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SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS (October 2009 – January 2010)
– A compilation by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne.


[*] Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne offers compelling evidence that Sri Lanka has three whale watching hot spots and explains why the Kalpitiya Peninsula is one of them.
[*] Dragonfly Trip Report. See Articles.
[*] Leopards becoming increasingly habituated to visitors at Yala National Park.
[*] Book on the Primates of Sri Lanka launched as a pdf. See Press Releases.


[Although this SLWN cover the period to January 2010, an exception is made to run the story that Kalpitiya has been un-veiled as the third marine mammal watching hot spot in Sri Lanka. The story first ran in the Sunday Times of 7th March 2010. The forthcoming Hi Magazine will carry images of Sperm Whales photographed within 30 minutes boat ride of Alankuda Beach Resort. See articles below].
On 31 January 2010, Maithri Liyanage (Ruwala Adventure and Nature Park) photographed two Orcas (Killer Whales) a few kilometers to the Kalpitiya Peninusla. See also the article ‘Kalpitiya unveiled as Sri Lanka’s third Whale Watching Hot Spot”.
Rohan Cooray visited Bundala National Park on 29 January 2010. It was raining. He reports seeing 13 Glossy Ibis.
Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (21 January 2010) carried the following report.
A Tawny Pipit, by the Goda Kalapuwa road near the Yala NP entrance gate, about 400 metres from the turn-off, on the right, after that side changes from open grassland to scrub and grass, on 13 January at 3.30 p.m, the second record in Sri Lanka, by Pathmanath Samaraweera.
Trip Report by Lesley Thomas on a wildlife holiday from 15/01/2010 to 01/02/2010.
Lesley’s wildlife holiday began with a 3 day Whale watching tour from the 17-20 January off the coast of Mirissa in the South of Sri Lanka. On the first day, there were sightings of 06 Blue Whales and 50 Dolphins, which included both Spinner and Bottle-nosed Dolphins. The next day 10 Blue Whales were sighted and in the final day 08 Blue whales and about a 100 Spinner and Bottle-nosed Dolphins were spotted. Overall Lesley had sightings of over 20 Blue Whales and around 150 Dolphins in just 3 days.

From whale watching in Mirissa, the attention turned to big game watching from the 21-23 January at the Yala National Park, renown for its regular sightings of leopards. On the first afternoon, there were sightings of a large male leopard, a mother leopard with 2 cubs as well as a tusker. In the following day, a male leopard and over 25 elephants were sighted in the morning and a sloth bear in the evening. The next day, on the 23rd January, a pair of Collared Scops Owl were sighted at Tissamaharama.

The next leg of Lesley’s tour was a visit to town of Nuwara Eliya situated in Sri Lanka’s hill country from the 23-25 January. On the 24th, a visit to Horton Plains National Park produced sightings of the mountain race of the purple-faced leaf monkey, toque macaques as well as numerous species of birds which included the Sri Lanka Yellow Eared Bulbul, Sri Lanka Dull Blue flycatcher, Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon, Sri Lanka White Eye and a Pied Bushchat. On the 25th January, a Kashmir Flycatcher and Forest Wagtail were sighted at Victoria Park in Nuwara Eliya.

From the 29-31 January, Lesley was at Sigiriya and managed to sight Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill and a White-rumped Shama. On the 29th January, a visit to the Eco Park near Habarana produced sightings of over 50 Asian Elephants in the wild.

Overall, during her two week travels around Sri Lanka, Lesley had sightings of over possibly 5 Blue Whales, 150 Dolphins, around 75 Elephants, 5 Leopards, a Sloth Bear and over 200 species of birds as well as other mammals.

Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (08 January 2010) carried the following report.
“A Black-headed Bunting in Yala NP at Uraniya Pitiya, on 4 January at about 4 p.m, reported by Upali Ekanayake, on seeing photographs taken by Thilanka Ranathunge and Nilantha Kodithuwakku”.

