NOTES ON FIELD TRIPS TO WILPATTU NATIONAL PARK

  • Wilpattu National Park 1st to 4th February 2020

      7.09am entered the park with guide Hashan Madushanka
      7.41am a Barking Deer between Paaluwinlandawa junction and Thammanna Wala.
      8.06am 2 Wild Buffalo at Maha Wewa.
      8.17am 14 Wild Buffalo at Maha Wewa.
      8.21am 2 Spotted Deer at Maha Wewa.
      8.43am 6 Wild Buffalo at Maha Wewa
      8.52am 27 more Wild Buffalo at Maha Wewa
      9.00ama pair of Brown Fish Owls at Maha Wewa. The male of this species can be identified by the slight orange colour of its iris.

      9.13am a male Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher between Maha Wewa and Thammanna Wala.

      9.31am 3 Sambhur between Palu Kola Wala and Galwanguwa.
      9.33am an adult male Wild Buffalo between Palu Kola Wala and Gal Wanguwa
      9.35am a Barking Deer between Palu Kola Wala and Galwanguwa
      9.40am 6 Wild Buffalo including a newly born calf at Maradanmaduwa.
      9.44am 2 Spotted Deer at Maradanmaduwa.
      10.09am a Barking Deer crossed the road between Borupan junction and Kumbuk Wila.
      10.10am a Ruddy Mongoose between Borupan junction and Kumbuk Wila.
      10.11am a troop of Grey Langur between Borupan junction and Kumbuk Wila.
      10.24am 4 Spotted Deer on Kokkare Villu upper road.
      10.25am one Elephant at Kokkare Villu.
      10.49am a Common Skink Eutropis  carinata lankae at Eriyakkulampooval.

      11.31am we arrived at Aalam Villu and decided to drive around in the direction of the road to Erenapala motte. Hashan spotted some thing unusual inside the forest and asked me to reverse the vehicle. It was an Elephant lying flat on the ground about 15 feet inside the forest. We observed the animal for a while and realized that he was asleep. After a few minutes the Elephant woke up and moved in to the forest.
      1.57pm one Elephant at Aalam Villu. It’s very likely that this is the same animal that we observed sleeping in the morning.

      2.25pm a Spotted Deer at Kokkare Villu.
      3.50pm one Leopard at Kokkare Villu upper road. N 08.42128, E 079.98223
      The leopard was lying at the foot of a tree and was partially covered with foliage. I managed to get a few images for record purposes and moved off to permit the others to have a view. Upon examining the spot pattern I realized that this is the female leopard that I have named as Nelum Wila Leopard 4 under Leopards of Wilpattu – Guest section. It is the same litter sibling of Nelum Wila Male 5 and Nelum Wila Female 3 (two tone) As this is my first sighting of this elusive female I named it Nelum Wila Female 2 (NWF 2).

      3.52pm 2 Spotted Deer on Kokkare Villu upper road.
      4.36pm a Golden Jackal between Palu Kola Wala and Kalagedi Bokkuwa.
      5.01pm a lone Bull Elephant was on the road at Weli Ela. He walked slowly towards the park entrance. After a few anxious moments of him turning in our direction the standoff was over when he moved in to the forest. As I drove past he trumpeted and turned but did not charge.
      6.15pm left the park.
      Mammals  - Elephant 3, Leopard 1,Wild Buffalo 56, Sambhur 3, Spotted Deer 11, Barking Deer 3, Golden Jackal 1, Toque Monkey, Grey Langer, Ruddy Mongoose 1, Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel.
      Reptiles –Land Monitor, Common Garden Lizard, Green Garden Lizard 1, Painted-lip Lizard, Low-land Kangaroo Lizard,  Devaka’s Fan-throat Lizard.
       2nd February 2020
      6.17am entered the park with guide Hashan Madushanka
      6.40am a Ruddy Mongoose at Palu Kola Wala.
      6.42am 2 Sambhur between Palu Kola Wala and Galwanguwa
      6.49am a heard 8 Spotted Deer and of 7 Wild Buffalo at Maradanmaduwa.
      6.53am a troop of Grey Langur between Maradanmaduwa and Thambioluwa.
      7.35am a male and a female leopard at Kudapatessa. N 08.43129, E 079.99345
      I was informed of a mating pair of Leopards seen the previous day evening at Kuruttupandi Villu. Thus I arrived at the park entrance at 2.30am to ensure that I will be the first vehicle to enter the park. We drove down to Kuruttupandi Villu and had no luck but arrived at Kudapataess to spot the two leopards in the nick of time before they moved in to the forest. The male and the female exhibited typical leopard mating behavior but did not mate. They walked together in the direction of the sand dune across the villu but thankfully the female stopped and laid down resulting in the male to stop as well. After a few minutes the male resumed the walk followed by the female. Both the leopards walked over the sand dune in to the forest. The male was the Nelum Wila Mlae 5 (NWMC 5) and the female was Manikrala Uraniya Female 1 (MRUF 1). I received images of these two leopards mating on the 14th of February in 2019 and thereafter again on the 12th of June the same year. However this female is yet to conceive.

