Jetwing Eco Holidays

Jetwing House
46/26 Navam Mawatha
Colombo 2
Sri Lanka.

Phone :
94 11 238 1201 or 94-11-234 5700 (Ext) 559, 561 or 593
Fax :
94 11 462 7743

Our usual office hours are from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5 pm. We do access emails intermittently outside these hours. We are at GMT plus 5 hrs 30 mins.


July & August

SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS (July & August 2003)

- a monthly (usually!) compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (01/09/2003)


[*] Sea Watching  excursion off the seas of Kirinda by Sunela Jayawardane
[*] Leopard cub stalks Wild Boar under the watchful eyes of mother by Placid Coorey
[*] New books by Christopher Helm include long awaited guide on Gulls (See New Books)
[*] An Introduction to the Agamid Lizards of Sri Lanka by Kithsiri Gunawardena and Birding Trip Report from the Peak Wilderness by Malaka Rodrigo (see Articles)
[*] Lectures on Slender Loris and Elephants (See Events Summary)
[*] Improve your Arithmetic in Yala (see Travel Brief)


Thu 4 September 2003 6.00 pm.  Slender Loris by Dr Anne Isola Nekaris, Senior Lecturer, University of Oxford.  Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science, Vidya Mawatha, off Wijerama Mawatha. Colombo 7. WNPS Public Lecture Series.

Friday 5 September 7.00 pm[SUBSTITUTION] Can we keep the Jumbo Afloat by Dr Devaka Weerakoon.  Barefoot - SLNHS  - Jetwing Lecture Series. Barefoot Gallery, 704 Galle Road, Colombo 6.

Dr Devaka Weerakoon presents his points of view based on the last 6 years of research on the ranging and social behaviour and human elephant conflict in the north-western and southern regions of Sri Lanka. He will be drawing on the research, which used radio collaring work to discuss whether a shift is needed in our approach to the scientific management of elephants.  He will give his ideas on what we need to do conserve the elephant on a long term basis, and its current status. Dr Devaka Weerakoon is Senior Lecturer in Zoology at the University of Colombo. Please note that this lecture substitutes for "Sharks a much maligned predator by  Lyn Robinson".  Regrettably, Lyn's lecture has to be postponed for later in the year.

19 - 21 September 2003  The International Symposium on Human Elephant

Relationships and Conflicts.  Colombo Plaza Hotel(previously known as Lanka Oberoi). Abstracts of papers should be sent to Jayantha Jayewardene ( ) by 30th June for review by a committee. Please see the symposium website for more, details.

Jayantha Jayewardene has sent in the following progress update. "The symposium is turning out to be a big event. We have had 75 abstracts of papers to be presented. An international committee will review these and choose 60 papers, which is the number possible in the three days 19th to 21st September.  In addition there will be a keynote address by Ian Douglas Hamilton, the well known elephant expert and special addresses by Prof Raman Sukumar, Chairman of the Asian Elephant Specialist Group and Karl Stromayer of the United States Fish & Wildlife Service. Already over 60 foreign participants have registered. We are expecting over 100 foreign participants. Registration for Sri Lankan participants is a nominal Rs. 3,500.00 including Lunch and Tea on all three days.


Hiran & Darshini Cooray, Ranjith Hulugalla, Nalaka Mendis and Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (31 August) observed a Black Eagle soaring over a ridge in Karandana. This is a few kilometers as the crow lies, from the Kalatuwawa Reservoir. The first four, continued to Bodhingala and arrived at noon. Several Earless Lizards (Otocryptis weigmanni) were observed. One male was displaying and had its head and neck a turquoise green. Butterflies observed included Common Evening Brown, Clipper, Blue Mormon and Common Crow.

Sunela Jayawardane sends in a report of a sea watching trip off  the seas off Kirinda . At dawn (16 August 2003), our group of 6, met up with Chandra Jayawardana and Nilantha Kodituwakku (Naturalists, Yala Safari Lodge) on the smelly quay of the fisheries harbour. The previous evening we had already discussed that, despite our original plans going awry, due to the sand bar that had formed at the harbour mouth and the choppy seas that, we would go out to sea. This meant that, the larger trawler we were scheduled to travel in, couldn't come into harbour. As only experienced seamen could leap from the little fishing boats into the trawler now moored out in the open sea,  our only option was to use the little fishing boats with outboard engines. Our group of 8 accompanied by 3 experienced fisherman, split up into 2 boats and headed out from the harbour.

