Man-Eaters of Sri Lanka
Our latest wildlife documentary project “Man-Eaters – A Human Leopard Story” attempts to address the human-leopard conflict in Sri Lanka. Apart from a few local documentaries, there hasn’t been a significant film made to shed light on this issue.
Compared to India where there are over 150 cases of leopard attacks per year, Sri Lanka has very few leopard attacks, but that doesn’t mean that the conflict does not exist.
The first known case was back in 1924 when a leopard killed over 20 people in the rural village of Punanai. Ultimately, a hunter [Roper S. Agar] was called in and he shot and killed the leopard (which was the norm back in the day, as opposed to translocating them). The stuffed carcass of the man-eating leopard can still be seen in the National Museum of Colombo.
In our documentary, we will show how this unprecedented event happened – which will be done using illustrations and CGI to recreate past scenarios. Also, we will be incorporating an interview with Sri Lanka’s eminent wildlife expert and past president of the ‘Wildlife and Nature Protection Society’ Mr. Ravindralal Anthonis, who is well aware of the incident that happened in Punanai and also investigated cases of man-eating leopards in the 1950s and 1980s.
Towards the latter part of our documentary, we will focus on present-day cases of leopard attacks. One case will be the attack that happened in Kumana National Park in 2019, where a leopard attacked two people – one individual died as a result, but the other survived. In never before seen footage, we will interview the survivor to discuss what really happened that day.
The last part of the documentary will focus on the hill country, where most of the leopard attacks happen in Sri Lanka. In these areas, leopards are now targeting domestic animals and as a result, they are in direct confrontation with humans. Tea plantation workers are susceptible to attack; as leopards are found in these plantations, which used to be its home range when there was enough forest cover. But with the introduction of tea, forests were cleared to make way for tea estates. With diminishing territory and lack of prey, leopards have turned to easy prey like domestic dogs, cattle and sometimes even humans – though there has only been one serious casualty so far. Leopards also get caught and killed after getting entangled in snares set for other animals.
Hopefully, this film will bring more attention to the human-leopard conflict in Sri Lanka and get everyone working together to find a sustainable solution to this simmering issue.
You can watch a shortened web version of the 45-minute documentary at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAL7UpetgXo