MAY, JUNE, JULY, AUGUST & SEPTEMBER
SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS (MAY – SEPTEMBER 2007)
– A compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. Assisted by Divya Martyn.
[*] Bird, Elephant and Leopard sightings. See BIRDING AND WILDLIFE NEWS.
[*] Photographic Booklets, Dragonfly Guide, Bird’s of Prey, etc. See NEW PUBLICATIONS.
[*] Wildlife Photographer of the Year, Primate Society, etc. See PRESS RELEASES.
BIRDING AND WILDLIFE NEWS
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Wicky Wickremesekera and Chaminda Jayaweera visited the Palatupana Salt Pans on Saturday 15 September 2007. They report “Curlew Sandpipers were showing just a few feathers of rufous on the belly. Species seen included Lesser, Greater, Kentish, Grey and Golden Plovers. Marsh, Wood and Common Sandpipers. Redshank, Turnstone, etc. 120 + Great-crested Terns in the middle of the lewaya with a few Little Terns. Ashy-crowned Sparrow Larks, males with black belly. At night, a Barred Button-quail leapt up and down from the side of the road when the head lights caught it. Wicky and Gehan have observed this behaviour once before on the shortcut from Minneriya to Sigiriya”.
They also visited the Yala National Park, the last game drive before it closed until 15th October They report as folows. “It rained heavily during the afternoon from around 1.30 to 4.00 pm. All the waterholes are unusually full. Gehan Rajapakse whom we met had had 15 leopards sightings in 3 days. This had been the form in the park for last few months.
We drove with Driver Suda and Tracker Padmasiri to Maliththan Kotuwala where a leopard had been sighted. We found an agitated adult buffalo and sleeping under a tree but on the tank bund was a leopard. It slept for at least an hour before heavy rain drove it away. En-route we had a Sloth Bear padding along the road. When we returned a bond groups of elephants were bathing. They left and were soon followed by another group or possibly another two. We could not be sure whether we had observed two or three groups.
Mammals seen include the following, Jackal, Sloth Bear, Leopard, Spotted Deer, Sambar, Wild Pig, Buffalo, Hanuman Langur, Ruddy Mongoose and Elephant. At night, on our return to the hotel, outside the park, we saw Ring-tailed Civet (Small Civet), Gerbil and Black-naped Hare.
Niranjan Bandaranayake sends in the following reports of birds observed at Sigiriya, Kandalama, Kaudulla National Park and Minneriya National Park.
Birds seen in Sigiriya Gardens, evening of 25th August 2007. A pair of Black-capped Bulbuls, Red-vented Bulbuls, White-browed Bulbuls, Dark-fronted Babblers in thicket, Black Robins, one White-browed Fantail Flycatcher, one Red-backed Woodpecker, Spotted Doves, White-necked Storks flying overhead, one Brown-headed Barbet, Crimson-fronted Barbet, White-rumped Shama-call heard in forest, Red-wattled Lapwing-heard call, Iora heard, one Magpie Robin.
Birds seen in proximity to Sigiriya Resthouse on the morning of 26th August 2007. One Grey Hornbill, one Ceylon Green Pigeon, Red-vented Bulbuls, White-browed Bulbuls, one female Asian Paradise-flycatcher, Jerdons Chloropsis, Black Robins, Spotted Doves, Purple-rumped Sunbirds, Iora, both sexes seen, heard nightjar calling outside my Sigiriya Resthouse window (but could not identify species).
Birds seen in dried up Sigiriya Wewa, morning of 27th August 2007. White-necked Storks on dry wewa bed, a large group of cattle, small and intermediate Egrets, Black-headed Ibis, one Common Kingfisher, one White-throated Kingfisher, a small flock of Tawny-bellied Babblers inside thicket on edge of wewa, Plain Prinia, one Black-winged Stilt, one Red-wattled Lapwing, one Grey Heron in tank bed.
Kaludiyapokuna archaeological site near Kandalama, afternoon of 26th August 2007. A large Brown Fish Owl and a pair of Chestnut-headed Bee-Eaters.
