Leopard shooting raises questions


A spate of leopard deaths, the most recent being a shooting reported from the vicinity of the Yala National Park has raised serious concern among wildlife enthusiasts.


The still-warm carcass of a six foot female leopard was spotted in a culvert near the main entrance of the park by an army foot patrol unit around 9 a.m. on April 19. A single T56 shot had entered the shoulder of the animal and come out from its head. The nature of the gunshot wound indicated that the leopard was on a tree at the time of the shooting, leopard experts say. The proximity of the shooting to the park has raised questions as to how poachers could have carried out the act without being spotted by the authorities. A probe by the Department of Wildlife Conservation into the shooting revealed that the animal may have been killed further inside the park before being dumped in the culvert close to the park entrance. However, since the carcass was still warm when discovered, the shooting could not have occurred more than a kilometre away from the culvert, wildlife authorities say. Ananda Wijesooriya, Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) told The Sunday Times that a special team was sent from the department to conduct a probe even after a post mortem was carried out since the shooting had taken place close to the Yala wildlife office. He said the probe revealed that an automatic weapon had been used in the shooting, adding that it was difficult to track down the culprits as the area had many units including police, army and home guards providing security, following LTTE attacks in the park. He said the DWC had handed over a report on the findings to the officer in-charge of the Yala area and was awaiting ministry approval to conduct further investigations. The park warden was interdicted last week following the incident. Last month a black leopard met an agonizing end when it got strangulated in a wire trap at Kalawana while in September a leopard died from injuries to its kidneys in Nanuoya after falling victim, once again to a wire trap.

Published on SundayTimes on 26.04.2009 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/090426/News/sundaytimesnews_22.html

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