Recently, I was privileged to deliver a WNPS lecture on small wild cats in Sri Lanka. A big portion of the talk was of course dedicated to my work at the Urban Fishing Cat Conservation Project, here in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
While I’ve given talks before, I was simply blown away by the interest shown by this particular audience, and I spent over an hour after the event, chatting to many people who shared my enthusiasm for protecting our fishing cats.
Something that nearly everyone asked me, both at the talk, and in the days after, is how can I help? I hope this post answers that question!
Getting people in Sri Lanka to pay attention to anything that does not involve the Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) is definitely a challenge. Many do not find smaller mammals very interesting, which makes getting funding from local companies especially hard. However, in November 2015, I approached MAS Active Linea Intimo (MAS LI), a branch of MAS Holdings, which is one of the largest manufacturers of apparel in the region. Chances are, they manufacture a lot of the fancy sports wear you own! The CEO of MAS LI, Chelan Goonetilleke is a known wildlife enthusiast, so I tried my luck in pitching my proposal to him. While driving to the factory in the Board of Investments (BOI) zone in Biyagama, east of Colombo, I kept going over my presentation in my mind, but tried to play it cool. I had been turned down numerous times before, and Chelan had only 30 minutes to sit with me, so I knew I was not going to get a second shot at it.
Last year I was granted funds by the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund a reputed funding organisation dedicated to helping researchers like me to study the wildlife we all know (in some cases) and love (in almost all cases).