      8.04am 4 Spotted Deer and a Wild Boar at Nelum Wila.
      8.20am three leopards at Aalam Villu. N 08.40289, E 079.95450
      We drove down to Aalam Villu and spotted an adult female Leopard lying down on a small sand patch across the water body. Two other young female leopards were seen to our right and were walking towards the female. Their walk would suddenly break in to a sprint, as one would playfully chase the other. Upon reaching their mother the two cubs started to rub their heads against her. After a few minutes the adult female stood up and moved in the direction of the forest followed by one cub. The other was still lying down on the sand patch. Having walked up to the forest edge the adult female turned and looked back at the cub still lying down. Almost instantly the cub walked up to her mother.  There after they all moved in to the forest. Later upon examination of their spot patterns I was able to identify the mother as the Panikkar Villu Female 2 (PVFC 2). I had photographed this female in January 2015 at Panikkar Villu sand patch when she was a cub of 5 months. In August 2017 I observed her with an adult male (Aalam Villu Male 2) at Aalam Villu. There after in November 2018 I was fortunate enough to see her two cubs for the first time at Panikkar Villu when they were about 4 months of age. I was only able to photograph one of them then and named it Panikkar Villu Female 3 (PVFC 3). Upon receiving images of the other cub from those who share their images with me I have listed it under Leopards of Wilpattu – Guest section as Panikkar Villu Leopard 3. I was thrilled with this sighting as this female is quite elusive.  Until now I was not able to determine the mother of these two cubs, as I had not received any images of them with their mother. The mother is 5 years and 4 months and the cubs a year and six months of age as at now. As this is my first sighting of the second cub I named it Panikkar Villu Female 4 (PVFC 4).

       8.55am a Mugger Crocodile at Aalam Vullu.
      9.06am 2 Crested Hawk Eagles mated at Aalam Villu.
      10.05am one Elephant at Kokkare Villu.
      10.39am we drove up to Illanda Motte and were surprised to see another Leopard on the road. N 08.45756, E 079.98941
      It was a shy young male leopard and had its body lowered to the ground upon our arrival. As soon as we saw him he ran in to the forest. As it was obvious that this is not a leopard that is habituated much with vehicles I revered and waited for some time expecting the leopard to move back on to the road but had no luck. Thus I drove passed the location where the leopard enter the forest and saw him seated about 15 feet in the thicket. I continued to drive well beyond where the animal was seen, as I wanted him to be relaxed with the vehicle and turned back. When I arrived at the spot the leopard was still there and I managed to get a few images of this shy animal before he disappeared further in to the forest. Having examined its spot pattern I realized that this is not a leopard that I was familiar with and suspected that it is an animal that is not in my database. My suspicion was confirmed upon comparing his spot pattern with all the others. It was a young well-built male leopard of about 2 years and six months in age. As this is my first sighting of this animal I named it Illanda Motte Male 1 (IMM 1).

      11.04am troop of Grey Langur between Down Hall Pitiya and Mana Wila.
      11.19am a Sambhur that was drinking at Herathhamy Wala trotted in to he forest upon our arrival.
      11.45am  I photographed two sub adult Little Grebe at Kumutu Wila. While I was waiting for these tiny birds to emerge from their frequent dives two Wild Boars came to water across the villu.