Kandalama wewa and its environs, evening of 26th August 2007. Black-headed Ibis, One Grey Heron on dead tree, One Darter on dead tree, Little Egrets along edge of water, a Marsh Sandpiper (presumably) on edge of water, one Pelican in water and a pair of White Browed Fantail Flycatchers on approaching road to Kandalama hotel, Shama on tree on approach road to Kandalama hotel (not a good view though), Black Robins, one Oriental White-eye, Brahminy Kite circling Kandalama wewa. Kandalama Hotel grounds, late evening of 26th August 2007, a Brown-capped Babbler and a female Tickells Blue Flycatcher.
Kandalama hotel and its environs, early morning of 27th August 2007(on bird trail with naturalist Piyasena). Red-vented Bulbul, White-browed Bulbul, Black-fronted Babbler, Tawny-bellied Babbler- heard in thicket but not seen, Black Robin, White-bellied Sea Eagle – a pair in wewa, Brahminy Kite, Little Egret – one bird at edge of wewa, small Cormorant, a Grey Heron on edge of wewa, a Great Cormorant, Little Minivet – one seen but not very well, Rose-ringed Parakeet-one seen, White-breasted Waterhen – one seen, Jungle Fowl-six females crossing road, Black-headed Oriole, a pair seen, Purple-rumped Sunbird, Scaly-breasted Munia – seen building nest, Oriental White-eye, Pale-billed Flowerpecker-one seen, Paradise Flycatcher-female seen, White-Rumped Shama-one seen, Common Iora, Paddyfield Pipit – two seen on grassland near wewa, Rufous-winged Bushlark – one seen on grassland near wewa, Red-rumped Swallow, Crimson-fronted Barbet -a pair seen, Little Green Bee-eater, White-Throated Kingfisher, Spotted Dove, Red-wattled Lapwing, Black-headed Ibis -a pair at edge of wewa, one Large Egret at water’s edge of Kandalama wewa.
Minneriya National Park, late evening of 27th August 2007. Painted Stork, about 50 in wewa, Grey Heron, Black-winged Stilt, Egrets-cattle, small and intermediate, Green Bee-Eaters, Indian Roller, Peafowl – hree males seen, Barred Buttonquail-one on road, Paddyfield Pipit and Rufous-winged Bushlark on grassland adjoining wewa-, Pelicans, a group of seven in water.
Kaudulla National Park, early morning of 28th August 2007. Painted Stork, about 50 birds in wewa, Black-headed Ibis – about 50 birds in wewa, one Great Stone Plover on grassland near wewa, Two Pacific Golden Plover on ground near wewa, One Little Ringed Plover on ground near wewa, Black-winged Stilt, Grey Herons, Egrets, Little Cormorant, shag and large Cormorant, Oriental Darter-a pair, Grey Herons, Common Kingfisher, Grey Headed Fish-eagle-one seen, Pied-Kingfisher- seen at a distance, Blue-faced Malkoha-one seen, Hawk-eagle- one seen, Green Bee-eater, Peafowl-two males and four females walking along grassland near wewa, Rufus-winged Bushlark, Paddyfield Pipit, Jungle Fowl-heard call but did not see any, Brahminy Kite- two circling over wewa”.
In addition to his bird notes Niranjan Bandaranayake has also commented on the behaviour of visitors.
“I went on a visit to Minneriya and Kaudulla National Park’s towards the end of August with an aunt of mine, Mrs. Leela Peiris, who was a committee member of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society for 16 years. I must say that I was appalled by the behaviour of the jeep drivers inside Minneriya National Park. They were chasing after elephants so that the people inside their vehicles could get a better picture. By doing so they not only upset the 70 odd elephants present that evening, but blocked the path of the elephants going to the Minneriya Wewa to quench their thirst. Why is it that the DWLC is not doing anything about this inside the park? As far as I can see there does not seem to be any control of the jeeps beyond the park entrance. The Department seems to be only interested in collecting the park fees at this point. I know the DWLC has only a few trackers for each park. But I do not think that it is an excuse to allow people to behave the way they do inside a National Park. The National Parks are meant for animals and not for humans. The sight of all those jeep drivers harassing elephants has put me off from visiting Minneriya again.
But I must say that Kaudulla National Park seemed to be better managed. I did see a rather small tusker (about 10-15 years old) inside the park which crossed the road in front of our jeep. This is the only elephant that I saw inside the park on our morning visit, but it was a terrific sight and the pictures have come out well.”