The trip was originally conceived as an experimental run to assess the potential of whale watching, something Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne was interested in us exploring for him, as part of his on-going 'homework". However, the weather had also changed our objective. We now travelled out to view the Great Basses Island, 12 miles out from Kirinda. The ancient lighthouse stands out on that endlessly swaying horizon. The waves were too high to hope to see even a whale spout from our little boats - this is when one longs for the crows' nest of the Odyssey that Duncan Murrell sits in!

As we neared the Great Basses it was evident that, it is merely an atoll of the reef that runs somewhat parallel to Sri Lanka's SE coast. Due to this formation, the seas around the island are extremely rough. A small school of dolphin (nobody was able to advise us of the species) is reputed to regularly hunt in the vicinity. However, even the dolphin evaded us today! Through the spray we spotted the lighthouse crew (who are stationed for 6 week stints) waving to us from a balcony. Our fisherman guide showed us cracks which had appeared on the building due to dynamiting for fish. This method of fishing is apparently, no longer practiced.

We headed out a few more miles but then decided to turn back as, some of our group were sea sick. On the journey back to shore, we spotted a solitary Wilson's Storm Petrel. Further on, we spotted another bird, we could not identify though it seemed identical to the first except, for the absence of the white band at the base of it's tail. Closer to shore, we spotted a pair of Large Crested Terns. It was interesting to note that, all these birds flew low along the deep furrow between waves, possibly to contend with the high winds. Close to the Great Basses Island a large fish was spotted briefly surfacing. Nilantha  was the only one who saw a fish/dolphin leap high in the air at some distance. Other than for these limited sightings our enjoyment was confined to those with good sea legs who took pleasure in simply being out in the open sea!

The fisherman at Kirinda advised us to return during Feb/March when the seas are calm and it is possible to board a trawler and go further out to sea. However, one must always keep in mind that, whether on land or at sea,  wildlife sightings cannot be guaranteed!

Nicole Parkrama reports "We had stayed at Yala for one day and failed to see any leopards during our morning and evening rounds and were quite disappointed.  Our next stay was at Nuwara Eliya and to our great delight, on one of those curly hill roads close to Hakgala, a large leopard stepped carefully onto the road and bounded across in two graceful motions, not more than 5 metres in front of our jeep, then disappeared down the side of the hill and was lost to sight due to the thick vegetation.  It was quite an event!

I was wondering whether this is a common occurrence or not?  I know that there are leopards in the estates in the hill country, and at World's End, but I heard that they are quite shy of humans?  There were humans around the bend and quite close behind us.  Could this leopard be injured or something?

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne reports on a near miss, with the Kota Bendi Wewa Leopard cubs. 'We did four game drives on the 29 and 30 July. On the 29th evening, around 4.30 pm, we came across a few jeeps parked near a dead Spotted Deer, on an open grassy plain, beside the Talgasmankada Gonalabbe Meda Para T junction. Another jeep had passed the area about 10 minutes ago and it had not been there. We waited in the hope that the two cubs which had not been seen for around five days would make an appearance. A curious feature was that we could not see any injury marks on the deer to suggest it had been killed by a leopard. It maybe that the viewing angle did not permits us to see any 'kill marks' or perhaps it had suffered cardiac arrest!

We left at 6.15pm and learnt the next day that shortly afterwards the two cubs had appeared. The male cub had dragged the kill into the thicket, under a Maliththan tree. The next morning we were on our way to the kill when we were informed of a Sloth Bear which had crossed the main road near the Patanangala turn off. We waited and were rewarded by the bear crossing the road towards Padikkema. It then walked up the large outcrop and disappeared from view. Joining the other vehicles at the kill, we learnt that the Sloth Bear had been a costly distraction. The two cubs had been at the kill from 6.30 am for just over an hour. They had fed and played out in the open. Aaaargh!  We stayed at the kill till 11.00 and headed off returning at 3.30 pm. Once again we left at 6.15, without seeing the cubs.

