If Sri Lanka is to prosper in the long term as a wildlife tourism destination, the natural resources that draw travellers from around the world to the country need to be protected and preserved. With charismatic megafauna such as elephants and leopards being subject to human-wildlife conflict and loss of habitat, their delicate populations are gradually decreasing.
In order to create a healthy balance, it is critical that humans revert to coexisting with nature. Well thought out and sensitively planned development, community education and engagement, and the promotion of environmental stewardship can be viewed as mitigation strategies to the human-wildlife conflict.
Forests which provide a multitude of benefits to biodiversity and humans alike need to be protected for the long-term health of the island’s ecosystems, and all who rely on them. In particular, the protection, restoration and reforestation of the island’s high mountain areas, which are known as Sri Lanka’s water towers, is urgent. These areas capture fog and rain and allow for water to percolate into the ground to be released gradually and sustainably. As a result, the country’s 103 river basins will be well-fed, and natural disasters such as landslides, floods and subsequent droughts will be minimized. The montane and wet zones of the island could become premier wildlife tourism hotspots due to the presence of a high number of endemic species and their sweeping views and unique tropical climate. With ecosystem service valuation becoming more prevalent, the value of forests will also increase.
LEF has identified a number of organizations working towards achieving these goals, including:
- engaging in reforestation projects that promote the growth of endemic species
- engaging in educating the fringe communities of the forest on the importance of protecting these rich natural habitats.
- a number of conservation projects working to mitigate the effects of the human-wildlife conflict via providing planning agencies with detailed information about animal movements (e.g., elephants, leopards, fishing cats) and working with local populations to provide alternate sources of income and promote environmental stewardship practices.