JANUARY & FEBRUARY
Dear all, Feel free to circulate. To contribute or to un-subscribe, please see below. Regards Gehan.
SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS (November 2005- February 2006)
[*] Eye-browed Thrush at Horton Plains, Leopard cubs in Yala and Barn Owl in Polonnaruwa. See BIRDING & WILDLIFE NEWS.
[*] Trip report from Western Ghats & Morapitiya. Dragonfly watching in Talangama. See ARTICLES & TRIP REPORTS.
[*] With the Dawn by Nihal Fernando & Herbert Keuneman. Bird Sounds of Sri Lanka. See PUBLICATIONS.
– Saturday 25 March 2006, General Meeting. 9.30pm onwards. NBLT, University of Colombo, Colombo 3. Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL)
BIRDING & WILDLIFE NEWS
Asitha Jayarathna, (Resident naturalist at St. Andrews’ Hotel, Nuwara Eliya) accompanied by John from UK report on February 16 on the Bomuru Ella Trail a Malabar Trogon. On the same day they observed a Slaty- legged Crake in the Hotel premises.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Ayanthi Samarajewa, Ajanthan Shanthiratnam and Chandrika Maelge visited Uda Walawe on 12 February. They write, “the main quarry was Jungle Cat but it eluded us. Master Naturalist Lester Perera was also in the park with his clients. He had had a White Wagtail in the ground of the Hotel Centauria in Embilipitiya. The migrant Blyth’s Pipit was seen several times. The common waders were at a water hole together with Lesser Whistling-duck with young. A Yellow Wagtail of the race thunbergi was present. Several migrant Grey-bellied Cuckoos and one migrant Chestnut-winged Cuckoo. Sirkeer Malkoha, Plum-headed Parakeet, Tricoloured Munia, Indian Silverbills amongst other birds that were seen. Raptors seen were Black-shouldered Kite, Crested Hawk Eagle and Common Kestrel.
The causeway outside the park where the White & Citrine Wagtails were reported from was dry.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (9th February 2006) carried the following report.
Hemantha Seneviratne reports a Spotted Redshank at Maha Lewaya, Hambantota on 24 January. It was in the company of Common Redshanks, by the main road, c. 50 m towards the town from the bridge over the canal.
Wicky Wickramasekara (Eco Holidays) on tour with young wildlife photographer, James Houghton report a very young tusker near Darshana wewa in Yala on 7th February 2006. It’s tusks were around 14 cm long. During their 11 days stay in Yala they reported a total of 16 Leopard sightings which they believe relate to around 15 different individuals.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (22nd January 2006) carried the following reports.
Kithsiri Gunawardena reports from the Mannar area on 13-15 January Blyth’s Pipit apparently widespread, a Richard’s Pipit at the Talladi ponds, a brood of 15 juvenile Spot-billed Duck at the ponds, six Crab Plover by the south shore of Erukkilampiddi bay.
Amila Salgado reports a Citrine Wagtail and a White Wagtail at Uda Walawe by the causeway near the WNPS bungalow on 21 January.
Jeevan Williams came across a pair of Leopards mating at Walmal Kema on Sunday 20th January 2006 around 07.00 am. The male was very big and the tracker speculated that it might have been the Chaitya Male. Jeevan was able to capture it on digital video. During the four days his sightings of the Boralu Wala sub-adult pair, another pair of cubs at Meda Para playing with a dead Hare and two individual sightings of Leopard (Paranathotupola, Talgasmankada Road). He also saw a mother and cub Sloth Bear at Rukvila (an adult male has also been regularly sighted in the vicinity of Siyambala Wala) and a tusker at Parana Thotupola.
Niranjan Bandaranayake reports from Kalugala Hermitage off Matugama- Ratnapura Road on Saturday 20th January 2006. “A feeding flock of Bulbuls, which included Black Bulbul, Yellow-browed Bulbul and one Black-capped Bulbul together with Grey Hornbills. In addition, a pair of Common Iora, a Serpent Eagle circling overhead, Yellow Fronted Barbet (heard), Brown Shrike, a few Blue-tailed Bee-eaters and a White Vented Drongo”.
Chandima Jayaweera (Eco Holidays) on tour with Cait & Emma from the UK from 14th Jan to 28th Jan 2006 sends in the following sightings. “One male Leopard crossing the road at Meda para at Yala on 17th Jan at 1750 hrs. On 18th Jan we observed a roosting Serendib scops Owl at Sinharaja at about 1600 hrs. At Kithulgala on 20th Jan a Green-billed Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet and Sri Lanka Spurfowl were also seen. On 25th January in Polonnaruwa we observed a roosting Barn Owl around 1230 hrs”.
On 16th January 2006, Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Ayanthi Samarajewa, Shehani Seneviratne headed south with ornithologist Klaus Malling Olsen and Githanj. At Koggala, they had good views of Large Crested Tern and Common Tern (winter plumage) on the ‘stilts’ of the stilt fishermen at Koggala.
At Kalametiya, from the 214 km post entrance, they stopped at freshly ploughed fields and had a good selection of waders including Temminck’s Stint (1), Little-ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Marsh and Common Sandpipers, etc.
Water levels were high at Kunukalliya Lewa accessed from the 214 km post. No Curlew Sandpipers. Ruddy turnstone, Marsh and Common Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilts (one with a dull black hind neck marking), 20 plus Great Thick-knees seated close to each other. A Slaty-breasted Rail crossed the road. Passerines included Ashy-breasted Prinia, Peafowl and Blue-faced Malkoha.
From the 218 km post entrance, on the grassland were a mix of Yellow Wagtails. Also on the grassland were Skylarks, Golden Plover, Paddyfield Pipit, etc. The water levels were high after recent rains. The common waders were present on the edges of the mangroves.
On the return journey, three Whimbrels on the beach near the Kosgoda Turtle Hatchery which has been re-built after the tsunami. One Whimbrel was wading into the water as the waves receded to catch exposed crustacea. About 4 or 5 Pond Herons were also on the beach catching small crabs using a hunting technique they have perfected.
Hetti (Eco Holidays) on tour with Clive & Cassie Pennington on 15th January reported 7 leopard sightings in Yala National Park during 2 game drives.
On Wednesday 4 January 2006, Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and Ajanthan Shantiratnam visited Yala. Gehan says “Safari Jeep Driver Amarasiri brought to my attention the presence of European Bee-eaters on the River Road (Ganga Para), about half a kilometer from the place where people can alight from the vehicle at the Menik Ganga. We went in search and found one at a distance atop a tree. After about an hour’s watching we had identified a total of three individuals, all of whom were in the field of view simultaneously. Two interacted with each other. They preferred the top of tall trees. Superficially they could be overlooked for both the Blue-tailed Bee-eater and the Chestnut-headed Bee-eater. After much waiting one bird finally approached close, although it was against the light.
