By Sriyantha Perera - Settlor, Rainforest Protectors Trust
During the COVID-19 lockdown, poaching incidents in Sri Lanka recorded an exponential growth as lack of wildlife rangers on ground provided perfect opportunity for poachers and wildlife smugglers to carry out their illegal activities without any restriction. Unfortunately, this resulted in the loss of a very rare Melanistic (Black) Wet Zone Leopard, caught to a poachers snare in the Proposed Buffer Zone of Peak Wilderness Wildlife Sanctuary that later died due to the injuries. It is estimated no more than 3 or 4 Black Leopards remain alive in the country and the loss of this magnificent young and healthy male was a great loss. Worse, just 3 days later, the carcass of another lowland rainforest Leopard killed by a poachers snare was found in Neluwa between Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest and the adjoining Dellawa Rainforest. The poacher had managed to extract the Leopard teeth and nails to be sold in the black market.
Both poaching incidents happened in private land withing the buffer zone of protected rainforests. Having lost more than 95% of the original rainforests, the remaining lowland and sub-montane tropical rainforest habitat is not large enough for the mega-fauna including the lowland rainforest Elephants and the rainforest Leopards resulting in these animals constantly moving within the buffer zone. This is a prime example of why the initiative carried out by Rainforest Protectors Trust to purchase and permanently protect the privately held forest lands within the buffer zone is vital.
As of June 15th 2020, we have raised close to half of the funds needed to purchase and permanently protect the beautiful 4.5 acre riverine rainforest within the buffer zone of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest. We have also identified an addtional 7 acres that is currently on sale nearby which is situated in an area frequently used by the rainforest Elephants of Sinharaja as a corridor to move between fragmented forest patches. Therefore, we are urgently trying to complete the current project with the intention of moving on to protect the additional acres soon as possible. We wish to thank all donors who contributed so far and hope you can help us reach the goal by getting your friends and family to support the project as well as by spreading the word.
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