The pioneering Vil Uyana eco-resort owned by Jetwing Hotels is renowned for its dedication to safeguarding and promoting Sri Lanka’s amazing biodiversity.
Although best known for its man-made wetlands, modeled on a bird sanctuary west of London in the UK, it is also home to a myriad species of wildlife, including the cute slender loris.
But one of its most secretive and elusive creatures is the fishing cat, subject of a post on the website of Silkwinds, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines.
Writer Nick Measures and photographer CS Ling joined Chaminda Jayasekara, one of Vil Uyana’s resident naturalists, for a night spent searching for this most camera-shy of Sri Lanka’s wild felines.
Says Nick: “Our search has already revealed an Asian palm civet picking its way through the long grass, brightly coloured sunbirds roosting above our heads, an affronted-looking scops owl and, most exciting of all, a pregnant grey slender loris. Yet, there’s no sign of the fishing cats I’ve come to Sri Lanka to see.
“About twice the size of your regular domestic feline, fishing cats are like mini leopards, Sri Lanka’s biggest and most famous wild cat. Dappled or striped grey in colour, they’re surprisingly lithe and muscular despite their relatively small size.”
He notes that, “significantly, Colombo is the only urban environment in the world in which they can be found. Much like the infamous city-dwelling leopards of Mumbai, they’ve somehow managed to find a way to live alongside humans in the concrete jungle, thanks to the tracts of wetland that criss-cross the capital”.
But not tonight. “With the clock now way past midnight, Chaminda and I reluctantly concede defeat on our nocturnal safari and head back to the lobby at Jetwing Vil Uyana, where he has been the resident naturalist for the past seven years.
“It’s hard to believe that 10 years ago, the 25 acres that make up the eco-resort were just rough scrubland. Today, I’m presented with an idyllic scene that could have been lifted from an episode of Planet Earth.”
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