Smith's Tiger Spider (Poecilotheria smithi)
Mohamed bin Zayed Species project number 14254018
Develop conservation strategies for the critically endangered Poecilotheria smithi by study of occurrence and ecology in the newly discovered location.
Smith's Tiger Spider, Poecilotheria smithi is an endemic species of theraposid in Sri Lanka. As with all mygalomorph spiders P. smithi is a poor dispersal, it was only known from a small area in the central hill known as Haragama, and was even considered as extinct by some scientists. Until the rediscovered in its original habitat by the present researchers, the population at Haragama was small with a few individuals. However, we discovered a hitherto unknown/unrecorded population of P. smithi in the Knuckles Protected Area in the Eastern Hill Country. This new location is designated to be submerged under the Moragahakanda Hydro-Electric scheme. This submerge will doom the current population, whose abundance, habits and preferred habitats as well as other dynamics have not been adequately researched/studied. The Knuckles Mountains range is a high altitude, rugged terrain, with very little studies on the fauna and flora, with low human habitation; it harbours the only known viable population of Poecilotheria smithi in the world. With the current environmental disturbances and the imminent submergence of extensive areas, this new population is under grave threat along with other mygalomorph spiders. Further, the misconceptions amongst local villagers of P. smithi possessing extremely virulent venom the destruction at the hands of the villagers also is taking its toll on the species.
We continue to discover exciting biological and ecological information not only about P. smithi but also on other species of Mygalomorphs within the survey / translocated area.
The objectives of this Mohamed bin Zayed Species project is:
• Define its food and habitat preference
• Increase the knowledge base on its biology and ecology
• Define adverse/beneficial environment impacts, anthropogenic impacts
• Translocation of the species (from area that will be submerged) to suitable, pre-identified habitats
• Conduct awareness programmes among its human co-habitants of the location, to create a benevolent, non-aggressive mind set towards this species, among the local human populations
Project 14254018 location - Sri Lanka, Asia