A notable feature in the park was that the Spotted Deer were rutting. Almost every half hour, a bellowing would emanate from the forest as a Spotted Deer stag engaged in establishing his dominance. As we waited at the kill, we heard these anguished sounding calls very often. On at least three occasions we observed aggression between stags. At Wilpala Wewa we watched a spirited fight between two stags. As one stag tired, another picked up the fight".

Namal Kamalgoda reports from Yala on a Wild Pig carrying off a Spotted Deer killed by a Leopard. Jackie Namalgoda, Gihan Rajapaksa and myself were staying at the Heen Wewa bungalow when we were woken up on the 19th August morning. The time was 3.30 am. the tracker had come to inform us that a deer had been attacked by a leopard and was lying behind the bungalow keepers quarters. A fully-grown female spotted deer lay barely five feet away from the rear of the quarters. She had a single puncture wound on the neck and was very much alive. There was some blood on the ground where she lay. For some reason she was unable to get up. We suspected that her back might have been broken. She appeared to have no other external injuries. The Assistant bungalow keeper said that he had been woken up by the commotion at the back. At that time he had also noted a large wild boar in the vicinity. This led us to speculate that the leopard was prevented from finishing the job by the wild boar. We where now faced with a dilemma, what do we do about the deer?

We decided to do nothing, after all nature should run its due course. We hoped that the leopard would come back and finish the job thus delivering the poor deer from a long a painful death.  With heavy hearts we went back to sleep. We woke up at 5.30am to be informed that the deer was still alive. It appeared that the wild boar and our touches had driven the leopard away. Upon our return from the morning round at 10.30 am, we were informed that the deer had just died. The body was still warm. A further examination revealed deep gashes on its belly and flanks, where the predator's claws may have struck the deer. Already the tail had been torn off and eaten. The staff was unable to tell if the tail was missing when it was still alive. We then dragged the carcass to the side away from the bungalow. We hoped that the rightful owner will stake it's claim on its dinner. The only animals that did visit the carcass were a couple of crows and a Ruddy Mongoose. We arrived back from the evening drive to find the carcass still untouched. Then suddenly a large tusked wild boar appeared. He was in frenzy, as he had obviously smelt the carcass. He attempted to eat, but was uncomfortable about our presence. Then it did something I had to see to believe. The wild boar put its snout under the deer and carried it a distance of about five feet. It physically carried the fully-grown carcass off the ground this way. It repeated this until the carcass was deep inside the jungle. What an amazing show of strength"

Placid Coorey also reports from Yala. on a Leopard Cub stalking a Wild Pig under the watchful eyes of its mother.  From 17 to 19 July, we (myself, Leslie Bandaranayaka, Viran & Thilani Perera, Kishan & Surani Gunawardene, Channa Amerasinghe, Pravin Ramanadan and Nisreen Rehmanjee) stayed at the Thalgasmankada bungalow and had 3 sightings of leopard and one of bear.  On  17/07 at about 6.15 pm we witnessed for about 15 minutes the Kota Bendi Wewa male cub performing to us and another jeep at the Wewa. It was climbing onto the branch of a fallen tree, strolling around, drinking water on 2 occasions and sometimes lying and sometimes sitting for a few minutes - before walking over the bund into the jungle. We were told that he had been there for at least half hour before our arrival. 

On 18/07 we heard the alarm calls of deer around the Handunoruwa Wewa as we were returning to the bungalow at about 6.30 pm and briefly saw the Handunoruwa mother and cub (according to the tracker Ajantha Piyananda) as they were walking from the wewa into the jungle. Expecting the leopards to cross Thalgasmankada road, we moved on  to await their arrival and were rewarded with a fascinating glimpse into jungle life and leopard cub behaviour. 

There was a big wild boar in a clearing about 20 metres from the road which was partially screened from us by scrub. As we watched, the cub began to stalk the boar.  It was obvious to us and the boar that the cub had no chance of subduing the boar. The boar would run for a few metres followed by the cub and then stop and look around. The cub too would then stop and go into the typical stalk pose.  The boar would then set off again followed by the cub, this pattern being repeated several times before they disappeared from our view. This behaviour was made more interesting as we could see the mother leopard seated at the edge of the clearing watching its offspring's practice runs.

