Sometimes, the aura and sheer beauty of a place can inspire people to act different, be adventurous or simply feel alive. This very same elated sense of adventure was recounted by several guests at Cinnamon Wild Yala, as they came face to face with the nobility of nature’s aristocracy several feet from their room.

An exhilarating and heady experience to say the least, how this shy animal wandered in to the upscale property is anyone’s guess. The Sri Lankan leopard, panthera pardus kotiya, is a powerful and graceful big cat closely related to lions, panthers, and tigers and is classified in the Sri Lanka National Red List and globally by the IUCN as an endangered species. This could be attributed to the illegal encroachments, agricultural expansions and urban development.

While the leopard is the smallest of the big cats, they also prove to be the stealthiest. The astounding, albeit thrilling behaviour of the leopard could be explained to a certain extent by the forays of this animal into the cattle farms surrounding the littoral vegetation. This is also the root cause for the heightened threat to the species’ survival as the farmers poison the carcasses to eliminate the threat in a vengeful effort to save their livelihoods.

In an effort to save this exquisite animal from total extinction, the Naturalists at Cinnamon Wild Yala undertook a major project; the Leopard Project. An ongoing conservation initiative by Cinnamon and Nature Trails, the chains’ excursion arm developed steel pens to minimize the human/leopard conflict in an effort to safeguard the illusive predator while uplifting the standard of life of the cattle farmers in the vicinity. The Leopard Project has presently distributed 72 steel pens funded by John Keells Foundation under the supervision of the in house wildlife biologist Vimukthi Weeratunga.

Cinnamon Wild Yala now offers free excursions to guests to create awareness of the importance of resolving the human-wildlife conflicts so common to these areas. These excursions also provide necessary education on wildlife preservation to the farmers.