We did game drives on the Tuesday 3 January evening and morning and evening sessions on Wednesday 4th January. On all three sessions the Padikkema cubs (Pfc4 and Pfm5) were seen atop the Padikkema rock. I had gone up with Ajanthan to meet Werner Foster a photographer travelling with his daughter Cathreen. On Wednesday evening we also had a leopard on a tree with a Spotted Deer it had dragged up a Palu tree”.
Asitha Jayaratne (Naturalist, St. Andrew’s Hotel, Nuwara Eliya) accompanied Alan Parker (RSPB) & His wife on 01 Jan to the Bomuru Elle trail. Around 11.00 am the group observed a Sri Lanka Blue Magpie. First they heard the bird’s call and then for about ten minutes they were able to see the bird.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (30th December 2005) carried the following reports.
Chinthaka de Silva reports an Eye-browed Thrush (third record in SL) at Horton Plains NP by Arrenga Pool on the World’s End side at 8 a.m on 23 December.
Sampath Seneviratne reports an Indian Hobby at Horton Plains NP between Chimney Pool and Baker’s Falls on 28 December.
Ananda Perera reports a Rufous Turtle Dove at Tangalla on 29 December for the fifth consecutive day at the site the approach to which he will describe when phoned at 047 2242733 or 077 6121485.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (23rd December 2005) carried the following report.
Chinthaka de SIlva reports a Black-capped Kingfisher at Parana Totupola, Yala, on 23 December.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (22nd December 2005) carried the following report.
Uditha Hettige reports the following at Yala between 10 and 15 December. 04 Peregrine Falcons at Patanangala. An Amur Red-footed Falcon at Buttuwa Lagoon, by the road to the bungalow. A Barn Owl at the Yala Village hotel, between the cargo bay and reservoir.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (5th December 2005) carried the following report.
Deepal Warakagoda reports a Black-capped Kingfisher on 4 December just south of Panadura at the same site that one stayed in during the last migrant season: by the Talpitiya bridge on Galle Road near km post 31.
Chandima Jayaweera (Eco Holidays) on tour with Erica Donnison report a Barn Owl on 25th December from Polonnaruwa around 1.30 pm.
Tharu de Silva record 2 sightings of the Forest Wagtail in her home garden in Nugegoda. She sent in the following account. “On 18th December morning I spotted 3 adults and 2 juveniles and they were easily identifiable with their characteristic tail wagging. On the 21st once again 2 adults were seen in the garden. There has also been a regular visitor every morning in the shape of a male Asian Paradise Flycatcher. This bird visits every morning at around 8.30 and can be seen perched on a particular Mango tree. This ritual has been going on for the past 2 months without a break”.
Wicky Wickramasekara (Eco Holidays) on tour with Carol & Tim Inskipp report a Pomarine Jaeger on 9th December in Bundala Lewaya at 9.40am.
Chinthaka de Silva (Eco Holidays) on a Leopard safari with Mr. & Mrs. Tony Fowell at Yala National Park on 21st November 2005 reports the park was stunningly green due to the rain in the past few days. With a half day game drive in Yala they had sightings of, 3 Leopards, a Sloth Bear & 18 Elephants in different locations, 8 Sambar, 2 Grey Mongoose in two different locations and numerous groups of Spotted Deer & hundreds of Wild Boar in various places in the park.
The first Leopard sighting was around 17.00hrs, 2 Leopard cubs on a tree close to a small water hole near the Koma Wewa. It was about 30 meters away from the jeep. After about 15 minutes both cubs got down from the tree and disappeared in to the jungle.
The second Leopard sighting was around 17.30hrs near the Buttuwa Wewa. It was on a tree about 25 meters away.
Around 6 pm, they had seen a Sloth Bear walking on main road in front of the jeep. It did not mind the 5-6 Jeeps that tailed it. It looked back at the vehicles and proceeded for a few more meters then turned and disappeared in to the thicket.
Rohan Cooray on tour with Peter & Magaret Whiles with Eco Holidays on 29th Nov report from Yala National Park. 2 Leopard cubs at Rukwila at 17.30hrs. They had also saw a bear on the main road – Palugaswala at 17.50hrs. 30th November at 07.10hrs, 2 Leopard cubs at Rukwila, A Yellow-crowned Woodpecker & Black-necked Stork were also observed.
Lester Perera (Eco Holidays) on tour with Steve & Kath Allcock from 4th to 18th November 2005, sends in the following sightings.
A solitary Sharp-tailed Sandpiper (juvenile) at Weerawila on 11th November. Yala National Park on 12th Nov, one male Leopard and a Bear. Also seen were many Elephants. General observation made were that the number of waders & some migrants were low in numbers both at Bundala & Yala National Parks. The usual numbers of Ducks were also not observed. Pied Thrushes were not seen in Nuwara Eliya.
At Yala National Park on 12th Nov he reports one male Leopard and a Bear. Also many Elephants were seen.
On Saturday 12 November 2005 Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne travelled to Bundala. He writes “Travelled under a kilometer from the Weligatta Junction as one of the bridges was under repair and we did not want to risk getting stuck in the mud. The Safari Jeeps were continuing to Bundala National Park. A Temminck’s Stint was near the road.
A pair of Lesser Whitethroats were at least 50m away from the road. One bird drew attention by being atop a small bush (less than 4 feet in height) at the edge of a grassy meadow which was flooded. The other bird was in the middle of the bush. The bird atop seemed to be displaying to the other by engaging in a ‘pointing down’ display. The crowns were an ashy grey. Combined with the brownish upperparts, pale crown and the white underparts, reminiscent of a Brown Shrike. I could not see white tips to the outer tail feathers, which is present in the Hume’s Whitethroat. Also the colour of the crown was pale and the body was browner than what would be expected from a Hume’s Whitethroat.
It is hard based on my observations to separate Lesser Whitethroat (Sylvia curruca halimodendri) from ‘Desert Whitethroat (Sylvia [curruca] minula). But if halimodendri is noticeably browner on the wings and body, I would suspect it was that sub-species. As my camera had been put back in and the birds were at a distance I chose to observe them through my Swarovski 8 x 42. It is just as well as if I had attempted to photograph them I may have missed the opportunity to observe them through the bins”.