On Saturday 2 January 2010 Hetti (naturalist guide) phoned Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne to say he had photographed a Ruddy Shelduck in Bundala, around 9.00am. He was with Jetwing Eco Holidays client Patricia Montague. He was acting on a tip off from Upali Nissanka (naturalist guide) who had seen and identified it earlier on the 30th December around 9.30 am. Upali was with Jetwing Eco Holidays client Cristina Ruedi who photographed it. Coming from Kirinda, it was on the left, just before the entrance gate to the Bundala NP. Hetti found it at the same site, the Bundala Lagoon.

Gehan texted various other people for further corroboration and Ranil Peiris was amongst the first to further confirm the presence of a Ruddy Shelduck.

Upali Nissanka had stumbled across the duck independently of any reports of a strange duck. On 27 December 2009, Sam Caseer had been told by jeep driver Tharanga that he had heard from other local safari vehicle drivers about an unusual duck inside Bundala National Park. It is possible that this unusual duck could be the Ruddy Shelduck which was subsequently seen by Upali Nissanka, Cristina Ruedi, Hetti, Patricia Montague and others.

Nishantha was on a tour to Yala from the 1-3 January 2010. On 1st there was a sighting of a leopard at Meda Para around 4:30pm and in the following day, there was a leopard sighting for over 20 minutes at Walmalkema. On the 3rd January, a herd of over 50 elephants was observed at the Uda Walawe National Park around 4:30pm by Nishantha. On 22 January 2010, Nishantha had a rare sighting of a leopard at Horton Plains around 6:15am.

The Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (31 December 2009) carried the following report.
“11 European Bee-eaters at Yala NP, in the Karuwala Wanguwa area of Gona-labba Meda Para, on December 31 afternoon, reported by Upali Ekanayake”.

The Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (29 December 2009) carried the following report.
“A Rufous Turtle Dove, just outside Yala NP halfway between the ticket office and the entrance gate, in the scrub on the right of the culvert and very close to it, at about 7.30 a.m on 20 December, reported by Ayanthi Samarajewa.”

Wicky was on tour with Mr and Mrs Peter Lamble in Yala from 28-30 December 2009 and sighted 2 leopards, the first one on Akasa Chaithya Road on the 29th the second was a male leopard was on Jamburagala road on the 30th.

On 27 December 2009, Sam Caseer (naturalist guide) observed an immature Black Eagle being fed on the Elle-Passara road close a place called Little Adam’s Peak.
Karen Conniff reports seeing a Black-winged Kite perched on a tall Ceylon Almond tree on her lawn in the Talangama Wetland, on 27 December. Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne who has been visiting the wetland regularly in the last ten years has no record if it.

Upali Nissanka was on an eco tour with Mrs Christina and her family to Yala from the 28-30 December 2009. On 28th December 2009 there was a leopard sighting at around 10am where a leopard was sighted in a tamarind tree near Patanangala rock. The next day a leopard was spotted walking near Siyamabalagas Wewa around 8am. On the 30th morning, they were able to sight a rarely seen winter vagrant – the Ruddy Shelduck on 30th December 2009 at Bundala

The Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (13 December 2009) carried the following report.
“A Wryneck, in the area between the Yala NP gate and the road before it toward the sea, about 15 and then 30 metres from the gate, on 1 December at 10.30 a.m, reported by Hemantha Seneviratne”.