      12.38pm 9 Spotted Deer at Nelum Wila pitiya.
      12.47pm  a Ruddy Mongoose between Nelum Wila and Nelum Wila sand pacth.
      1.48pm a Spotted Deer at Aalam Villu.
      2.48pm a Lesser Adjutant Stork at Pallekandal pitiya.
      2.58pm 24 Elephants in three herds of 7,8 and 9 individuals at Pomparippu. The herd of 9 included a small tusker as well.

      3.00pm A Ruddy Mongoose at Pomparippu.
      3.28pm a sounder of 21 Wild Boar at Tala Wila.
      3.43pm one Leopard at Tala Wila. N 08.37965, E 079.94736
      The leopard was stalking a Peahen and had its body lowered to the ground with its ears flat. It was on a patch of shade and was observing the movements of the bird intently. While I was photographing all at once she charged but was not successful. The Peahen flew off with a series of loud alarm calls. With the arrival of another two vehicles the Leopard moved in to the forest. I was pleased to note that this is Kombansanchaipooval Female 1 (KSPF 1), the mother of the two small cubs seen at this location. Unfortunately for me the two cubs were not with her, as she appear to have left them behind to go on a hunt.

      4.47pm a Yellow Wagtail of the race Thunbergi at Eriyakkulampooval.
      4.49pm a Mugger Crocodile and a sounder of 12 Wild Boar at Mahapatessa.
      5.00pm one Elephant and a Wild Buffalo at Borupan Wila.
      5.01pm 5 Spotted Deer at Borupan Wila.
      5.08pm one male Wild Buffalo between Borupan Wila and Borupan junction.
      4.46pm a Leopard between “Eda Kohomba Gaha pitiya” and Palukola Wala. N 08.36157, E 080.09512
      It was young male leopard and he was seated behind some foliage. Much to my relief the leopard moved out within a few minutes and lay down on a small mound of earth permitting the visitors to get some clear images. After a few minutes, with the increase in the number of vehicles, the young male walked in to the forest. Later upon examining its spot pattern I was pleased to note that this is the male cub of the Kalagedi Bokkuwa Female 1 (KBFC 1), the female that was found close to Thammanna Wala in a very feeble condition on the 19th of December 2019 and was removed by the park officials on the same day to administer treatment. It was later learnt that she had died within a few days of being removed from the park. I had listed this male cub as Thammanna Wala Leopard 1 under Leopards of Wilpattu – Guest section on my site. At the time of her death this male cub was only one year and 2 months. Usually leopard cubs would stay with their mothers until they are close to two years. I was concerned over the survival of this cub and was keen to find out whether he would be able to hunt and survive. I had requested the guides and jeep drivers to keep me informed of any sightings of this cub and had only two records from them supported by images for confirmation. Thus this sighting was very special and I was thrilled to note that despite the untimely death of his mother this young leopard has managed to survive. As this is my first sighting of this leopard I named it Thammanna Wala Male 1 (THWMC 1). Its current age is one year and 4 months.

      6.00pm left the park.
      During the day I was fortunate to observe and photograph 8 different leopards. This is the highest number I had seen during a single day at Wilpattu so far.

      Mammals  - Elephant 26, Leopard 8, Wild Buffalo 9, Sambhur 3, Spotted Deer 27, Wild Boar 36, Toque Monkey, Grey Langer, Ruddy Mongoose 3, Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel.
      Reptiles – Mugger Crocodile 2, Land Monitor, Common Garden Lizard, Low-land Kangaroo Lizard, Devaka’s Fan-throat Lizard.
      3rd February 2020
      6.15am entered the park with guide Hashan Madushanka.
      6.16am 4 Spotted Deer at the park entrance.
      6.27am one Wild Buffalo between Percy Bendi Wewa and Paaluillandawa junction.
      6.36am another Wild Buffalo between Kalagedi Bokkuwa and Palu Kola Wala.
      6.42am an adult male Sambhur sporting an impressive pair of antlers was on the road looking in our direction between Palu Kola Wala and Galwanguwa. Unfortunately the impressive beast trotted in to the forest before I was able to get any images.
      6.45am about 12 Spotted Deer at Galwanguwa.
      6.47am one Leopard at Maradanmaduwa. N 08.37157, E 080. 07440
      It was a big male leopard and he was marking the bushes by the side of the road. It was a very brief sighting as the animal quickly moved in to the forest. Upon examination of its spot pattern I was pleased to note that this is Maradanmaduwa Male 3 (MMM 3), referred to as “Gota” by the guides and jeep drivers.