Wicky Wickramasekara (Eco Holidays) on tour with Jonathan Barnslay report on 27th November, Padikkema cubs on a rock at 17.15hrs. 29th Oct at 06.15hrs Boraluwala cubs & mother with a kill, a 45 minutes sighting. Same day at 08.00hrs one male leopard crossing the Gonagala Road. Also at 08.25hrs Butawa spill road, one male leopard on a tree for 30 minutes. On 30th October 2005, Padikkema cubs on a rock seen playing for 15 minutes.
Bandara, Naturalist Tropical Villas, Beruwala reports an Orange-headed Ground Thrush from the hotel garden on 15th November 2005 around 08.15. Lyn & Peter Gaynor who were at the hotel during this time, managed to photograph it very well.
Ayanthi Samarajewa Observed on 6th November 2005 at 6.30 am, in Rathmalana, a flock of 25+ Crimson Fronted Barbets flying on to a Bo tree. They were seen actively feeding on the Bo fruits. I have not seen this sight before and was amazed by it. I read up on Henry and learnt that this sort of gathering occurs after the breeding season, where birds flock together for feeding. On 21st November 2005, Boralasgamuwa (Colombo-Horana main road) she also observed a Curlew flying over the main road about ¼ Km after the Pillewa Temple paddy field. It was flying from North-East to South-West.,from the University of Sri Jayawardenpura toward the Bellanvilla- Attidiya Sanctuary.
Udaya Karunaratne writes.”My family and I, along with my brother were at Yala on the wet, dull and overcast evening of 13th of November. We were at Maliththankotuwala where, despite the gloomy forecasts of the officials, we were extremely fortunate to have a bear and it’s cub to view at leisure for a good 10 minutes. The mother was busy demonstrating the art of breaking open termite mounds with her formidable claws and stocking up on animal protein and junior was no less eager to learn. We watched this idyllic scene for quite awhile; until of course this particularly obnoxious driver gunned his vehicle to get to a better vantage point and scared the pair away who made there way along the bund and disappeared from view.
We were ecstatic about the sighting but soon afterwards a wildlife department official from another vehicle informed us that they had fleetingly spotted a leopard at the “Karuwala Bokkuwa” on the “Meda Para”. So full of hope we made our way there and lo and behold!; I (at the wheel) saw this large male (definitely) cross the road from the right, just past the bokkuwa itself.
It is of significance here that I mention the direction that the cat came from, because as he
crossed the road he looked straight at us and I very definitely noticed that all that was visible of this male leopard’s left eye was a dark empty hollow and a streak of dark fluid that matted his fur immediately below this eye. I took many pictures of the fellow subsequently and even though the available light was extremely low (time around 1815 hrs and very, very overcast evening with an occasional squall) and I was “pushing” my camera controls to the limit, I still managed to get at least one image which shows the cat in the undergrowth looking straight at us and this (if not totally lost eye, at least injured) clearly visible, fluid discharge streak and all.
This male was very solidly built with a large physique and quite mature as was apparent from the thick shoulders and fluffy fur around the head and neck much in the fashion of a mature tom cat. He was accompanied ( I almost forgot to mention!) by a far smaller and
slender animal which I am tempted to assume was a female but will not. My brother and I both obtained images of the pair as they eventually re-crossed the road behind us at the bend and vanished into the brush.
At the time I naturally assumed that it was good ole’ “One-Eye” that Ravi Samarasinghe (et al) refers to in their ground-breaking book “For the Leopard” but I did double check after I returned home. What I then realized was that Ravi’s “one-Eye” was a female and ole’ “One-Eye’s” damaged eye was the right eye! Now, I am not quite certain whether others have reported sightings of a similarly injured (in the eye) male leopard, and if they have I would very much like to know.
If not, I know for certain there are now two “One-Eyes” in Yala! If you have any info on this animal please forward me details.
A day later, at Uda-Walawe we watched a flock of magnificent Malabar Pied Hornbills and my son tallied a total of 18 individuals as they sailed past us in that peculiar way they have.
As mentioned earlier, at Yala the Wildlife Department officials were quite pessimistic about our chances of seeing anything other than Spotted Deer and the odd elephant, far less leopard and bear. To have seen both within 10 minutes of each other on a very wet, cool, dull, dark evening is something to savour for a long time to come!
Talangama – Dragonfly Weather
By Karen Conniff
Sunday February 26th was a fantastic dragonfly day at Talangama Tank. After a good rain on Saturday evening the air was clean, humidity high, sun brightly shining and all the dragonflies one could wish for were out hunting; it was 10:30 am and perfect dragonfly weather. Several Blue-tailed Bee-eaters were there too, taking advantage of a good dragonfly meal and there were plenty to take.
I was looking for one species in particular, Ceriagrion coromandelianum or the Yellow Waxwing, a small yellow damselfly that is common around the grassy edges of low country tanks; what I needed was a breeding photo. I had been there 2 weeks earlier and found only males, now I hoped the females had arrived. I walked around the tank starting in front of Villa Talangama, a property marketed by Jetwing Eco Holidays. Subsequently, I movedtoward the end of the tank.
It was hard to focus on my intended photographic campaign as I noticed the variety of dragonflies. Eventually, I spotted a mating pair of yellow waxwing damselflies, but they were well out of camera range. I have gone into the water before but the thought of sinking up to my knees in mud or finding a large fresh water leech attached to my foot kept me dry for the moment, as I looked for a pair closer to the edge. Persistence paid off and I found a pair on some vegetation that was in range, but I knew I could get a better picture if I got closer; wading was the only option. It was only knee deep and it was worth the effort since I got several good shots before they had enough of my attention, and no leeches attached to my feet.
There was a bit of time left before I had to head home. I decided to focus on the red dragonflies that were challenging each other for perches and try to get a photo of one in flight – I had to be very still and wait. The heat was getting intense while I waited for the right photo moment. Then, I began to notice that I had 4 different species of red dragonflies in front of me, the heat was momentarilily forgotten, Rhodothemis rufa, a young juvenile male was perched in the branches of a jam fruit tree hanging over the water, Aethriamanta brevipennis was trying to defend its position on a reed, while Crocothemis servilia tried to usurp it and Urothemis signata hovered over a water hyacinth a bit further out. Fluttering among the chaotic activity of the reds were black and gold Rhyothemis varigata, orange winged Brachythemis contaminata, and pied colors of black and white winged Neurothemis tulia. Heat and hunger won eventually and I had to head for the car. It was a perfect dragonfly day.
PS – Once at home the photos told the story. The, breeding and hovering photos turned out well, but the highlight of all the photos was of Aethriamanta brevipennis, common name Elusive Adjutant, which is not a common dragonfly. The next challenge – well there is no photograph of the female of this elusive species. I hope the weather holds.
