The pride of leopards that have been prying on the line rooms at Templestowe Estate in Rozella where four year old Gunendran and his family together with the household pet ‘Bupi’ live may be prevented from doing so in a few days time, as the Estate management and the Department of Wildlife have agreed to clear a 300 meter area surrounding each cluster of linerooms.
Priyan De Silva
It is also learnt that as an added deterent the Department of Wildlife will be fencing off all the caves within a 50 meter radius as well.
Until such time Gunendran’s mother twenty seven year old N Sivamalan dare not take her eyes off her youngest child as he plays with Bupi on a mound of sand opposite their home. Lineroom 14 is the closest to the little out crop of rocks less than a hundred meters away from where the pride of leopards come to gaze at the humans and animals probably singling out their next prey or merely being inquisitive !
“The number of dogs in this area has diminished within the past year because the leopards have eaten them up. ‘Bupi’ has been lucky because my children keep him indoors most of the time. But you never know if he will be the next to disappear” said Gunendran’s mother. “I keep an eye on the rock and the surroundings at all times and specially when Gunendran and Bupi are at play outside” she added.
Sixty year old Ramachandran who lives in another lineroom closer to the Templestowe Tea factory attacked a leopard with a staff two months ago to save his pet pet dog ‘Puli’ from it’s jaws . It is impossible to induce ‘Puli’ out from the corner in the kitchen where she has taken refuge since then and the wound on her throat is yet to heal!
Ven Namadagaswewa Sugathasoma the chief incumbent of the Sri Bhodiraja Viharaya situated in between Templestow and Hydree Estates has played a prominent role to allay the people’s fear of being attacked by leopards. “I’ve been in this village for more than five years and the leopards have never troubled the people. There are about 250 families living in the vicinity and it is only within the past year that the villagers have become afaraid of the big cats. The publicity given to an incident where a leopard sprang on a woman at Bar-Kepel Estate in Nawalpitiya in July 2014 may have instilled this fear within the people.” he said.
“The leopard population in this area may have increased within the past few years as a lot of land has been cleared in and around Rozzella. The herds of deer that grazed in the area have disappeared and so have the wild boar. The canine population which had increased may have been easy prey and attracted the leopards. I don’t want the leopards to harm the people or the people to harm the leopards. The Department of Wildlife together with the estate management should protect both the villagers and the leopards ” the thera added.
“Isn’t prevention better than cure ? The authorities should permit us to clear the shrubs that surround the line rooms. If we have a clear view of a few hundred meters around our line rooms it will deter the leopards from coming near our homes and attacking our pets or us. We do not want to harm the leopards as much as we do not want to be harmed” said M Thangaraja who mwntioned the practical preventive measure that will be performed.
“There are no incidents on record where a Sri Lankan leopard has stalked and attacked a human being. The fear have become afraid and are resorting to various illegal methods to get rid of the leopards. As a practical solution the management of Tempelstow estate and Hydree estate have consented to maintain a clearing of a radius of around 200 to 300 meters around the line rooms to deter the leopards and we will be fencing off all the caves within fifty meters of the line rooms as an added precaution. There is over 200 acres of shrub jungle with enough and more caves for the leopards. This will be done at every estate in the hill country where leopards are considered a threat” revealed an wildlife official. ” We have educated the people how to avoid encountering these animals and it seems that they are taking the necessary precautions now” he added.
Visiting mant estates where leopards have been said to have been sighted it was learnt that at times the estate management spread rumors of leopard sightings to keep tea pluckers away from work. Most of the people I spoke to had never seen a leopard in real life except at the zoo.
“There are only between 750 to 1000 breeding leopards in Sri Lanka and they need to be protected. Nine leopards have been killed this year of which eight have been in the hill country” said Anjali Watson the founder of the Wilderness and Wildlife Conservation Trust that has launched ‘The Leopard Project’ to ensure that little Gunendran, Bupi, Puli and the leopards of Rozella to co-exsist!