 As we then proceeded along Thalgasmankada road to the bungalow we again came across the KBW male cub seated by the side of the road. It remained for about 5-6 minutes before strolling into the tall grass. On 19/07 it was overcast most of the day and there was a heavy downpour in the afternoon. Next day as we were returning home we across a bear with 2 cubs along Gonalebbe Meda Para. Bird sightings included Black-necked Stork, Crested Hawk-eagle, Grey-headed Fish Eagle, Sirkeer Malkoha etc.

Chitral Jayatilake visited Yala from the 21st to the 24th July. He says "The park was very dry although a few showers had fallen three days before. Thalgasmankada Cubs were seen on the 21st morning when we arrived and we observed the female cub that evening at Kotabendi Wewa A second grown Male Leopard was seen near the Buttuwa Junction   and a third sighting of a female was made on the 23rd morning in the Dharshana Wewa vicinity.  A bear and her cub on her back was seen on the 23rd evening on the Buttuwa Wewa Road and a further sighting of a Leopard and her Cub was made by the 2nd vehicle on the Heen Wewa road early 23rd Morning (close to the Bungalow).  Very few elephants were observed not surprisingly during this time of the year. The intermediate rain has spoiled the chances of leopard sightings somewhat and a couple of weeks without sudden rains will make the situation much better".


The text below is from Press Releases by the Publishers.

Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America by Klaus Malling Olsen and Hans Larsson. Illustrated by Hans Larsson. Published August 2003 ISBN 0?7136?4377?3. GBP 45. A&C Black Publishers Ltd, 37 Soho Square, London W1 D 3QZ, UK. Tel 020 7758 0200. E-mail

A new title in the highly acclaimed Helm Identification Guides series, Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America comprehensively covers some of the most familiar seabirds as well as some little known and globally threatened species of the gull family. This is the first detailed identification guide for the challenging species in 16 years and is set to become a vital reading for any birdwatcher interested in the species. A total of 43 species are treated in this long awaited guide, which focuses on identification, moult, status and distribution. The guide combines detailed text with 96 full colour plates covering all plumages and variations, both in flight and at rest along with 800 previously unpublished colour photographs taken by some of the world's leading bird photographs. It also incorporates colour distribution maps for all species. Gulls of Europe, Asia and North America is the comprehensive guide, essential to gull watchers of any skill.

A Concise History of Ornithology by Michael Walters. ISBN 1 873403 97 6. GBP 30.

Christopher Helm, an imprint of A&C Black Publishers Ltd, 37 Soho Square, London W1 D 3QZ, UK. Tel 020 7758 0200. E-mail

This comprehensive historical account of the study of birds traces ornithology from the earliest written records through to the twentieth century. The fascinating works and lives of ornithology's pioneering scientists, including such people as Linnaeus, Darwin and Wallace are considered chronologically, while issues such as evolution, conservation, taxonomy and genetics raised through the pursuit of ornithological interests are discussed. This educational, entertaining and well illustrated read demonstrates how omithology has become the complex scientific discipline it is today and will be of great use to birders, and naturalists alike.

"Michael Walters had produced an exhilarating account of the history of ornithology. I found the information about the personal lives and foibles of the personae to be fascinating." Jon E. Ahlquist, Ohio University


Mathematics at Yala - Yala National Park Entry Fee Equation for Foreigners

There have been repeated calls from almost everyone who takes visitors to Yala National Park for a simplified and streamlined entry process. At present, much time is taken by people queuing whilst the park officials labour over time consuming calculations. Unfortunately, it has just got worse. To assist,  Chandrika Maelge has summarised into equation form, the new calculation for computing entry fees for a group with non Sri Lankan ('foreign') visitors.