Hetti observed a Pied Avocet at Bundala National Park at the No 1 Waterhole on 19th May 2007 at 8.00 am.
Chandima Jayaweera on tour with Mike and Sarah Powell Jones from 2nd May to 15th May 2007 report the following sightings. ‘We saw a Tusker with one tusk at Sansthapitiya,Wasgomuwa National Park on 5th May at 0720 hrs. There were around 30 elephants seen on that game drive. Around 1550 hrs we saw a Land Monitor eating some eggs from a hole in the ground. Later, we saw another Tusker at Sansthapitiya at 1640 hrs. At Yala on 10th May, we saw a Sloth Bear on the Main Road at around 1605 hrs. We had two leopard sightings at Yala. One leopard at Talgasmankada Road at 1725 hrs and 2 leopards cubs about one month old at Rukwila at 1755 hrs. On 11th May at 0630 hrs we saw two Sloth Bears, a mother and baby at Rukwila.
‘Wicky’ Wickremesekera was in Yala on 8th July 2007 with Marco Moretti, a travel journalist from Italy. With them were Amarasiri at the wheel and Tracker Dingiri Banda. Near Karawgaswala, Wicky heard the distinctive call of the Ceylon Spurfowl, a bird whose call he is very familiar with, from the wet zones forests. The call was heard around 7.10 am. This is the first time he has heard the bird in Yala. The Ceylon Spurfowl has been recorded from many dry zone forests, usually in riverine habitats. The sight record is notable because many bird watchers visit Block I of Yala and this may well be the first or one of a few records.
‘Wicky’ Wickremesekera visited a wetland near Embilipitiya with Hugues Duforny and Veronique Buchet on 25th July 2007, and had good views of Cinnamon Bittern and Watercock (Kora). SLWN: Dragonflies, Birds, The Gathering and Photo Guide
Chandima Jayaweera on tour with Paul Evans and Stephanie on 26th July 2007 reports. ‘We saw a Sloth Bear on the Main Road at 0620 hrs in Yala National Park. In the evening at around 1610 hrs we saw a male Leopard at Mada Para. Later on the way back to the main gate at about 1745 hrs, we saw a Tusker’.
Hetti on tour with Nikhil Nagle from the 28th of July to 03rd August 2007 reports. “On the 28th of July in the morning at 6 o’clock Nikhil and I went to the Tissa
wetlands. Around 10 o’clock we got a juvenile Crested Hawk-eagle with his kill. Nikhil photographed it for almost half an hour (till the eagle finished it’s meal). In the afternoon at Yala, we had some Eagle sightings. In the late evening near by Kirinda Kalapuwa we saw a Rusty-spotted Cat crossing the road but did not have a chance to photograph it.
29th July safari at Yala we had several sightings of Common Kingfishers and White-throated Kingfisher. In the afternoon near the wildlife office we had a chance to photograph a Grey-headed Fish-eagle catching a big frog. 30th July, just outside of the park we saw a hunting Crested Hawk-eagle. A few minutes later it caught a Common Garden Lizard and started to eat it. From time to time we had sightings of single elephants.
31st July, in the morning we went to Handunoruwa and saw a Grey-headed Fish-eagle and a Painted Stork. Mid day,we went to the river and saw a Tusker. Around 2 o’clock one jeep came and told us that there was a Leopard on a tree at Karawgaswala, Madapara. We rushed to that place but unfortunately it had gone. At 2.30 we noticed the leopard eating its kill. Ten minutes later the leopard climbed up the tree because of a Wild Boar. It was about 20 meters away from us. After thirty minutes the Wild Boar went in to the jungle. That was a female leopard. Then we went to Palugaswewa no 1. where we saw a big male leopard on a tree. On our way back we went to the Karawgaswala Madapara again to see if there was any chance to see the female leopard with its kill. We were lucky as the female leopard was lying down under a tree ten meters away from us. Then we saw a family of wild boar coming down. We decided to leave. While we were coming back we saw a big tusker elephant walking on the road, and we followed it for a few minutes. Suddenly it turned around and tried to charge us. Tracer Saroj managed to stop him by shouting. On the way back to the main gate in Kohombgaswela, we saw a female leopard drinking water. Nikhil got nearly 20 good shots. We ended up with an exhilarating day.