      6.51am about 12 Spotted Deer at Maradanmaduwa.
      7.37am a troop of Grey Langur at Maradanmaduwa.
      8.16am one Ruddy Mongoose between Thammanna Wala and Maha Wewa.
      8.25am 2 Ruddy Mongoose at Thammanna Wala.
      8.48am a troop of Grey Langur at Percy Bendi Wewa.
      8.53am another troop of Grey Langur between Ranawara pitiya and the park entrance.
      9.01am about 13 Spotted Deer between Weli Ela and Ranawara pitiya.
      9.26am 3 Sambhur between Palu Kola Wala and Galwanguwa.
      9.50am 5 Wild Buffalo at Thambioluwa.
      9.54am one more Wild Buffalo at Ibba Wala.
      10.21am one Mugger Crocodile at Borupan Wila.
      10.37am 2 Spotted Deer on Kokkare Villu upper road.
      10.44am one Elephant at Kokkare Villu.
      10.47am a troop of Grey Langur and one Barking Deer at Kokare Villu.
      12.01pm a Spotted Deer on Kokkare Villu upper road.
      12.24pm one Ruddy Mongoose on Panikkar Villu upper road.
      1.26am an adult male Wild Boar at Kombansanchaipooval.
      1.29am 12 Spotted Deer at Panikkar Villu.
      2.01pm a sounder of 8 Wild Boar on Kokkare Villu upper road.
      3.34pm 2 Elephants at Percy Bendi Wewa. They had walked in to the water and were bathing.

      3.47pm a Star Tortoise between Ranawara pitiya and Weli Ela.
      4.25pm left the park.
      5.17pm photographed a Blue-throated Flycatcher at Holambalagama Tank. This is a rare migrant and my first record of this species at Wilpattu.

       Mammals  - Elephant 1, Leopard 1, Wild Buffalo 8, Sambhur 4, Spotted Deer 55, Wild Boar 8, Barking Deer 1, Toque Monkey, Grey Langer, Ruddy Mongoose 4, Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel.
      Reptiles – Mugger Crocodile 1 , Star Tortoise 1, Land Monitor, Common Garden Lizard, Low-land Kangaroo Lizard,  Devaka’s Fan-throat Lizard.
      4th February 2020
      7.16am entered the park with guide Hashan Madushanka
      8.25am 4 Spotted Deer between “Nuga Gala” and Percy Bendi Wewa on Makalanmaduwa road.
      9.02am a Barking Deer at Thammanna Wala.
      9.27am a Ruddy Mongoose between Thammanna Wala and Paaluilandawa junction.
      9.37am another Ruddy Mongoose between Thammanna Wala and Paaluilandawa junction.
      9.50am one Wild Buffalo between Palu Kola Wala and Galwanguwa.
      10.02am a bachelor party of 9 Spotted Deer stags between Maradanmaduwa and Maha Wewa.
      10.13am 3 more Spotted Deer stags between Maradanmaduwa and Maha Wewa.
      10.19am 4 Spotted Deer and 9 Wild Buffalo at Maradanmaduwa.
      10.20am 2 Spotted Deer at “Kukul Katu” pitiya.
      10.50am Chestnut-headed Bee Eaters darting at flying insects and returning to the same perch at Borupan junction.

      11.02am 9 Wild Boar at Borupan Wila.
      11.20am 4 Spotted Deer crossed the road at Lunu Wewa.
      11.30am 4 Spotted Deer at Borupan Wila.
      11.52am 6 Wild Buffalo in the water at Eriyakkulampooval.
      12.10pm a Flapshell Turtle at Illanda Motte.
      1.51pm one Elephant at Kokkare villu.
      2.25pm a Crested Honey Buzzard at Maradanmaduwa.

      2.45pm a sounder of 18 Wild Boar at Tala Wila.

      3.41pm 2 Ruddy Mongoose between Illanda Motte and Manikrala Uraniya.
      3.44pm a Golden Jackal at Mahapatessa.
      4.11pm 2 Spotted Deer at Kokkare Villu.
      5.46pm one Elephant at Weli Ela.
      5.48pm a Golden Jackal between Weli Ela and the park entrance.
      6.15pm left the park.
      Mammals  - Elephant 2, Wild Buffalo 16, Spotted Deer 32, Wild Boar 27, Barking Deer 1, Golden Jackal 2, Toque Monkey, Grey Langer, Ruddy Mongoose 4, Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel.
      Reptiles –Flapshell Turtle 1 , Land Monitor, Common Garden Lizard, Low-land Kangaroo Lizard,  Devaka’s Fan-throat Lizard.