Sri Lanka Natural History Society – SLNHS Bulletin – NO 1. January 2006
Trip Report- Western Ghats 10th-18th Dec. 2005
Six members braved this first overseas wildlife trip organised by the SLNHS. Our first destination- Periyar, was an 8 hour drive from Cochin Airport and we reached Periyar late in the evening with no time for scouting around. A mix up with the accommodation left us a bit crabby after the long drive. The next morning we left for Periyar Tiger Reserve but unfortunately the Western Ghats caught the tail end of the cyclone which hit the South East coast of India. We were therefore unable to take the boat ride in the Reserve- this is a highlight at the Reserve but the heavy rain did not make this possible. We saw some Bonnet Macaques but nothing else. Even the Great Hornbill- a “sure fire” species here did not make an appearance and after cups of hot chocolate and coffee, we sadly left the Reserve for the hill station of Munnar via Suriyanelli where we had an overnight stay at a campsite. Due to the heavy rain, the tents were wet and as the site was perched on top of a hill, it was extremely cold. The strong winds kept whipping up the tents’ canvasses and one tent lost 2 poles in the night leaving its unfortunate occupants sleepless and in a tizzy wondering at which moment their tent would collapse. Mercifully, we had only one night here and we left for Munnar soon after breakfast.
Munnar was a welcome change after the events of the past two days. We stayed at The High Range Rifle Club, a vestige of India’s colonial past and reminiscent of some of the old clubs in our Hill Country. Good food and comfortable rooms with hot water revived our somewhat flagging spirits. From this point onwards we did not look back-the rest of the trip being filled with wonderful sightings of most of the endemics of the Western Ghats and other fauna of India. We were fortunate in having the services of one of South India’s best bird guides who knew the best locations to find our quarry. The beautiful Nilgiri Woodpigeon with its soft grey head and deep chestnut mantle, the attractive Malabar Whistling Thrush, the handsome Grey Junglefowl, the Nilgiri Pipit, the White-bellied Shortwing and the tiny Black and Orange Flycatcher were some of the endemics spotted here. At Eravikulam National Park which was similar in landscape to Horton Plains albeit with more gently rolling hills, we encountered a herd of about 20 Nilgiri Tahr crossing a stream and quenching their thirst. These large mountain goats are somewhat elusive and we were lucky to have seen them. Mothers, babies, young males and a handsome “saddle back” which is a mature male with prominent grey/brown fur on its flanks, all were within close proximity. The “camera crew” was busy clicking and filming this wonderful sight. An Indian Kestrel swooped onto a rock close to the herd and completed the tableau.
We then proceeded to Thattekad where we walked through many forested areas. At one site we saw a Black Baza and the endemic White-bellied Treepie. Our guide took us to an open area fringed with tall trees which was reputed to be home to a pair of Mottled Wood Owls. Sure enough they were there and were a magnificent sight. We also saw the endemic Scarlet- throated Bulbul, Heart-spotted and White-bellied Woodpeckers and the endemic Malabar Parakeet at Thattekad. The latter is a beautiful grey and blue bird with a black and brilliant turquoise ring round its neck.
We were indeed fortunate to encounter the beautiful Paris Peacock and the rare Malabar Banded Swallowtail. Both these butterflies are extremely difficult to photograph and our “camera crew” clicked furiously. Many butterflies were seen but we were unable to identify them in the absence of a book on Indian butterfllies. The Nawab, and other butterflies which are found in Sri Lanka were easily identified.
This was a very enjoyable and successful trip- We had 219 birds on our Group list. We hope to visit India again and will keep you informed of the next trip.
Sri Lanka Natural History Society – SLNHS Bulletin – NO 1. January 2006
Trip report- Morapitiya FR 26th Nov. 2005
The trip originally scheduled for 19th Nov. was postponed to 26th Nov. as we thought that if there was any unrest after the elections, we might get caught up in it. Eight members and two guests joined us on this trip. The day commenced with bright sunshine and we had hopes of encountering a feeding flock with many endemics. Unfortunately, this was not to be. The forest was quiet and we saw just a few species of what it normally has on offer.
Endemics seen included a flock of Ceylon Rufus Babblers nest building in a home garden, a Legge’s Flowerpecker atop a tree and a Ceylon Crested Drongo perched by the roadside offering a good view to those who were close by. There had been plenty of rain the days before and every little rivulet was flowing. From the embankments and rocky surfaces, tiny waterfalls gushed down. The rock faces were covered with many ferns in different hues of green. The green of the ferns against the glistening black rocks and the white frothy water made a beautiful sight. At one spot we had to cross a river which was in full spate after the rains. Its strong current made us cling to each other while crossing and though its cool clear waters were very inviting, we gave bathing there a miss due to the strong currents.
Myriads of wild flowers were in bloom. Those of us with cameras were clicking avidly.
The butterflies, not to be outdone, were also in abundance. Among those we saw were the beautiful Tree Nymph- floating effortlessly like a flake of wood ash, a few Blue Mormons, Common Sailors and a Grey Pansy.
Sri Lanka Natural History Society – SLNHS Bulletin – NO 1. January 2006
Trip report- Nuwara Eliya 15th-17th Oct. 2005
Six members participated in this trip. Some showers at the beginning made birding difficult but towards the end of the trip it cleared up sufficiently to enable us to make a few treks into the field.
We set off for Horton Plains on Saturday morning. We were disappointed at not seeing the Arrenga at Arrenga Pool en route to Horton Plains. However, there were many Yellow-eared Bulbuls, Common Tailorbirds and Grey Wagtails at this picturesque spot. At Horton Plains we had a very clear view of the endemic Ceylon Bush Warbler. This usually shy bird came out into the open affording us long and clear views. Close by, a solitary Sambhur stag bounded parallel to the pathway giving us a thrill. Surprisingly, we did not see a single Dusky Blue Flycatcher- a bird that is usually quite prolific in this area. We had more sightings of the Yellow-eared Bulbul here.
The highlight of this trip was a sighting of a Jerdon’s Baza- a “Lifer “ for most of us. It was lazily soaring on the thermals in clear view and was indeed a majestic sight. Unfortunately the rain started around noon and we had to rush back. The next morning we set off for Bomurella. Here we saw the Orange Minivet, Yellow -eared Bulbuls, Grey-headed Flycatcher and Velvet-fronted Nuthatch. At St. Martins where we lodged, we saw a juvenile Kashmir Red-breasted Flycatcher perched on a telegraph wire. Although there was hardly any garden space here, we observed Grey Wagtails, Yellow- eared Bulbuls and Hill White-eyes among others, from these premises. During a walk in Victoria Park we encountered 3 Common Sandpipers, a Common Kingfisher, a White-breasted Waterhen and a Forest Wagtail. Although we searched for the Pied Ground Thrush, we were unable to spot one.