On the fifth day (1st Aug) we walked to the pond near the office. Nikhil photographed a Pied Kingfisher and Common Kingfisher perched on same branch. Then we went to the Karawgaswala kill and saw the female Leopard. It brought its kill closer to us and ate it. In Handunoruwa wetland we had a chance to photograph a Common Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher and Stork-billed Kingfisher. On our way back we had a chance to see two White-bellied Fish-eagles. In the afternoon we went to Heenoya and saw a new Tusker which I had never seen before at Yala.
Sixth day morning (2nd Aug), near Meynert wewa main road we saw a Sloth Bear crossing the road. Mid day we saw another Crested Hawk-eagle just out side of the park. In the afternoon another White-bellied Fish-eagle gave us a chance to photograph it. Then we went to Karawgaswala again, and had a chance to see two Jackals near the Madapara.
On the 3rd of August we saw a big male Leopard with his kill at Thalgasmankada road in the morning. When we left around 10.30 the Leopard was still there.
Chandima Jayaweera on tour with Archie Lowrie and Jan at Yala National Park on 04th August 2007 reports ‘At 0645 hrs a big male Leopard at Rukwila Rock was spotted and another Leopard was spotted at Talgasmankada at about 0930 hrs. In the evening around 1805 hrs we saw another big male Leopard at Talgasmankada’.
Bedjanic, M., de Silva Wijeyeratne, G., and Conniff, K. (2007). Dragonflies of Sri Lanka. Gehan’s Photo Guide Series. Jetwing Eco Holidays: Colombo. 248 pages (A5). ISBN 978-955-1079-15-4.
The first photographic field guide to the dragonflies of Sri Lanka covering 91 of the 118 species found in Sri Lanka. It includes 35 of the 52 endemic species. A landmark publication and the first modern photographic field guide to the Odonata of South Asia.
BirdGuides Ltd., Britsh Birds. British Birds interactive on DVD-ROM. £75 for subscribers until 31st December 2007, after which the price will be £99.
A comprehensive resource of 100 years of amazing articles published in British Birds including photographs, illustrations and more than 40,000 pages of text. Users have access to text and image search filters, photographs, illustrations, thousands of articles and can locate articles using species, author, photographer or descriptive terms.
[This will be subject to a review in the next issue of SLWN by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. His first impressions are that it is a dream reference source for birders and ornithologists to have access to 100 years of British Birds on a single DVD.]
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2006). Butterflies of Sri Lanka and Southern India. Gehan’s Photo Booklet Series. 26 plates (A5). Jetwing Eco Holidays: Colombo. ISBN 955-1079-11-6.
A booklet comprising of 26, A5 sized colour plates with captioned photographs. Covers 96 of Sri Lanka’s 243 described species of butterflies and skippers (Lepidoptera). A pdf of the booklet can be downloaded (free of charge) from stag2.mydemoview.com/jetwingeco.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2006). Birds of Sri Lanka and Southern India. Gehan’s Photo Booklet Series. 42 plates (A5). Jetwing Eco Holidays: Colombo. ISBN 955-1079-10-8
A booklet comprising of 42, A5 sized colour plates with captioned photographs. Covers 263 of Sri Lanka’s 444 recorded species of resident and migratory birds. Eco Holidays: Colombo. A pdf of the booklet can be downloaded (free of charge) from stag2.mydemoview.com/jetwingeco.
Rajapakse, R., Kamalgoda, N., Unamboowe, S. & Antony, P. (2007). Enchanted A Journey through the wild. Zero 3 Images : Sri Lanka. 210 pages. 310 x 200 mm. ISBN 978 955 1115 01 2. Rs. 3,250 pre publication offer. Rs 4, 500 after 18th November.
A collection of photographs capturing the breathtaking moments experienced by the photographers in their travels to the jungles and rural areas of Sri Lanka. This book is a compilation of more than 200 photographs taken in the company of Leopards in Yala, Wilpattu and Kumana; with the elusive Arrenga in Horton Plains, the Spurfowl in Galle, the Bay Owl in Sinharaja and with many little creatures in Bundala, Sinharaja and Morapitiya. The book depicts the fascination that the photographers have with the smaller and often unnoticed subjects that lend such rich diversity to nature. Also included are many pictures that have been taken in more urban areas and in their homes here in Colombo such as little mushrooms, wild flowers, butterflies and multi colored insects.
