Pic from the Sunday Times, using demo software apparently.
Sri Lanka recently won an award for a leopard poster, but it wasn’t this image. This is a leopard killed in a hit and run in Yala national park. Sri Lanka is lucky to have substantial national parks, even where those parks block coastal roads.
The animals effectively have some coastline in the south (Yala) and north-west (Wilpattu, though there’s now a road through there). This is important because Sri Lanka’s wildlife is awesome, and ethically and culturally important. As tourism grows, however, so does the number of people visiting these wild areas.
When people take jeeps into Yala there are a few set paths and you cruise around hoping to see something. Water buffalo are standard, cranes, wild pig, but if you’re really lucky you spot a leopard. Well, if someone’s lucky. When a leopard is spotting the trackers get on their mobiles and everybody shows up. So you get a mini traffic jam, with people trying to catch a fleck of black and yellow tail above a rock.
That is one issue, but this hit and run is another. It’s actually horrifying, because leopards are so awesome and so rare. Malaka Rodrigo reports that they haven’t arrested anyone for it. As Sri Lankan tourism grows this type of tragedy becomes more likely as numbers increase. The new airport in Hambantota is surrounded by national parks and wildlife reserves. There’s literally nothing else there, so it’s presumable that more people will go to Yala. This isn’t necessarily the best thing.