An Open Letter forwarded to His Excellency the President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksha to Hon. Minister of Environment & Natural Resources Mr. Mitripala Sirisena.
– Sunil Wimalasuriya
To be considered in the 2006 budget.
Vast extents of Sri Lanka’s bio-diverse lands that were transferred into mono crop plantations during the colonial era, are regenerating in many places due to various natural and man made reasons. Here is an example of a 40 acre plantation land that has been deliberately turned around to a ‘Secondary Rainforest’ as a direct result of the far sighted, land use policy of the 1970 -1977 Govt. which introduced crop diversification of uneconomic tea lands. Although the present owner continued and expanded the project, intending to commercially exploit the timber, the proliferation of bio-diversity in a very short time, and global ecological events has resulted in a change of strategy, as the benefits derived through conservation of this regenerated rainforest far out weigh the profit that would otherwise be derived by intrinsic commercial harvesting methods. Already 25 land owners from the area have indicated their willingness to replicate this model, as such authorities should take sharp note of the importance of involving private property owners in the Governments Sustainable Economic Development plan and mobilize those willing to transfer their lands to bio-habitats on a priority basis. As an immediate inducement, recommend a subsidy scheme be declared, with a suitable monitoring mechanism in place and the expected financial benefits to the land owners be clearly elaborated to encourage them.
Bangamukande Estate,(BKE) Pitigala, Galle district, located at 6′ 20″ N – 80′ 16″ E at an elevation of from 400 ft to 1000 ft above msl, was a self sufficient village of 80 families 110 years ago, Cholera or Dysentery resulted in the majority of inhabitants to die, and the remainder abandoned the village. Survivors sold their lands to a Plumbago Miner who resold. In 1904 agricultural mono crops such as cinnamon, rubber and tea were planted by ancestors of the present owner. This practice was changed in 1973 and a 5 acres tea field was transferred to forest land using a govt. subsidy under, crop diversification of uneconomic tea lands. 11 acres of cinnamon were allowed to regenerate to forest land from 1986. The remaining rubber field of 15 acres is presently been allowed to regenerate into forestland while been cropped. A long term scientific data gathering of the bio-diversity of this regenerating forest was undertaken in Sept. 2002, by post graduates of the Ruhuna University SL, and Oxford Brooks University ‘Nocturnal Primate Research Group’ UK.
The data gathered from 2 scientific surveys has unravelled an unimaginable proliferation of bio-diversity both floral and faunal at BKE, in a very limited area and quickly. This locality is within the environmentally sensitive area of southwest Sri Lanka’s wet zone which has been classified as one of only 11 bio-diverse hyper-hotspots of the world (Brooks et al 2001).
The floral and faunal bio-diversity assessment at BKE based on the Msc. thesis of Lilia Bernade 2003, and the preliminary report for a Bsc degree by Robert Davis 2004, has together recorded the presence of 197 plant species (63 endemic), 17 fresh water fish species (11 endemic), 19 amphibian species(12 endemic), 31 reptile species (17 endemic), 16 mammal species (6 endemic), 92 bird species (16 endemic), out of these species the following list are, endangered – 3 mammals 5 birds, vulnerable – 4 mammals 5 birds, globally threatened – 1 reptile 1 bird, nationally threatened – 3 reptiles, highly threatened – 1 reptile. New sub species discovered, – 1 primate (red slender Loris), 3 amphibians (tree frogs)(Bernede,2003; Davis,2004; ASP bulletin, June 2004).
The wealth of bio-diversity already recorded at BKE is high, some of these are rare, endemic and threatened. 75 species of plants recorded are used for medicinal purposes, although the forest fragment is relatively small it provides a resourceful and safe haven for over 140 species of fauna (recorded up to Sept. 2004 from 3 surveys, with a total added period of 6 months, many reptile and amphibian species could not be identified ) the number is going to be much higher as we continue. Most of the privately owned forest fragments such as BKE also serve as temporary refuge for many other terrestrial mammals and birds, while they move from one forest patch to another.
The conservation of small forest fragments usually privately owned such as BKE, is urgently required as these fragments contain a vast majority of Sri Lanka’s bio-diversity. In addition the regeneration of rain forest largely depends on the persistence of pollinators and seed dispersers (Cowlishaw & Dunbar, 2000). Numerous authors (Chapman & Onderdonk, 1988, Chapman 1995) have argued that frugivorous primates may be among the most important seed dispersers in tropical forests and suggest that maintenance of primate populations is critical for the regeneration of tropical forests. This would make a good argument for use of both purple faced monkey and giant squirrel as flagship species, thus providing another potential conservation strategy for the small populations of these primates at BKE and their habitat, by showing the vital role they play as seed disperses and pollinators.
This calls for immediate action on the part of policy makers, authorities and politicians to enforce the law vigorously to protect all state owned forests patches, and to survey and document the bio-diversity, to safeguard the survival of species, especially those that are endemic, threatened & vulnerable, as these ‘gene banks’ are going to be the most valuable natural resource we can leave for the future of our country’s prosperity. Mahinda Chintana, the policy statement for the immediate future mentions on page 8 in the English version, A LAND IN HARMONY WITH NATURE, A Sustainable Policy for Environmental Conservation, 2nd para- quote- ‘My aim is to promote sustainable development in close liaison with the land , fauna and flora, and to bestow our natural heritage to our future generations’- unquote.
I expect that you would take note of the significant observations made at BKE vis. the proliferation of bio diversity in a short period of time, which is of global importance to ecology and include some of the recommendations in the budget to be presented on the 8th. of Dec. 2005, as we seem to be on identical view’s regarding ecology.
References- 1. Lilia Bernede Msc. in Primate Conservation 2002-2003 OxfordBrookesUniversity, UK.
2. Robert Davis. An Independent study for a Bsc. Degree 2005. Oxford Brookes UniversityUK. 3. Saman Gamage Bsc. M.Phil in bio-diversity, RuhunaUniversity.
4. Wasantha Liyanage Bsc. M.phil in bio-diversity, RuhunaUniversity.
ASP Bulletin – June 2004
Compiled and presented by – Sunil Wimalasuriya, owner ‘BKE’- above data from a book to be published titled ‘Resurrecting Razed Rainforests’.
