“Conserving Urban Wildlife”, conducted by Urban Fishing Cat Project Founder and Primary Investigator Anya Ratnayaka, in collaboration with the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka (WNPS) and WNPS Youth Wing, will be held via Zoom on Sunday, 7 March at 10 a.m. The workshop will highlight the importance of conserving urban wildlife, the ecological value of fishing cats, and interesting facts about their lifestyle.
Anya is a graduate in wildlife and conservation management from the University of Queensland, Australia and is currently reading for her Master of Philosophy degree at the same university. A Wildlife Conservation Network (WCN) scholar, Global Wildlife Conservation Associate Scientist, and a member of the Fishing Cat Conservation Alliance, Anya has a strong interest in Sri Lankan wildlife, particularly the ecology and conservation of urban mesocarnivores. In 2017, she co-founded the non-profit Small Cat Advocacy and Research and is currently conducting research on the world’s only known hyper-urban population of fishing cats found in Colombo.
As a youth in conservation, Anya shared with us that she had always enjoyed a close association with wildlife. “I was always drawn to it; I was very introverted and it was a natural projection to associate wildlife, being more comfortable in wild spaces.”
She commented that her interest in the conservation of urban mesocarnivores, particularly the urban fishing cat, came about when she had the opportunity to interact with one that was being cared for by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC). Having pursued the leopard to begin with, she said she dropped that to pursue the smaller feline.
With regard to the urban fishing cat, Anya said that they are found in nearly all wetlands in Colombo, adding that these wetlands, at the very least, exhibit a strong presence of the fishing cat. The fishing cat being quite a large animal – the size of a street dog – she said it is uniquely amazing that there is such a population in Colombo. She shared that the fishing cat is the only such large wildlife population that dwells in urban areas, and that in itself is a unique factor to this particular feline. The fishing cat living right in the city of Colombo adds an extremely unique feature to the city. Anya said that the Colombo city should be proud to house this population of wild animals and that their conservation is of utmost importance.
With regard to what to expect from the workshop, Anya said that while they will attempt to highlight the importance of conserving urban wildlife, with reference to the fishing cats and about their lifestyle, she hopes the workshop would see a widespread audience. “I hope we get to see people tuning in who have not worked in conservation before coming to learn something,” she said, adding that while all and anyone in conservation are more than welcome, she hopes to educate some fresh minds as well.
“There are 270 species of wildlife within the city itself, right around us – species most people have no idea about. Many people are quick to rush out of Colombo to see some wildlife, but they do not know about the wild species right next door,” she said, also noting that she hopes more people will walk away enlightened about what the city has to offer.
WNPS Youth Wing Co-ordinator Pavithra Aththanayake also shared that they are thankful to their sponsors who are making this skill share series a success, making note of their financial partner National Development Bank (NDB). Pavithra commented that they hope to increase the involvement of youth in conservation and are hopeful that Anya’s passion and dedication to her craft will inspire more youth advocates for conservation to come out of the woodworks and possibly carry forward the protection of our wildlife.
Join Conserving Urban Wildlife via Zoom at https://zoom.us/j/92313903936
PHOTO © SANJAYA ADIKARI