      Birds, Butterflies & Flora observed during the filed trip
      Birds – Lesser Adjutant, Painted Storks, White-necked Stork, Blue-throated Flycatcher
      Butterflies – Red Spot Duke, Tawny Rajah, Ceylon Lacewing, Blue Mormon, Banded Peacock, Crimson Rose, Common Mormon, Great Orange Tip, Quaker, Blue Wanderer, Dark Blue Tiger, Blue Tiger, Tailed Jay, Great Eggfly.
      Wild Orchids – Vanda spathulata, Vanda tessellate
      Fruiting trees -
      Wild Flowers - Ceylon Osbeckia Osbeckia zeylanica, Chinese Violet Asystasia gangetica, Yellow Bell Bauhinia Bauhinia tomentosa, Indian Cadaba Cadaba trifoliate, Gray Nicker Caesalpinia bonducella, Bird Flower Crotalaria laburnifolia, Small Horsefly’s Eye Dopatrium nudicaule, Dwaf Morning Glory Evolvulus alsinoides, Glory Lily, Flame Lily Gloriosa superba, Maple-leaved Mallow Hibiscus eriocarpus, Ceylon Leadwort Plumbago zeylanica,  Wild Nightshade Solanum sp.
      Ranawara & Lunu Warna Crataeva adansonii trees were in bloom.


  • Wilpattu National Park 10th to 12th January 2020

      6.22am entered the park with guide Tissa Ratnayake.
      15 Spotted Deer at the park entrance.
      6.45am 4 Leopards on the road between Percy Bendi Wewa and Thammanna Wala. Even though I was able to see them at a distance there was no opportunity to get any images, as there were about 7 vehicles ahead of me. By the time they were able to give way the leopards had moved in o the forest.
      6.56am 7 Spotted Deer at Thammanna Wala.
      6.57am 4 Spotted Deer at Divulgas Mandiya.
      7.08am 4 Spotted Deer at “Eda Kohombagaha pitiya”.
      7.11am 16 Spotted Deer at Maradanmaduwa.
      7.12am 4 more Spotted Deer at Kukulkatu pitiya.
      7.22am 2 Spotted Deer between Ibba Wala and Humbas Wala
      7.31am a Mugger Crocodile at Walas Wala. The renovation of the bund has resulted in this water body expanding to become a small reservoir, which is filled to the brim due to recent rains. This water body should be of great value to the animals during the dry season.
      7.32am 2 Sambhur between Walas Wala and Borupan junction.
      7.46am 5 Spotted Deer on Kumbuk Wila upper road.
      7.56am 2 Spotted Deer at Nelum Wila.
      8.39am 2 Spotted Deer between Nelum Wila and Panikkar Villu.
      8.46am 9 Spotted Deer at Nelum Wila.
      10.15am a troop of Grey Langur between Maradanmaduwa and Maha Wewa.
      10.33am 3 Spotted Deer between Maradanmaduwa and Maha Wewa.
      10.36am 26 more Spotted Deer between Maradanmaduwa and Maha Wewa.
      10.57am 17 Wild Buffalo at Maha Wewa.
      10.58am 2 more Wild Buffalo at Maha Wewa.
      11.03am 2 more Wild Buffalo at Maha Wewa
      11.33am 1 adult male Wild Buffalo between Palu Kola Wala and Maradanmaduwa.
      11.42am a Leopard darted across the road between Maradanmaduwa and Thambioluwa.
      1.21pm a Blue Mormon feeding on some Ceylon Leadwort flowers on Kokkare Villu upper road.

       1.30pm 4 Spotted Deer between Kokkare Villu and Kuruttupandi Villu.
      2.00pm 2 Spotted Deer at Mana Wila.
      2.05pm 4 more Spotted Deer between Mana Wila and Herathhamy Wala.
      3.15pm a Mugger Crocodile at Kuruttupandi Villu.
      3.29pm 2 Ruddy Mongoose on Kumbuk Wila upper road.
      4.21pm 2 Golden Jackal between Palu Kola Wala and Kalagedi Bokkuwa.
      5.37pm a Golden Jackal at Percy Bendi Wewa.
      5.41pm a Barking Deer between Ranawara pitiya and Weli Ela.
      5.55pm left the park.

