Sri Lanka, an island in the Indian Ocean is a land of thick forests, meandering rivers, and sprawling coastline. With such an abundance of natural habitats, the island nation sees a variety of fauna including leopards, elephants, bears, and marine life like dolphins and whales. Tourism in Sri Lanka is highly driven by its flora and fauna, which is also caused concern in terms of sustainability and preservation. As we all know, with most human development there comes, in some way or another, destruction of nature.
The joint efforts of individuals and corporations are will go a long way in the preservation of our natural resources. And, showing a longstanding commitment to the cause is the Sri Lankan luxury hotel chain Cinnamon Hotels and Resorts. With properties across Sri Lanka as well as the Maldives, the brand strives to showcase Sri Lanka as a cradle of sustainable tourism. To do this, it has developed projects to focus on three of the country’s important species.
Project Leopard The ground zero of this project was launched five years ago, through its wildlife and adventure tourism division, Cinnamon Nature Trails, at the Cinnamon Wild Yala resort on the edge of the Yala National Park. The park has the greatest number of visitors in the country, and one of the highest leopard densities in the world, and Project Leopard has a dual aim to, firstly, protect this population while, secondly, support the cattle farmers that surround the park. The farmers’ livelihood is often jeopardised by leopards that prey on young calves.
Through the Project, the farmers have been given steel pens to protect their cattle at night. The research project also uses camera traps for data collection to estimate the leopard population, age structure, sex ratio, dietary habits, and territories. These attempts have won the Project the Davis Award for Peace last year from the University of Clark, Massachusetts.
Project Elephant The gathering of 200 Sri Lankan elephants at the Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks is among the greatest natural animal phenomena in the world. It is the world’s largest wild gathering of Asian elephants and occurs every year in the country’s dry season, from June to September, when the rivers dry up, leaving large reservoirs in the region as the only viable water source for the huge mammals.
The ‘Cinnamon Elephant Project’ is an on-going collaborative effort between Cinnamon Hotels and the Centre for Conservation and Research, now in its fifth year. It involves the integration of research in elephant tourism that results in long-term conservation efforts of the endangered Asian elephant, and inclusive ecotourism practices in Sri Lanka. Scientists from the newly constructed elephant research station at the Cinnamon Lodge Habarana collect important data from satellite collars placed on some members of different herds. The research helps overcome human-elephant conflict through better land and water management recommendations.
Project Whale Sri Lankan waters play host to a variety of whale species including the blue whale, which makes Sri Lanka one of the few countries in the world where visitors can sight, both, the elephant (the second-largest land mammal), as well as the largest living animal. Project Whale was established to study and preserve the blue whale population of Sri Lanka. It is a project that involves the general public by encouraging them to share images, videos and information of whale viewings for data collection purposes.
Till date, more than 50 individual blue whales have been catalogued. The community project engages locals and visitors alike, and is expected to collect data about the lifestyles, population, diet, and movement patterns. It also supports the livelihoods of the local communities, with local fishermen as official suppliers for boats for whale and dolphin watching experiences.