‘The Gathering’ of Elephants
By Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (Published in newspapers in July 2005)
Over the next few days in Sri Lanka, one of the most awesome wildlife spectacles in the world, will continue to gather pace. Over three hundred wild Asian Elephants converge for ‘The Gathering”.
“Sri Lankan wildlife defies conventional wisdom”.Small islands are not supposed to have large animals. Someone forgot to tell this to the elephants, the largest terrestrial mammal. Not only is it found in Sri Lanka, the largest concentration of Asian Elephants, a seasonal gathering, takes place on this island.
Every year, ‘The Gathering’ takes place on the receding shores of the Minneriya Lake, in the north central province of Sri Lanka. As the dry season fastens its grip on the dry lowlands, leaves wither and fall in the dry deciduous forests, waterholes evaporate into cakes of cracked and parched mud. The elephants must move on in search of food and water.
The elephants, sometimes numbering over an awe inspiring three hundred, converge onto the receding shores of Minneriya Tank. Nowhere else in the world will one find such a high concentration of wild Asian Elephants concentrated into a few square kilometers. A fact confirmed by Jayantha Jayawardana author of The Elephant in Sri Lanka and a member of the IUCN/Asian Elephant Specialist Group.
‘The Gathering’ at Minneriya is a wonderful opportunity for wildlife enthusiasts and casual travellers to observe the social dynamics of elephants. Matriarchs lead their clans to water, the whole group taking care to safeguard the baby elephants that are always flanked by adults. The basic unit of family society is a mother and calf. Clans of related elephants will coalesce into herds when they converge onto Minneriya in search of a common quest for food, water, cover and mates. The smaller herds group into even larger herds, sometimes numbering over a hundred elephants. Adult bulls mix freely, using their trunks to test the air for adult females who are receptive. When a bull elephant attains maturity, he is expelled from the herd and wanders as a bachelor. At the gathering elephants that have not seen each other for a year, renew acquaintances. Bulls tussle for dominance and calves play with each other.
The Minneriya Tank or reservoir is an ancient man made lake constructed by King Mahasen in the 3rd century AD. Many centuries ago, these lowlands were farmed for agriculture by an ancient civilization whose mastery of hydraulics was remarkably sophisticated. Today, the ancient reservoir fills during the Northeast monsoon and gradually shrinks as the dry season fasten the lowlands in a torpid grip. As the waters recede, lush grassland sprouts attracting elephants in search of food from far away as the jungles of Wasgomuwa and Trincomalee. The lake always retains some water and is surrounded by scrub jungle, which provides shade during the heat of the day. The Asian Elephant is a shade-loving animal. It is not endowed with as good an air conditioning system as its African cousin who has large ears. As evening falls, the elephants emerge from the scrub, in small herds of tens, coalescing into larger herds, sometimes numbering over a hundred.
The ‘Gathering’ is one of the most unforgettable and fantastic events in the international wildlife calendar”.
When should I visit?
The Gathering peaks during the months of August and September. The locals will know whether the herds are gathered at Minneriya National Park or whether the nearby Kaudulla National Park offers better viewing at a particular time. Be guided by local advice and be flexible as to which of the parks you visit.
Why is it called ‘The Gathering’?
Because that is what it is. It is a seasonal movement of elephants and not quite a migration in the sense of what biologists mean by a migration.
How should I visit?
Choose a reputable tour operator who can make your arrangements for accommodation, park entry fees, safari jeep hire, etc. Hotels in the neighbourhood can also make arrangements for jeep safaris.
What else can I do?
Minneriya, which is the focus of ‘The Gathering’, is at the center of one of the richest areas for culture and archaeology. The magnificent ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa, the rock fortress palace of Kasyappa at Sigiriya, the Golden Rock Temple of Dambulla, are all within a half day’s excursion. Wildlife enthusiasts may like to go further to Wilpattu National Park or go primate watching or birdwatching in the many forests patches in the area. Many of the country’s finest hotels are also in the area.
Need for an Ecological Index
By Rohan H. Wickramasinghe, Institute for Tropical Environmental Studies
There is much discussion in recent years (and, in particular, in environmental and scientific circles) of the ‘biodiversity’ in named regions or localities. For instance, Sri Lanka has been termed one of the ‘biodiversity hotspots’ of the world. This means that she has a large variety of indigenous plant and animal species, e.g. orchids, birds and frogs, within her shores and territorial waters. Many of these are ‘endemic’ or found only in this country. (n.b. islands frequently have a relatively high proportion of endemic species but that is another story which we will not discuss now).
One question raised in the course of the deliberations at the recent World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC) held in Turin (see THE ISLAND of the 7th November 2005) related to the term ‘biodiversity’. I noted that I felt that, while this concept of making a tally of indigenous species of plants and animals in a given region or locality is very valuable for some purposes, the term is a little too technical and perhaps unsatisfying for educating the general public, including decision makers, on the importance and urgency of the need for biological conservation. I felt that a sterile discussion on ‘biodiversity’ would not provide any compelling argument for members of the general public to support or get involved in biological conservation.
I would like to propose that a sense of the importance and urgency of the need for biological conservation could be better conveyed by the development of the concept of an ‘Ecological Index’ or ‘EcoIndex’ for each country or region (as necessary). This would in some ways be similar to a ‘cost-of-living index’ and would be revised annually in order to provide information and quantify the state of health of the ecology and environment of the locality under consideration.
Fundamentally, the ‘EcoIndex’ of a given locality would compare the numbers of species of living organisms in the year in question to those known to have existed in a base or reference year (say the year 1950, for argument’s sake). Usually, more species of indigenous plants and animals would have been identified by the year 2005 than were known in 1950. However, many would have been lost in the locality in question by 2005 or passed into extinction (some types of living organisms, e.g. bacteria, would be excluded in calculating an EcoIndex due to practical reasons).
The calculation of an EcoIndex would need to be made according to a prescribed formula, which, ideally, would be standard for all localities to permit comparisons and detection of trends (however, different formulae may prove to be necessary for, for example, terrestrial and aquatic environments to avoid the calculation becoming unwieldy). The elaboration or construction of a formula is not a task which can be accomplished overnight and will need multidisciplinary inputs.
It is envisaged that the use and annual review of a given locality’s EcoIndex would be possible without requiring specialist expertise, once the formula is refined and established (after testing). However, drawing up the formula would need careful thought. For instance, does one merely add up the numbers of all species of plants and animals in a locality or does one factor in increases or decreases in the population of each species (or marker species)? If the first option is selected, the dwindling of the population of elephants in Sri Lanka from 3000 to one would not be reflected in her EcoIndex! On the other hand, however, determining the population numbers of each species of plant and animal every year could be deemed impracticable. Marker species may need to be decided upon.