      Mammals  - Leopard 5, Wild Buffalo 22, Sambhur 2, Spotted Deer 105, Barking Deer 1, Golden Jackal 3, Toque Monkey, Grey Langer, Ruddy Mongoose 2, Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel.
      Reptiles – Mugger Crocodile 3, Land Monitor, Common Garden Lizard, Low-land Kangaroo Lizard, Devaka’s Fan-throat Lizard.

      11th January 2020
      6.11am entered the park with guide Tissa Ratnayake.
      6.15am a Leopard walked across the road ahead of us between the park entrance and Kone Gaha ela but photography was not possible due to low light. A carcass of a Golden Jackal was lying by the side of the road where the leopard crossed but the predator did not show any interest. The injuries to the neck suggested that it was killed by a predator.
      6.30am a Leopard that was on the road moved in to the forest between Thamanna Wala and the first glade on the road to Maha Wewa. The animal gave me no opportunity for photography.
      6.40am 7 Spotted Deer at Thamanna Wala.
      6.52am 11 Spotted Deer between Galwanguwa and Eda Kohombagaha pitiya.
      6.57am a herd of 7 Wild Buffalo at Maradanmaduwa.
      8.48am a Black-naped Hare at Maha Wewa.
      9.21am 4 Spotted Deer between Kalagedi Bokkuwa and Palu Kola Wala.
      10.01am a Ruddy Mongoose at Borupan junction.
      10.20am one Leopard that was lying on the road between Borupan Wila and thimbiri Wila moved in to the forest as we arrived. Again there was no opportunity to get any images. During this trip so far I had seen 8 leopards but there was no opportunity for photography.
      10.41am 8 Spotted Deer at Kokkare Villu.
      10.42am a Ruddy Mongoose at Kokkare Villu.
      10.45am the carnivorous plant Tropical Sundew Drosera burmannii was observed at Kokkare Villu.
      11.29am a sounder of 18 Wild Boar between Kombansanchaipooval and Tala Wila.
      11.43am 6 Spotted Deer at Panikkar Villu.
      12.12pm a pair of Barking Deer between Nelum Wila and Thamanna Gaha junction.
      1.24pm a sub adult Crested Hawk Eagle in its first year of life was feeding on a Slender Loris kill on the road at Herathhamy Wala. The raptor flew up on to a tree permitting me to get a few record shots of the bird with its prey.

      2.20pm pair of Crimson-backed Woodpeckers was nesting on a Thelambu tree at Manik Wila. They chased away a few persistent Rose-ringed Parakeets that were also interested in examining the tree holes on the same tree. This species is much less common than the Golden-backed/ Red-backed Woodpeckers, which are usually seen in the park. They are more often heard than seen. The female was more aggressive than the male. She would alight on nearby trees and launch her attack on the Parakeets.

      2.24pm a male Wild Boar at Manik Wila.
      2.47pm a Spotted Deer on Kokkare Villu upper road.
      2.59pm  2 Ruddy Mongoose at Borupan junction.
      3.37pm a  Star Tortoise on the road to Lunu Wewa bungalow from Borupan Wila.

      4.48pm a Spotted Deer at Thambioluwa.
      5.07pm a Black-naped Hare at Galwanguwa.
      5.48pm left the park.

      Mammals  - Leopard 3, Wild Buffalo 7, Spotted Deer 38, Wild Boar 19, Barking Deer 2,  White – spotted Chevrotain, Toque Monkey, Grey Langer, Black-naped Hare 1, Ruddy Mongoose 4, Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel.

      Reptiles –Star Tortoise 1, Land Monitor, Common Garden Lizard, Low-land Kangaroo Lizard,  Devaka’s Fan-throat Lizard.

