Recently it was reported, of a leopard cub being run over by a speeding jeep within the Yala National Park. Many were the criticism on the social net working groups that spelt high adrenal language on the new digital photo maniacs of Colombo chasing leopards in Yala, who are more in the liking to make shots similar to those in the coffee table books that came in numbers recently in the name of reviving Sri Lankan wildlife for tourism.
Photography today is for anyone who could afford a digital SLR; unlike then when you needed to get the correct film speed, correct exposure through metering, light control through filters etc. where you had the results only a week or two later. We are now in an automated era and it is only a case of point and shoot.
The black and white leopards created by Nihal Fernando of Studio Times on celluloid then, are now priceless marvels.
Times have changed; many people are in the habit of traveling and visiting delicate habitats and National Parks [NP]. With the revival of the tourist industry and the re-introduction of the Sri Lankan National Parks; the visitor numbers multiplied many folds. Increased visitor numbers became proportional to the increased undesirables among them. For these elements visiting a NP was more a count on the species seen rather than enjoying wildlife. On the other hand the authorities; the Department of Wildlife Conservation [DWC] not having a program on knowledge to be passed on to the visitor is a very pathetic situation. I do remember there was a time when we could learn much about the wild from a tracker then unlike today.
I recall a visit to Yala in 2009 with my family and I explained to them the graviportal locomotion of the elephant. How the elephant walks when compared to other terrestrial animals. Example the buffalo uses diagonally opposing legs; that is the front left and right back legs move forwards then the front right and left back legs move and so on. But in the case of the elephant it moves both legs on one side and then both legs on the other side. This is required to keep equilibrium, with the center of gravity of the huge body mass. It was the young tracker who was most interested and commented that ‘apita meva kauruth kiyaladunne ne’ [nobody taught us these things]. To me this was explained in the 1960 s by a wildlife tracker at Yala NP.
This is not the fault of the young tracker but the authorities for not having a viable knowledge giving mechanism. I do remember in the mid 80s when a university academic was to become the Director Wildlife and introduced a scientific knowledge programme for the field officers funded through GEF the Global Environment Facility. The result was that he became the shortest served director; the whole department united to unseat him.
Opening up strict natural reserves to cope with the increasing visitor number is discussed. This could even-out the density of the visitor, but opening new roads in the parks to cope the density will fragment the habitat. This will be an all new issue needing solution on a later date.