“Infant Paws” protection partnership: safeguarding Sri Lanka’s Leopard cubs

In commemoration of World Tourism Day 2023, Aitken Spence Travels and the Department of Wildlife Conservation Sri Lanka joined forces in a pioneering partnership to raise awareness about the protection of leopard cubs nestled in the central hills of Sri Lanka.

The Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is a unique subspecies endemic to Sri Lanka. Unlike their counterparts in Africa and Asia, these leopards are exclusively found only in Sri Lanka.

The event was graced by esteemed experts including Dr. Tharaka Prasad, Director of Wildlife Health, Dr. Akalanka Pinidiya, Veterinary Surgeon, along with Range Officers Mr. D. P. Siyasinghe and Mr. Srinath Bandara, who provided valuable insights into the lives of leopards in the central hills, their habitats, behaviors, and the vulnerable nature of cubs, shedding light on the various threats they face, including snares and maternal abandonment following human contact with cubs in the estates.

An interactive conversation with the experts on understanding the do’s and don’ts to safeguard the leopard cubs were experienced by all participants. The experts highlighted that the leopards in the central highland areas now faces an increased threat due to the growing number of snare traps being set up for wild animal meats. Further when cubs find their way towards humans, they unknowingly touch the cubs leading to the mother leopard abandoning its cubs.

Sharing his thoughts on the ‘Infant Paws’ initiative, Suranga Ratnayake the Chief Operating Officer of Aitken Spence Travels stated that “as a leading & responsible Travel company, it is our duty to preserve and nurture our natural resources. If this concern is not managed soon, we will have to take measures to mitigate a major concern in the future. We are committed to working with the Department of Would life in educating the estate workers, plantations and the villagers of the central hills. We believe education and awareness will allow an action of respect for both humans and animals will be the key to mitigate this issue”. Our commitment on creating the required awareness for the DWL is there for the months to come and our commitment to play a pivotal role in conservation will continue”. Together, we can ensure a brighter future for these animals and the biodiversity they represent.

Aitken Spence Travels stands as the foremost destination management company in Sri Lanka, with a rich operational history of over 45 years. Sustainability has been ingrained in our ethos from the very beginning and we are recognised as the most sustainable DMC and a role model of sustainability in the tourism sector, as honored at the Sustainability Awards 2022, which is a resounding testament to our unwavering commitment.

Source: ASTL team