      12th January 2020
      I received information that a leopard had entered the Lunu Wewa bungalow around 7pm causing much distress to the visitors who are in occupation of the bungalow. One of the two bungalow keepers had moved them in to a room upstairs. The leopard had walked up the stairs and the videos were showing how the animal was moving inside the bungalow and even trying to enter the room through the window grills. Around 10pm one of the Bungalow keepers who was downstairs had managed to light a few crackers used to drive away elephants  (Ali Wedi) and managed to chase away the leopard. The terrified visitors had hurriedly moved in to the safari jeep they had kept over night for their game drive the next day and driven out of the park. I spoke to the jeep driver Danushka (popularly know and “Take”). Having listened to the account of what had taken place and having watched the video’s that were received I was quite surprised by the abnormal behavior of this animal. I arrived at the park entrance at 3am to ensure that I can enter the park before any one else. Many of the jeep drivers who arrived later were of the view that this is one of the Borupan Cubs that had been seen close to this bungalow in the recent past. I was aware that a male Leopard that was kept in an enclosure close to Maradanmaduwa by the DWC on a capture-rehabilitate and release program had escaped around 19th of December last year.  Considering this abnormal behavior I suspected that it could to be the same leopard. But without a proper spot pattern identification there was no way I could be certain of the identity of the animal. Upon a request made by me a Veterinary surgeon attached to the DWC had kindly provided me with a few images of the leopard that was kept in the enclosure to enable me to identify the animal id he was seen in the park.

      6.05am entered the park with guide Tissa Ratnayake. I decided to drive to the Lunu Wewa bungalow area expecting that the leopard could still be around. 
      6.31am a Wild Buffalo between Palu Kola Wala and Maradanmaduwa.
      6.32am 11 Spotted Deer and two Golden Jackal at Maradanmaduwa.
      6.33am a herd of 8 Wild Buffalo including a small calf at Maradanmaduwa.
      6.54am 22 Spotted Deer at Borupan Wila.

      7.12am we drove on the Lunu Wewa bungalow road expecting to see the leopard on the road but as we had no luck arrived at the bungalow.
      Upon arriving at the bungalow I was surprised to see the Leopard in one of the downstairs bedrooms of the bungalow. Bungalow keepers Nethmin and Asanka informed me that after the visitors had left the leopard had entered the bungalow again they had managed to lock the animal inside the room. The leopard was quite relaxed and was busy feeding on a piece of meat provided by the DWC officials. I photographed the leopard through an open window and compared the spot pattern with the images I had received. I was relieved to note that this indeed is the leopard that escaped from the enclosure in December 2019. Having observed the leopard for about 15 minutes I noted that he was not at all concerned of us being around and exhibited no stress of being kept inside a room. The DWC Officers and the two bungalow keepers had acted extremely intelligently in managing the situation that prevailed and ensured safety of the visitors as well as the safety of this magnificent leopard. It was quite apparent that this animal is not fit to be released in a forest as it had become quite tame and had no fear of human beings. Based on my GPS readings the distance between the enclosure from where the animal escaped and the Lunuwewa bungalow is about 9.5 KM (on a straight line) while the distance from the same through Maha Wewa to Katupaththewa village out side the park is only 7 KM. If this leopard moved out of the park and entered a village it is very likely that he would have suffered a tragic death at the hands of villagers due to its abnormal behavior of seeking human association and entering human dwellings. On the other hand this animal could well have walked up to Kumbuk Wila campsite during the day, where foreign and local visitors are allowed to get off their vehicles, causing absolute pandemonium. It was extremely lucky to have arrived at this bungalow and for this incident to have ended the way it did. Having observed the leopard we left the Lunuwewa bungalow.

      The survival of most wild animals depends on their ability to avoid human beings and this is more so when it comes to any large carnivore. Wild leopards will instinctively avoid any contact with humans and even become purely nocturnal and quite elusive when they live close to human habitations. Once a leopard losses its fear of humans and starts seeking human association the opportunity for it to adapt to the wild is almost non-existent considering the extents of wilderness areas in Sri Lanka.

      In the forests leopard cubs grow up in a community where territories are maintained. There is also a hierarchy that exists between animals that live in close proximity to each other. Often dominant males will tolerate young male cubs within its territory. When a male leopard such as this one is suddenly introduced to a settled community of leopards he will be attacked and pushed out resulting in the animal having to move for long distances. Considering the smaller size of our national parks this can often result in such leopards even being pushed out of the parks close to human habitations. Young male leopards usually will leave their mother when they reach around 2 years and instinctively move for long distances exploring to find a territories of their own. The female cubs usually do not undertake such long distance travels and will often stay close to their mother’s original territories. A wild male leopard cub learning from its mothers behaviour will avoid humans if they move to areas where there are human habitations and learn how best to hunt and survive in he wild. Without any such opportunities life will become very hard for a caged leopard to be introduced suddenly to a very competitive environment.

