Black leopards in Yala
Tuesday, 26 May 2009
Many years ago black leopards were seen in the Yala jungles and it is quite possible that the progeny of the melanin gene animal is still found in the Yala group of reserves.
In 1951, I was a trainee Game Ranger at Yala. K.G. Uparis, one of the Game Guards, who many and old timer and jungle enthusiast to Yala knows, related to me of him seeing a black leopard near Banawalkema in the Yala North Intermediate Zone, (YNIZ) (Present Yala National Park block III, then, a shooting block).
In 1948, Uparis was assigned to supervise the clearing of the boundary track from Rugamtota to Kalugaltota, separating, the Yala Strict Natural Reserve (SNR) from YNIZ. He and the contractor had pitched camp at Banawaltota.
On morning Uparis loaded a buck shot cartridge to his shot gun and walked a short distance along the cleared track from camp to shoot some jungle fowl, when he came upon a black leopard, behind a bush intently looking in the direction of a herd of spotted deer grazing in a small glade.
He was surprised to see such a specimen and stopped in his stride. Somehow this attracted the animals attention, who looked at Uparis, stared and snarled at him, looked again at the deer and began belly crawling, towards the herd.
Uparis being alone and unwilling to confront or disturb a hungry leopard, with buck shot, made way backwards slowly and got away from its presence.
This region is in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka. Here the vegetation is of a high closed canopy with a few open glades, ridges and outcrops with rock pools.
Many years later (almost 30 years) when I was in charge of the entire Yala Group of National Reserves, I had the opportunity of travelling many a time through this same region, where the black leopard was seen and approximately four miles away from Banawalkema at Godawalipokuna (Mahawewa) in the linch to one map (topographic map). I was fortunate to see a black leopard crossing the jeep track ahead of the vehicle and move away into the forest.