Ecology and behaviour
A study in Yala National Park indicates that Sri Lankan leopards are not any more social than other leopard subspecies. They are solitary hunters, with the exception of females with young. Both sexes live in overlapping territories with the ranges of males overlapping the smaller ranges of several females, as well as overlapping the ranges of neighboring males. They prefer hunting at night, but are also active during dawn, and dusk, and daytime hours. They rarely haul their kills into trees, which is likely due to the lack of competition and the relative abundance of prey. Since the leopard is the apex predator in Sri Lanka, it does not need to protect its prey. In 2001 to 2002, adult resident leopard density was estimated at 17.9 individuals per 100 km2 (39 sq mi) in Block I of Yala National Park in Sri Lanka's southeastern coastal arid zone. This block encompasses 140 km2 (54 sq mi), contains coastal plains and permanent human-made and natural waterholes, which combined allow for a very high density of prey species.
The Sri Lankan leopard hunts by silently stalking its prey, until it is within striking distance where it unleashes a burst of speed to quickly pursue and pounce on its victim. The prey is usually dispatched with a single bite to the throat. Like most cats, it is pragmatic in its choice of diet which can include small mammals, birds, reptiles as well as larger animals. Axis or spotted deer make up the majority of its diet in the dry zone. The animal also preys on sambar, barking deer, wild boar and monkeys.
The survival of the Sri Lankan leopard is threatened due to habitat loss and fragmentation primarily with some levels of direct poaching and direct and indirect human-leopard related leopard deaths. Three individuals were killed by snare traps in the Sinharaja conservation area, one of which is stuffed and displayed at the Giritale Wildlife Museum. In May 2020, another wounded leopard was found and rescued at the Lakshapana Estate in Nallathanniya, Hatton. Later, it was transported to the Randenigala Veterinary Hospital for treatment. Then the animal was transferred to Elephant Transit Home in Udawalawa, where it died while receiving treatments. The snare had heavily injured its neck.
Further research into the Sri Lankan leopard is needed for any conservation measure to be effective. The Leopard Project under the Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust (WWCT), founded by Anjali Watson, is working closely with the Government of Sri Lanka to ensure this occurs. The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society will also undertake some studies. The WWCT is engaged throughout the island with targeted work ongoing in the central hills region where fragmentation of the leopard's habitat is rapidly occurring.
As a symbol
The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (Tamil Tigers) were colloquially known to the Sinhala-speaking community as 'Koti', the plural form of 'Kotiyā'. The Tamil Tigers have chosen the Sri Lankan leopard as the national animal of the aspired state of Tamil Eelam,
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Panthera pardus kotiya.|
|Wikispecies has information related to Panthera pardus kotiya|
- Species portrait Panthera pardus in Asia and short portrait P. pardus kotiya; IUCN/SSC Cat Specialist Group
- The Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Sri Lanka: The Leopard Project
- ARKive: Images and movies of the Sri Lankan leopard
- Biggest claimed Sri Lankan leopard (250 lb (110 kg)) from the valley of Gal Oya