The construction of the formula for an EcoIndex could also incorporate various other considerations. For instance, industrial pollution in a given locality could be factored in. WEEC used carbon dioxide emissions as a marker to quantify pollution and this could be a useful example to follow in view of its relevance to Global Warming. In view of the disparities between various countries and localities in terms of land area and population numbers, agreement will need to be arrived at as to whether emissions are to be factored in per square kilometre of territory or per unit of human population.
Other factors, which may be considered in calculating an Eco Index, include human activities (e.g. land clearing, deforestation), desertification, salinization of soil, frequency of natural disasters attributed to human activities (e.g. some landslides) and incidence of certain health problems, which are related to the state of the environment (e.g. certain cancers, dengue, certain birth defects). Which factors can and should be incorporated into the proposed formula will have to be decided after a careful study of all relevant considerations.
As noted above, the construction of an Eco Index is not a task which can be accomplished overnight and its operation will also require considerable inputs. However, once in place, it should prove a valuable educational and administrative tool towards ecological protection. Even the process of calculating it each year could help to bring to light developing problems and trends, which may otherwise lie hidden until they are far advanced.
Any comments on this concept by both specialists and the general public are most welcome.
The article is reproduced with permission given to the author and SLWN from The Island ISLAND newspaper (www.island.lk). It was published on Wednesday the 30th November 2005 in the ‘Midweek Review’.
With the Dawn by Nihal Fernando & Herbert Keuneman. Published by Studio Times Ltd.
Based on the Exhibition Wild Life ’73, an epic poem in words and photographs which unfolds the story of life in the jungle. 230 pgs, 200 black & white photographs, 18cm x 19cm (portrait), duotone printing in Korea. Two editions – Standard & Deluxe. Can be purchased now at prepublication discount. Closing Date for Prepublication Offer: 16th Dec. 2005.
Contact: Studio Times Ltd., 16/1 Skelton Road, Colombo 5, + 94 11 2589062, + 94 11 595569. email@example.com. www.studiotimes.net
Birds Sounds of Sri Lanka, Habitat Edition 2005 By Deepal Warakagoda
‘This audiotape the Habitat Edition of The Birds Sounds of Sri Lanka was created for listeners to experience the sounds of birds in 8 major habitat types of Sri Lanka. For the first time in the series soundscapes featuring birds as well as other sounds of nature are presented, and one is provided for each of the 8 habitats.
All sounds in this compilation were recorded in the wild and in the relevant habitat types by Deepal Warakagoda from 1999-2004.
It consists of 105 species of birds with 19 endemics. It is hoped that the work will assist listeners to identify and appreciate many distinctive bird sounds heard throughout Sri Lanka and that it will inspire them to respect and conserve the Sri Lanka’s biodiversity.
Side A consists of Birds of Rainforest, Marshes, lagoons & Town gardens. Side B of the cassette consists of bird sound of Hills, Dry forest, Grassland & Scrubland & Night birds of the dry zone’.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne comments on, the quality of recording as excellent and most useful for birdwatchers to learn the calls of different bird in their habitats.
Field Guide to the Birds of Southern India
by Richard Grimmett, Tim Inskipp
RRP £24.99 , ISBN 0713651644 , Format Paperback 240 pages. 216×135 mm.
‘This guide is a successor to the much acclaimed Birds of the Indian Subcontinent by the same authors. Covering southern India, the superb plates re accompanied by a succinct text highlighting identification, voice, habitat, altitudinal range, distribution and status. The text is on facing pages to the plates, for easy reference.
Like previous guides covering Bhutan, Northern India and Nepal, this guide is a perfect size for use in the field and will be an essential companion when visiting this region’.
Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide
Vols. 1 and 2
By Pamela C. Rasmussen and John C. Anderton
Illustrated by John Anderton, Ian Lewington, Hilary Burn, Tom Schultz, N. John Schmitt, Larry B. McQueen, Hans Peeters, Jonathan Alderfer, Albert E. Gilbert, Bill Zetterstrom, Kristin Williams, Cynthia House
Smithsonian Institution and Lynx Edicions, 2005
‘Birds of South Asia. The Ripley Guide is a comprehensive, two-volume, up-to-date work covering the over 2500 known and likely taxa of birds of the spectacularly diverse Indian subcontinent including, for the first time, Afghanistan and the Chagos Archipelago. Volume 1 is a Field Guide, bound separately for portability, while Volume 2 (Attributes and Status) contains much more detailed information.
Volume 1 (Field Guide):
– Over 3400 illustrations appear in 180 plates painted especially for this book by expert artists. These depict virtually all species and most distinctive subspecies and plumages, some of which appear in no other guide.
– Over 1450 colour maps, based primarily on verified records, represent the ranges of each regularly occurring species and many distinctive races, and distinguish migratory routes from winter ranges.
– Maps are annotated as to geographic variation, status, and habitat.
– Concise texts give the information necessary to identify each species .
– To assist in locating groups within the text, illustrated plate keys are provided in the endpapers.
Vol. 2 (Attributes and Status):
– Contains much new information and many taxonomic treatments.
– Alternative names are listed and taxonomic issues are summarized.
– Specimen measurements specially taken for this book are presented for each species.
– Complete data about identification, status and distribution, and habits are provided for each species.
– Problematic records are mentioned.
– Vocalizations are described from recordings, and there are over 1000 sonagrams.
– Appendices include the region s first hypothetical species list, a gazetteer, brief ornithological histories, and lists of taxonomic changes, regional specimen holdings, and threatened species.
– A comprehensive index allows users to find whatever names are most familiar to them.
– Maps indicate geopolitical names, topography, habitats, and bird species diversity and endemism’.
Handbook to Indian Wetland Birds and their Conservation
Kumar, A., Sati, JP, Tak, PC & Alfred, JRB (2005) Handbook on Indian Wetland Birds and their Conservation: xxvi+468 (Published by Director, Zool. Surv. India)
‘The Handbook provides extensive information on 310 wetland bird species from India. It is divided in seven chapters, with eight appendices and Index for scientific and English names of Indian wetland birds.
The first chapter of Introduction covers information on Biogeography of India, Wetland Birds and their Values, Habitats, Heronries, Migration, Major Waterbird Flyways, Watching Wetland Birds and bird photography.
The second chapter provides a complete Checklist of 310 species of Wetland Birds in a tabular form with their residential, abundance, conservation and threatened status, population trend, threshold number, etc. Detail information on diagnostic field characters, habits, habitats, voice, status and distribution in India, south Asia, as well as in their biogeographical range has been provided in this chapter. Each species text is furnished with photograph (s) and a drawing, highlighting the diagnostics in the plate, and a colour distribution map.