      I estimated the age of this animal to be around 2 years. After having occupied the enclosure for almost two years this animal would have been driven by its instinct to wonder. In Wilpattu I have recorded some young male leopards leaving their mothers and some times moving as far as 9 to 16 km. In these circumstances it is important for the safety of the animal and people alike for this leopard to be removed from this enclosure as soon as possible and ideally placed at the open zoo at Ridiyagama in Hambantota where his quality of life should be somewhat better than those animals kept in small cages in other zoos.

      Later that day I was told that the animal was moved back to the same enclosure from where he once escaped and was quite disturbed to learn that there was discussion to release this leopard in Wilpattu after fitting him with a collar.  

      I have already written to the Director General of DWC expressing my point of view and have confidence in the senior officials of the DWC to take the right decision in this regard.

      7.46am 12 Spotted Deer on Kumbuk Wila upper road.
      7.50am a leopard was observed on Kumbuk Wila upper road. N 08.41848, E080.00203
      The leopard was lying down on a small patch of sand about 20 feet from the road. It was a male and he walked in to the forest almost as we arrived. I managed to get a few images in the nick of time to identify the animal. It was Nelum Wila Male 5 (NWMC 5).

      8.00pm a Ruddy Mongoose on Kumbuk Wila upper road.
      8.36am a Lesser Adjutant at Kokkare Villu.
      9.23am a Golden Jackal on the road between Tala Wila and Phill Motte.
      9.38am a Blue-faced Malkoha permitted a few images at Pallekandal pitiya.

      10.04am a troop of Northern Purple-faced Leaf Monkey at the Uththamadaru Bridge.

      10.06am a Purple Heron perched among many newly bloomed Scarlet Mallow flowers at Pomparippu.

      10.17am a Ruddy Mongoose between Pallekandal pitiya and Phill Motte.
      12.20pm a Black-headed Oriole nest between Panikkar Villu and Nelum Wila.

      12.32pm 2 Spotted Deer between Panikkar Villu and Nelum Wila.
      12.46pm a troop of Grey Langur drinking water from a pool on the road at Madan Gas Wala.
      1.00pm a Ruddy Mongoose between Walas Wala and Boralu Wala.
      1.11pm 2 Spotted Deer at Thambioluwa.
      1.18pm a Flapshell Turtle at Palu Kola Wala.
      1.35pm 6 Spotted Deer between Kalagedi Bokkuwa and Thamanna Wala.
      2.30pm left the park.
      Mammals  - Wild Buffalo 9, Spotted Deer 55, Golden Jackal 3, Toque Monkey, Grey Langer, Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Ruddy Mongoose 3, Giant Squirrel, Indian Palm Squirrel.
      Reptiles – Flapshell Turtle 1, Land Monitor, Common Garden Lizard, Low-land Kangaroo Lizard, Devaka’s Fan-throat Lizard.
      Birds, Butterflies & Flora observed during the filed trip
      Birds – Lesser Adjutant, Painted Storks, White-necked Stork,
      Butterflies – Blue Mormon, Banded Peacock, Blue Wanderer, Great Orange tip, Crimson Rose, Common Rose, Lime Butterfly, Lesser Albatross, Tailed Jay, 
      Wild Orchids – Vanda spathulata
      Wild Flowers - Ceylon Osbeckia Osbeckia zeylanica, Chinese Violet Asystasia gangetica, Yellow Bell Bauhinia Bauhinia tomentosa, Indian Cadaba Cadaba trifoliate, Gray Nicker Caesalpinia bonducella, Swamp Foxglove Centranthera indica, Bird Flower Crotalaria laburnifolia, Small Horsefly’s Eye Dopatrium nudicaule, Dwaf Morning Glory Evolvulus alsinoides, Glory Lily, Flame Lily Gloriosa superba, Maple-leaved Mallow Hibiscus eriocarpus, Ceylon Leadwort Plumbago zeylanica