“A delightful book to ‘read’ with brilliant images of exceptional quality; truly a feast for one’s eyes. Enjoy the great vistas and nature stories told through the images of ‘Enchanted”’.
Michael van der Poorten
Shimba, T. (2007). A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan and North-east Asia. A&C Black: London. 504 pages. 190×125 mm. ISBN 978 0713674392. £24.99
Despite its rich avifauna and popularity with tourists, Japan has long been lacking a good English-language field guide. This new photographic guide will be the first book to cover the Japanese avifauna in English for over 25 years, and the first photoguide to the country in English. It will also include the birds of neighbouring mainland regions of eastern Asia, namely Korea, NE China and eastern Siberia. Over 520 species are illustrated with hundreds of stunning colour photographs. The text succinctly describes the key identification features and each species has a distribution map. This guide will be an essential companion for anyone visiting Japan or eastern Asia.
Naoroji, R. (2006). Birds of Prey of the Indian Subcontinent. Helm Identification Guides, A&C Black: London. 704 pages. Hardback. 240×170 mm. ISBN 978 0713663242. £40.00
A complete guide to the raptors of the Indian subcontinent. Lavishly illustrated with 24 new plates and around 600 photos, each species is shown in all usual plumage forms, in flight and at rest. The species accounts cover all aspects of field identification, and also include sections on distribution, behaviour, status and population. The Indian subcontinent comprises the countries of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Maldives. This region encompasses a great diversity of habitat types and a full range of altitudinal variation, and has a correspondingly large avifauna. The diurnal birds of prey are well represented – 70 species of hawk, buzzard, kite, harrier, eagle, vulture, falcon and falconet are found in the region. Anyone birding in the Indian subcontinent will find this book an invaluable aid to identifying and understanding the region’s diverse raptor avifauna.
1. Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2007
Interpreting life through a lens
Exhibition open to the public: Friday 26 October 2007 27 April 2008
From years spent studying the oceans’ great predators to sleepless nights waiting for a glimpse of an endangered species, wildlife photographers have gone to great lengths to capture rare moments in nature for Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The annual exhibition of the best of these pictures is a highlight of the arts calendar and debuts at the Natural History Museum from Friday 26 October.
Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year is owned by the Natural History Museum and BBC Wildlife Magazine, and sponsored by Shell International Ltd. It displays the winners of the Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, the most prestigious, innovative photographic contest of its kind. With a history spanning more than 40 years, it is an international leader in the artistic representation of the natural world.
‘This has been the competition’s most successful year.’ said Deborah Sage, Competition Manager, ‘During a rigorous judging process that lasted three months, this year’s judges deliberated over an overwhelming 32,000 entries from amateur and professional photographers from 78 countries. Nature sets its own agenda and the judges were particularly impressed by the high standard of entries that demonstrated the artistry and skill involved in capturing these moments.’
This year’s exhibition will include more than 100 winning and commended images, giving visitors an insight into the beauty, drama and variety of the natural world and inspiring them to see the environment with new eyes. Interactive installations now allow visitors to find out what the judges, scientists and the photographers themselves thought about particular images. They will also have the chance to vote for a favourite image and take home a print through a new print on demand service. The exhibition will tour nationally and internationally after its launch in the capital.
“This year sees the continuation of Shell’s sponsorship of the competition, exhibition and UK touring exhibition.“ said James Smith, Chairman of Shell UK Ltd, “We are delighted to be supporting the world’s largest and longest-running wildlife photography competition. Helping to protect biodiversity is an area of considerable importance to us as an organisation, one that not only makes commercial sense, but is also an expression of our values. This competition reminds us all of the importance of protecting the treasures of nature.”
All prize-winning pictures will feature in a special souvenir supplement with the November issue of BBC Wildlife Magazine, available from 25 October. The winning images will also be published in a commemorative book by the BBC, Portfolio 17, priced £25, available at the Museum, through BBC Wildlife Magazine, bbcshop.com and all good retailers. Winners past and present will be speaking at WildPhotos, a two-day wildlife photography event organised by Wildscreen in association with Shell Wildlife Photographer of the Year, at the Royal Geographical Society on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 October. Further information at wildphotos.org.uk.