Total Amount in SLR (inc 20% VAT) =

{( US$ 14 * x * r ) + ( SLR 23* y)+ ( US$ 6 * r ) + SLR 120 + (SLR 360 * n ) } * 1.2

x : Number of foreigners

r : Conversion rate ( at present,  r = 95)

y : Number of Sri Lankan in group (excludes DWLC tracker, includes driver)

n : Additional number of vehicles

SLR - Sri Lanka Rupees, US$ United States Dollars

Entry fee for a foreigner = US$ 14

Entry fee for a Sri Lankan = SLR 23

Guide (Service Charge) = US$ 6 (SLR 570 at present)

1st vehicle charge = SLR 120

Additional vehicle charge = SLR 360



By Kithsiri Gunawardena

Although we are aware of the existence of lizards and as children we have been curious about these creatures which we have met in our gardens, many of us are not conscious of the diversity of this fauna found in Sri Lanka. There are 15 species of lizards belonging to 6 genera that inhabit Sri Lanka and found in different geographical and climatic zones. Of these species, 12 are endemic to the island. The Common Garden Lizard (Calotes versicolor) can be found in gardens in and around Colombo and in the dry and wet zones up to about 1000m. Another common lizard is the Green Garden Lizard (Calotes calotes), the male of which is considered the largest lizard in Sri Lanka. These are found in most geographical locations including the montane zone up to about 1500m except in the highest peaks which are occupied by other species. The displaying male is a colourful creature with a crimson head and white bands across its green body.

Another species of Calotes found particularly in the dry riverine forests or the semi-evergreen monsoon forests of the dry zone, is an endemic species called the Painted-lip Lizard Calotes ceylonensis. These lizards can change their colour from bright pink to white, when displaying to a female. Another Calotes species of our montane forests is the Black-cheeked Lizard (Calotes nigrilabris) also referred to as the Black- lipped Lizard- a comparatively slow moving large lizard. A rare endemic Calotes found mostly in the Knuckles region is the Crestless Lizard (Calotes liocephalus) -a green lizard identified by the absence of spines between the tympanum and the head. The Whistling Lizard (Calotes liolepis) is found in the wet and intermediate zones up to about 1000m. It gets its name from the whistling sound it makes when handled. This lizard has many varying colours and is relatively slow moving.

A large lizard found only in the wet zone forests up to about 1700m is the Hump- nose Lizard (Lyriocephalus scutatus). This is one of the largest lizards to be found in Sri Lanka, even though it is not the longest. It has a bright red mouth which it often exhibits when agitated. It could be identified from its hump- shaped protrusion on the nose. Another endemic lizard found in the wet zone forests up to about 1200m and riverine forests in the dry zone is the Kangaroo Lizard  (Otocryptis wiegmanni) - a common lizard readily identified by its large hind legs. Often when excited, it runs using only its hind feet, looking like a small prehistoric creature. A lizard similar to the above species is the Fan-throat Lizard (Sitana ponticeriana)- a non- endemic, extremely fast moving lizard found in the sand dunes in the dry and arid zones, which are sparsely studded with scrub.  


An endemic lizard with a prehensile tail that inhabits the moss covered trees of our cloud forests, is the Pigmy Lizard (Cophotis ceylanica). This species is under constant threat as it is sensitive to climatic changes.

Finally, we have the lizards belonging to the Ceratophora genus of which there are 5 species with 3 having protrusions which are referred to as "horns" on their snouts. All 5 species are endemic to Sri Lanka with one being found only in the Knuckles FR. The Rough-horned Lizard (Ceratophora aspera) is found in the leaf litter of the undisturbed wet zone rain forests. Its cousin which belongs to the same genus and discovered recently from the Morning Side FR is called Ceratophora karu after the late legendary naturalist P B Karunaratne. This is one of two species of this genus which does not posses a horn. These lizards are also found in the leaf litter and grow to a length of 3-4 inches.

The commonest of this genus is the Rhino-horned Lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii). These slow moving lizards are found in the montane forests including the Knuckles FR, Peak Wilderness and Horton Plains NP and are easily identified by a characteristic horn-shaped protrusion on the nose. Another new discovery is the Ceratophora erdeleni- a very colourful lizard that does not posses a "horn" on its head and was first discovered in the Morning Side FR. The last of the Ceratophora is the slow moving Leaf- nosed Lizard, (Ceratophora tennentii) found only in the cardamom infested Knuckles FR.

Considering the high endemnicity and the fact that the majority of this fauna are endangered, it is indeed essential that the remaining forested areas be preserved to ensure the survival of these wonderful and rare gifts of mother nature, which enrich our natural heritage.  