In the third chapter, their residential, abundance and conservation status has been discussed. For all the Globally Threatened, Near Threatened and Data Deficient species separate photographic plate are given.
Chapter 4 covers the socio economic values (direct and indirect use values), threats and the conservation measures in relation to the wetlands and the wetland birds.
Chapter 5 covers the protected area network with information about 19 Ramsar, Montreux, and World Heritage sites, Important Bird areas (IBAs) and Sacred wetlands in India. It tabulates state wise information on 99 Waterbird Sanctuaries, National Parks, and Ramsar Sites with their year of establishment, X & Y co-ordinates, Bio-geographic unit, and area in km2.
The chapter six of the Handbook deals with the Framework for Conservation covering various aspects such as, National policies, laws and legislation, International conventions/ Agreements like Ramsar Convention, Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), CITES, and bilateral Agreements on protection of migratory birds between India and former USSR and Russia. Co-ordination of Action in Asia Region under Asia-Pacific Conservation Initiative and the strategy for conservation of migratory species have been discussed in details. Five major Key habitats for threatened wetland birds and the species they are supporting have been discussed. Further, this chapter also briefly touches on,
Mandate of various Government and Non- Governmental Organisations working with the wetlands and wetland birds at national and International level.
Accession to international conventions and various initiatives under Convention on Wetlands, and role of Remote Sensing in assessment of waterfowl habitat have been appended to the Handbook.
As India supports such a large number of migratory species, birds that fly between countries on an annual basis from the Russian arctic to the Maldives across northern, Central, South and West Asia, this publication is of great relevance to people throughout the region.
We strongly believe that this publication will be a valuable reference to anyone interested in wetland birds and conservation, including bird watchers, schools, research institutions, foresters, government agencies and others, many of whom often have limited means to access many reference and field books. This will be the first step towards being able to provide them the means and training to identify and conserve waterbirds.
As it not only includes the plates, maps and text to identify and enjoy Wetland birds, but also provides a wealth of information relevant to their Conservation, many hundred of bird watchers who participate in Asian Waterfowl census will find the handbook of great benefit to their efforts.
The handbook is a true example of cooperation by birders internationally and the authors have also aptly demonstrated the need to co-operate and share our knowledge by producing a book with contributions from people around the Globe’.
Visit the website below for details about the handbook. http://www.weblineinfosoft.com/zsi/hbiwb.pdf or contact Arun Kumar, “Nishtha”, 14/3 Balbir Road, Dehra Dun 248 001, India. Tel: 91-135-267 1826. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
RSPB Children’s Guide to Birdwatching by David Chandler, Mike Unwin ISBN 0713671572 Format, Paperback 128 pages. 207×140 mm. RRP £9.99
‘This new RSPB-endorsed book is a practical, exciting and comprehensive introduction to watching birds, for children aged 8-12 years. Lavishly illustrated throughout with full-colour photographs and paintings, it begins by discussing general birding – where to go and when, what equipment to take with you, tips on attracting birds to your garden, how to take field notes etc. The second half of the book comprises a field guide to more than a hundred and thirty of the commonest species of Britain and Ireland, using clear illustrations backed up by concise, straightforward text describing key identification points, such as behaviour, voice and habitat.
This informative and lively book will greatly enhance children’s enjoyment of birdwatching, and will help to engender a lifetime of enthusiasm for birds and birding’.
Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve: A Statement from Environmental Foundation Ltd (EFL)
Is forest loss drying up our water?
The Environmental Foundation Limited warns the general public of an impending water crisis, as there seems to be no visible action taken to halt illegal encroachment and degradation of Sri Lanka’s rapidly decreasing forest cover. Now down to only 20% of the total land area, it is within these areas, water; the most vital factor for human wellbeing, is secured and maintained. In view of the inevitable crisis in store for Sri Lanka in the near future, the preservation of our forests, especially the Protected Areas, needs to be done immediately and encroachers removed.
EFL’s Policy Paper, Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve: is forest loss drying up our water? issued today, is a follow up to the joint Open Forum on the preservation and protection of the Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve (HSNR) held on July 27, together with the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWLC), where stakeholders, including conservationists, other environmental NGOs, key governmental organisations and institutions, wildlife enthusiasts as well as members of the press met to discuss a way to end the destruction of the HSNR. The Open Forum paved way for the establishment of closer ties with media organisations, through which a large audience could be reached in the protection and conservation of the natural environment.
Why preserve our forests?
Although the HSNR cover less than 0.02% of Sri Lanka’s total land area and 0.12% of the Protected Areas estate, its importance in terms of ecological, hydrological and economic value, far exceeds its proportions. A well conserved forest, acts as a cover for collecting rainfall, while minimising the loss of water. It also acts as a barrier that helps stop soil erosion and sedimentation of waterways. Water, as a resource, is vital and precious as it is finite in supply, with demand for its use growing rapidly. This situation will not change but the quality and quantity of ground water will continue to decline. In this light, preservation of the HSNR, an important watershed area that also helps to safeguard several other goods and services that are indispensable for sustaining human livelihoods and economic security, must be top priority.
Blatant disregard of the Rule of Law
Disregard for the law of the land continues while our natural resources are used, abused with little or no regard for its preservation for the future. These Protected Areas were declared such, as their importance as ecologically sensitive areas were recognised by policy makers many years ago. However today, the illegal encroachment and rapid deforestation of the same, will spell eventual developmental and economic doom for the country.
A Call for Action
EFL calls on the government and people of Sri Lanka to band together to preserve this miniscule 0.02% of total land area so that the SNRs of the country along with other Protected Areas will not be cleared and responsible authorities under whose purview, protection of them fall, succumb to cheap political pressure aimed only at gaining political mileage.
EFL therefore calls for:
· The urgent eviction of all occupants of SNRs and other Protected Areas, irrespective of their period of occupation or extent of holding.
· An immediate halt to the encroachment of ecologically sensitive sites.
· A clear demarcation of the physical boundaries of SNRs, and enforcement of these.
·Stated commitment from all political parties to uphold the laws regarding nature protection and to disallow squatting in SNRs.
· A concrete pledge by the government and its donors to undertake concrete measures to strengthen the agencies that are charged with maintaining the country’s precious biodiversity, especially the Wildlife Department and Forest Department.
SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS is an ad-hoc 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. The media are welcome to extract details, but please attribute the source and author(s). Past issues are on www.jetwingeco.com