2.Photo Booklet on the Butterflies of Sri Lanka & Southern India:
Jetwing Eco Holidays, well known for its expertise in nature tourism has launched a new series of natural history publications. The newest addition to its portfolio of books is the “Gehan’s Photo Booklet” series. This series of booklets includes photographic identification guides to the fauna and flora of Sri Lanka.
The first booklet of this series is the Butterflies of Sri Lanka and Southern India. Photographs of 96 of the 242 species of butterflies and skippers found in Sri Lanka are included in the booklet. Many of the species have two images each, depicting both the underwing and upperwing of the butterfly. For some of the species where sexual dimorphism is present, images of both sexes are included. Images of Sri Lanka’s largest species of Butterflies such as the Blue Mormon, Common Birdwing and the endemic Ceylon Tree Nymph are included in the booklet. All the photographs in this booklet have been taken by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, CEO of Jetwing Eco Holidays.
To encourage and facilitate a wide a audience, especially school children to learn and identify the butterflies they encounter, the species names have been given in three languages (English, Sinhala and Tamil). The booklet can also be used in Southern India as Sri Lanka shares many of the butterfly species with Southern India.
This series is an initiative by wildlife populariser Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne who together with Jetwing and the tourism industry is on a mission to create a million wildlife enthusiasts in Sri Lanka. Hiran Cooray, Director Jetwing Eco Holidays and Managing Director Jetwing Hotels, believes that education & awareness is the key to conservation, and hopes this booklet series will not only help the younger generation but also adults to appreciate the biodiversity around them.
This booklet can be carried easily in one’s backpack or even in a handbag with its handy A5 size (20.8 x14.8 cm). It includes six images per page and comes with a stiff, laminated cover. The butterflies are laid out in the order of their taxonomy.
Advanced users may also find the colour plates convenient in the field to complement the more advanced books, which are sometimes cumbersome to be carried in the field.
The GPB Butterflies of Sri Lanka & Southern India retails for Rs. 300 and can be purchased at all leading bookshops and from Jetwing Eco Holidays at Jetwing House, 6th Floor, 46/26, Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 02, during regular office hours. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Photo Booklet of the Birds of Sri Lanka & Southern India:
This book contains photographs of 263 of the 444 species of birds recorded in Sri Lanka. It has photographs of 25 of the 33 endemic birds of Sri Lanka and includes many of the common migrant waders and seabirds. Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne the CEO Jetwing Eco Holidays, has taken nearly all of the images in this booklet.
This is one of the first photographic guides to birds which has the species names in three languages (English, Sinhala and Tamil). The booklet can also be used in Southern India as Sri Lanka shares many of the birds with Southern India. One of the features in the book is the inclusion of flight shots of some of the waders, waterfowl and most importantly the raptors, which are usually difficult to identify. This booklet is aimed at both young school children as well as the casual birdwatcher. This series is an initiative by wildlife populariser Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne who together with Jetwing and the tourism industry is on a mission to create a million wildlife enthusiasts in Sri Lanka by the year 2025.
According to Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne “Most people now understand the importance of conserving eco-systems. School children at a relatively early age are taught the importance of the environment and how people should aim to minimize their impact. However in the developed world, the conservation lobby is more successful at a local level because people can connect with the environment more intimately. This is because they can put a name to species they see in their home garden or local wild patch. Conserving the environment should not be something conceptual. In Europe for example, they will fight to preserve habitats where on their walks they see chaffinches, greenfinches, speckled woods, tortoise shells, emperor dragonflies, etc. In Sri Lanka in the local languages we have only one word for butterfly despite having 243 species of butterflies and skippers. We have only one word for dragonfly despite having 118 species. So conservation of wildlife remains a somewhat abstract concept.
