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Bush Horror Series: Dead Meat

The roar of Duwiliella Waterfalls filled every ear in the vicinity, but something sorrowfully vivid filled every eye and nose. It also seemed that what happened, happened not too long ago and something might just be watching us…

The morning attested to how Half Day Bushwalks are just as exciting as Full Day Bushwalks. In reality, spotting something is really 50% tracking ingenuity and 50% dumb luck. Halfway through a challenging 3 hour bushwalk, we decided to detour down to the riverbed connected to the falls for a short and scenic break. Almost immediately we were accosted with a rancid odour so dreadful, we couldn’t help but gag. There, on the pathway leading to the riverbed, the mangled body of the Sri Lankan Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor unicolor) – a subspecies of sambar deer that live in India and Sri Lanka. This subspecies is one of the biggest sambar deer species with the largest antlers, both in size and in body proportions. However, it wasn’t particularly the sight of a dead deer that made us take a cautious look around, it was the fact that the kill seemed suspiciously fresh. So, whatever killed it might still be in lurking in the area…

We inched closer and inspected the body to determine the cause and rough time of death. Frightened grey langurs howled in the distance as the wind swept up fallen leaves which seemed to grotesquely garnish the deer. Time seemed to slow down and the whole moment felt surreal.

It was confirmed – attacked by a leopard, not too long ago. In a quiet and controlled state of urgency, Pubudu – a 3rd generation bushman who grew up in these forests – scouted and listened for predator activity. I tracked the alarm call of the grey langurs to a little over a kilometre south. After careful calibration of minute details, we heaved a sigh of relief. The leopard has long left its kill, and although leopards in the wild are sometimes unpredictable, most leopard-related stories end the same way; these big cats are more interested in avoiding humans by any means necessary, even at the cost of finishing breakfast.

Avi – Ahaspokuna Family Naturalist

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A H A S - P O K U N A

In the Sinhalese language (spoken in Sri Lanka), “Ahas” means “Sky” and “Pokuna” means “Pond” or “Pool”. Ahaspokuna is so named in reference to the lake here, high up in the hills, that is only fed by rain water. A former settlement that sprung up on its shores was subsequently also named “Ahaspokuna”. Today, the jungle tide has washed over where people once lived and the camp provides a wilderness retreat for those in search of something different.
Ahaspokuna by Eco Team

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