Notes on the diet and habitat selection of the Sri Lankan Leopard Panthera pardus kotiya (Mammalia: Felidae) in the central highlands of Sri Lanka

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A.M. Kittle
A.C. Watson
P.H.S.C. Kumara
S.D.K.C. Sandanayake
H.K.N. Sanjeewani
T.S.P. Fernando


The endangered Sri Lankan Leopard Panthera pardus kotiya occupies the island’s highly fragmented central hills where data on its feeding ecology and habitat use is largely absent. This study’s objective was to investigate diet and resource selection of leopards here with a focus on the extent of potential interactions with humans in this heavily populated, largely unprotected landscape. Fecal sample analysis was undertaken to investigate diet and sign index counts and selectivity index analysis to determine habitat and landscape features important to fine scale leopard utilization. Results indicated that leopards in the central hills hunt a wide range of prey (at least 10 genera), including larger species where available (e.g., Sambar Rusa unicolor) and smaller, more specialized prey (e.g., Porcupine Hystrix indica) where necessary. No domestic species were recorded in scat analysis (N=35) despite the availability of dogs Canis familiaris, suggesting such predation may be atypical in Sri Lanka. Leopards use a range of landscapes within the region including established and regenerating forests, plantation lands (e.g., pine, eucalyptus, tea), and areas in close proximity to human settlement. At a fine scale, areas of dense undergrowth including tall grasslands were preferred to more open forest, as well as to Pine Pinus caribaea monocultures. Avoidance of humans may be influencing these patterns. This study has important implications as researchers and managers necessarily expand beyond focusing on protected areas toward integrated, landscape-level conservation strategies.

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