The idea behind this book is that even an urban dweller in a city will realise how many species of birds can be seen in a large city. Knowledge transforms a back garden into an urban nature reserve. These booklets are intended to awaken people to the richness of Sri Lankan wildlife and to create a personal connection. When that happens, Sri Lanka will have a stronger lobby for conservation of wildlife and people will understand that even a small back garden planted with a few fruit trees nurture biodiversity. Even urban gardens attract colourful Brown-headed and Ceylon Small Barbets, Black-headed Orioles, Purple-rumped and Loten’s Sunbirds, etc. Urban wetlands adjoining Colombo such as the Kotte Marshes and the Talangama Wetland are very rich in birds. The Talangama Wetland has over a hundred species recorded from it, including migratory birds such as Brown Shrike, Indian Pitta and waders such as Common and Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Golden Plover and other migrants such as Yellow and Forest Wagtails. These simple photo booklets will help children and adults to put a name to birds they see and create a more intimate connection with the environment”.
This booklet can be carried easily in one’s day-pack or even in a handbag with its handy A5 size (20.8 x14.8 cm). It includes nine images per page in the 42 colour plates. The book has a stiff, laminated cover which is spiral bound for ease of use in the field. The birds are laid out in the traditional taxonomic order. Advanced users may also find the colour plates convenient in the field to complement the more advanced books, which are sometimes too cumbersome to be carried in the field.
The Birds of Sri Lanka & Southern India retails for Rs. 500 and can be purchased at all leading bookshops including Sarasavi Bookshop, Vijitha Yapa, ODEL, Barefoot, Lake House Bookshop (Hyde Park Corner), etc. It is also available from Jetwing Eco Holidays at Jetwing House, 6th Floor, 46/26, Nawam Mawatha, Colombo 02, during regular office hours. Those wishing to preview the book can download the pdf file of the book from stag2.mydemoview.com/jetwingeco. There is no charge for downloading the electronic copy.
4. Primate Conservation Society of Sri Lanka:
We would like to inform you that we (the young researchers who are working with primates) have created an organization called the Primates Conservation Society of Sri Lanka.
It was created to achieve the following objectives.
– To promote conservation of non human primates and nature
– To promote conservation oriented research activities in Sri Lanka
– To act as a forum for people interested in those fields by holding regular meetings,
providing an information service and publishing of relevant materials
– To work with other organizations with similar aims within the country and globally
Our official web site (www.pcssl.org) is under construction; it will provide latest information about the Sri Lankan primates soon.
For more information contact, Saman Gamage B.Sc. (Agric), M.Phil. (Biodiversity), President (Primate Conservation Society of Sri Lanka & Land Owners Restore Rainforests in Sri Lanka). 30A, Maddumagewatta, Gangodavila, Nugegoda, Sri Lanka. +94+11 2852409, Mobile +94+ 773 554 230.
CROWDING THE ANIMALS OUT
Ranil Pieris & Rohan Wijesinha, former Committee Members, Wildlife & Nature Protection Society
(This was first published in the Sri Lanka Business Standard for the week of September 28 October 04 2007).
The wilderness and wildlife of Sri Lanka continues to be a major attraction for foreign visitors to our shores, and pictures of scenes from the National Parks continue to front the tourist websites advertising this country to the World. The importance wildlife plays in the economy of this country has never better been illustrated than by the unprecedented announcement this year that the traditional annual closing of the Ruhunu National Park (Yala), for a period of one month in September, to allow its animals some respite from the continuous barrage of visitors, had been delayed by a fortnight to allow more tourists access to the Parks. What made this announcement unique was that it was made by the Chairman of the Tourist Board and not by the Director of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, the body with statutory responsibility for the care and control of the wild places and wild creatures of this island.
The need to give the animals of Yala some respite was never better illustrated than on July 25, 2007, a Saturday, when over 140 vehicles entered the Park. A leopard was spotted on the Main Road at the run off to Rukwila. In a matter of minutes, over 20 vehicles converged on the site blocking each other, and the animal they were observing in. Some vehicles had no trackers in them. Visitors climbed on top of the jeeps, or walked around to try and get a better view of the animal, with those trackers who were present doing nothing about it.
In the African Parks there is a rule that when a crowd builds around an animal, each vehicle has to move on after two or three minutes to allow those behind a view. They are at liberty to drive around and re-join the back of the queue. In this way, everyone gets a chance to see, and control is maintained.