This article was first published in the September 2003 bulletin of the Sri Lanka Natural History Society (SLNHS). For membership enquiries of the SLNHS, contact


Adma's Peak (Sri Pada Birding Trip Report

- Malaka Rodrigo

I participated in a Young Zoologists' Association (YZA)'s annual Sri Pada cleaning campaign during the Wesak holidays (14-15 May, 2003). This report is based on the bird sightings during that exercise.

Day 01 (14 May) 07.30-18.30 hrs  Weather: Windy & Rainy           

Ignoring the cyclonic weather condition, the YZA team consisting 62 members departed Nugegoda on the 13th evening and spent the rest of the night at Nallathanniya. An early start for the day was scheduled since the main objective was to remove non-biodegradable items from the environs of the Adams Peak. Waste and discarded items from thousands of pilgrims that throng this holy mountain threaten the delicate peak wilderness and it's water bases. The first significant sight of the day was a pair of Black Bulbul, which flew overhead. Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot and Layards Parakeet were also seen by some of our teammates.

Armed with sticks and poly-sacks, the team separated into six groups and started the operation at around 08.30 am. Heavy rain with gusty wind was experienced all the way. Few swallows were spotted flying speedily near the Japan Pansala (Temple of Japan). We were able to spot Brown-capped Babbler, Junglefowl, Yellow-eared Bulbul and Dull-blue Flycatcher (strangely all of them are endemic species) at a scrub above a garbage dump near Seetha Gangula. Few snakes were also found on the damp soil. We were lucky to experience a superb sighting of Eurasian Blackbird foraging on another garbage dump. It's beak & legs were superbly colored in bright orange. More Great Tits, Yellow-eared Bulbuls were seen along the hike. Another Blackbird was seen near Mahagiridamba.

The team reached the Peak at 18.30 under a curtain of fog. It was the Wesak evening. After worshiping at the holy peak, we settled in the resting hall at udamaluwa to spend the freezing night. The weather condition that prevailed during the day was extremely hostile to bird watching.

Day 02 (15 May) 07.30-16.45hrs, Weather: Windy & Rainy

Descent started at 07.45 surrounded by a thick fog with whistling wind. The first sighting of the day was a Blackbird, which foraged on the garbage dump just below the peak. It was not easy to do birding at the same time carrying down the water soaked poly-sacks. However the rain was not so heavy and the sun appeared on the sky for brief periods of time. Sri Lanka White-eye, Yellow-eared Bulbul, Great Tit were again recorded. Yellow-fronted Barbet could be observed in close range.

We experienced a series of downpours on our last part of the descent. A flock of Sri Lanka White-eye was seen feeding on a flowering sabukku tree on a tea estate. The common birds such as White-belied Drongo, Magpie Robin, Large-billed Crow and Red-vented Bulbul were found near the human settlements. The poly bags were weighed near the Nallathanniya temple. The team brought down hundreds of KGs of polythene from the holy terrain.

Number of bird species seen during the trip was as low as 25, I suspect because of the hostile weather. However, 8 endemic birds were among the list, highlighting the importance of the Peak Wilderness.

Birds recorded during the visit.
Sri Lanka Junglefowl *, Sri Lanka Yellow-fronted Barbet *, Eurasian Blackbird, Sri Lanka Dull-blue Flycatcher *, Oriental Magpie Robin, Great Tit, Sri Lanka Yellow-eared Bulbul *, Black Bulbul, Sri Lanka White-eye *, Sri Lanka Brown-capped Babbler *, Indian Scimitar Babbler, Asian Palm Swift, Velvet-fronted Nuthatch, Large-billed Crow, White-bellied Drongo, Red-vented Bulbul, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot *, Sri Lanka Layard's Parakeet *, House Sparrow, Yellow-billed Babbler, Common Tailorbird, Pale-billed Flowerpecker

* Endemic


SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS is a monthly e-mail of birding and wildlife events, sightings and short notes of interest to birders, photographers, conservationists etc. To receive a copy, please e-mail with "Subscribe Wildlife News" in the subject header. SLWN values your privacy, to be removed, e-mail with "Unsubscribe Wildlife News" in the header. Please e-mail your sightings, events etc to The media are welcome to extract details, but please attribute the source. Past issues are on