It is not Yala alone that suffers such visitor abuse. The Uda Walawe National Park, increasingly popular in recent years for its large herds of elephants, has insufficient staff to cope with its numbers of visitors, particularly at the weekends and on holidays. Often one tracker has responsibility for several vehicles, and is unable to observe the actions of its visitors at the back. While a leopard may be intimated by the noise and the crowd, elephants, particularly males in musth or herds with young babies in them, may not be as tolerant and tragedy awaits if the situation is not checked.
Wildlife has always been a major tourist attraction to this country, particularly since the 1960s when there was a global awakening to the need for conservation of not just exploited species but also of other species and of their natural habitat. The income generated from their visits trickled throughout the economy benefiting not just the Treasury, who receive the major component of the income from the National Parks, but also local hotels, travel businesses and retail outlets. There is, however, a drive for direct access to the profits to be made from wildlife. Such initiatives, without checks and controls, are fraught with danger for the wild places and wild creatures of this country, and for the continued of an industry. As Prof. David Lavigne of the International Fund for Animal Welfare writes in his article “Big Brother” printed in the BBC Wildlife Magazine of May 2004,
Since the 1980s, however, there has been a backlash from those who wish to exploit nature and natural resources for short-term economic gain…
To accomplish its goals this movement in true Orwellian fashion has hijacked and corrupted the language of traditional conservation. Terms such as ‘wise use’, ‘sustainable use’ and ‘the precautionary principle’ no longer mean what they used to mean. What wise-users actually advocate is the very antithesis of the successful conservation measures noted earlier. They say that nature “must pay its own way” the so-called ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy ignoring all the priceless services it provides that make life, including human life, possible in the first place. They argue for the privatisation of wildlife and promote its commercial consumptive use endangered species included. They lobby for reduced legal protection for wildlife and its habitat and less regulation of human activities generally. They pervert the precautionary principle, arguing that, in the face of uncertainty, we should err on the side of continued economic growth. Their ultimate goal in the words of the movement’s self-proclaimed founder, Ron Arnold is “to destroy, to eradicate the environmental movement. We want to be able to exploit the environment for private gain, absolutely. And we want people to understand that this is a noble goal.”
Such a course would prove disastrous to a country like Sri Lanka, with its increasingly fragmented eco-systems, and vulnerable wildlife populations. Tourism is a vital source of foreign currency and wildlife should play its part in attracting this much-needed revenue. And as with any other potential commercial resource, it should be protected and sustained to continue attracting visitors for generations to come. Tourists will not visit barren Parks and caged animals. They have plenty of those in their countries of abode. The attraction is the wild…unrestrained, unpredictable and unavailable elsewhere. The commercial groups with an interest in wildlife may be better served in placing pressure on the statutory bodies concerned in protecting and preserving this source of potentially limitless income. How much better would it have been had the Chairman of the Tourist Board insisted on the closing of Yala for the protection of the Park and the animals; for stricter visitation controls in the Park; for better protection and reduction in illegal encroachment; for stronger legislation to protect the environment; for the long-term preservation of this National treasure? How much better would the Tourist Board website look with its advocacy for long-term sustainability than for short-term profit? How many more true wildlife lovers would be attracted to our shores by its commitment to authenticity rather than mere exploitation?
As Prof. Lavigne concludes in his article (as quoted above),
Where do we go from here? Today, global threats to wildlife and wildlife habitats are greater than ever. But, inextricably linked to this problem is the fact that we, as a species, have exceeded the capacity of the planet to support even our current numbers in their current (often unacceptable) circumstances…
What is required is a new approach … founded on the premise that humans really are an integral part of organic evolution (as wildlife biologist and hunter Aldo Leopold argued in his Land Ethic more than 50 years ago), and that the well-being, quality of life and, indeed, the very survival of all species, including Homo sapiens, depends on the maintenance of evolutionary processes and functioning eco-systems. When humans use nature (as we inevitably will), the pursuit of ecological sustainability requires that we continue striving to reduce the risks of causing irreversible damage to the biosphere and its component parts. As part of the process, we must embrace the fact that money is not the common currency of ecosystems and that nature has many other values beyond the purely economic.
The challenge is daunting and the time is limited. But, to paraphrase the then US Senator Al Gore during the 1992 election campaign if (that word again!) enough people insist upon change to embolden the politicians to break away from the short-term perspective, the political system will fall over itself to respond.
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