On 6 December Upali Ekanayake reported a Fork-tailed Swift which was observed for more than half an hour near the lagoon before the entrance to Yala National Park. It was seen from around 07.10am and was photographed by Thilanka Ranatunga, the naturalist of Yala Village Hotel. Upali had recorded this vagrant before from Uda Walawe a few years ago.
On Tuesday 1 December 2009, Dr Peter Hayes, the British High Commissioner was at Lunuganga when he observed a White-bellied Sea-eagle take a large fruit bat (Indian Flying Fox). This was observed around 6pm. He had been informed that this is observed every day with this individual Sea-eagle.
On 7 December 2009, Amila Salgado had a Widgeon at Debera Wewa and a Hume’s Whitethroat on 6th December at Bundala near the visitor center.
On Monday 30 November 2009, Dr Peter Hayes, the British High Commissioner and his family went whale watching off Mirissa. They saw two Blue Whales. The trip took 5.5 hours.
Dr. Mike & Rachel Waldock were on a 6 day wildlife tour in Sri Lanka with Wicky from 08th to 14th November 2009, reported sightings of Isabelline Wheatear in Palatupana grassland on 12th November around 08.30 a.m. They were very lucky to see Isabelline Wheatear as it is a vagrant bird to Sri Lanka.
They did a total of four safaris at Yala National Park during which they saw Leopards, Sloth Bears and Tuskers in almost all the visits. They had also seen a “mating” which is very rare to see. They were thrilled as all the game drives were very successful.
The Ceylon Bird Club Birding News (23 November 2009) carried this follow up report.
‘Isabelline Wheatear, a male in distinctive plumage, 200-300 m before the Yala
NP gate in the grassland on the right between the road and the lagoon, around
11 a.m on 21 November, reported as above by Deepal Warakagoda, after a
visit following a report of 12 November by Mike and Rachel Waldock and
Wicky Wickremesekera in ‘Sri Lanka Wildlife News’.
Wicky was on tour with Mr. and Mrs. Michael and Rachel Waldock from 08 November – 14 November 2009. They visited the Sinharaja rainforest for half a day and saw 14 endemic birds. In Yala they managed to sight a leopard in each of the 4 game drives, sighting 5 individuals in total including mating leopards. Also saw an Isabbeline Wheatear.
Hetti was on a tour to Yala National Park from 10-12 November 2009 where the sightings of leopards remained numerous. There was a sighting of mating leopards on the 10th. The 11th proved to be even more fruitful as the morning game drive allowed sightings of 3 leopards, sloth bear, jackal, elephants and sambar, while in the evening 3 more leopards and sloth bear were sighted. The next day another 3 leopards were sighted as well as a rarely seen migrant – the Isabeline Wheatear at Palatupana Grasslands
On 26 October 2009 Sam Caseer reported elephants on the banks of the Parakrama Samudraya in Polonnaruwa. The monsoon had broken in the North Central Province.
On Sunday 25 October 2009 Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne and Gill Westaway visited the Talangama Wetland. Gehan reports “Many of the paddy fields have been ploughed. I did not attempt to count, but I guess over 50 Black-headed Ibis were in the fields. At least 10 Black winged Stilts. Did not see any other waders although I gave a cursory scan through the bins.
At the Villa Talangama end had the first visual of Brown Flycatcher and an Asian Paradise-flycatcher. Close views of a Ceylon Small Barbet. Barn Swallows and Blue-tailed Bee-eaters perched on wires. Plain Prinia, Scaly-breasted Munia, Lotens Sunbird male, Purple-rumpled Sunbird, Black-headed Oriole, White-browed Bulbul, etc. Pheasant-tailed Jacanas in non breeding plumage.
A Wandering Wisp next to the canal.”
Hetti on Leopard Safari at Yala National Park with Brian Holt had a total of five Leopard sightings and Sloth Bear sighting between 20th October and 22nd October 2009. They also had several sightings of the Golden Jackal, Mouse Deer, Sambar Deer and Tuskers.

Hetti was on a tour with Brian & Miriam Holt at the Yala National Park from October 20-21 2009 where they had no less than 5 leopard sightings. On the morning of the 20th October, there were sightings of the Palugaswala No.1 male leopard at 6:30am closely followed by the sighting of the Karawgaswala female leopard drinking water at 7:00am. That afternoon a male leopard was spotted around 4:45pm at Gonalabba Meda Para at 4:45pm. In the following day at Rukvilla, there was a sighting of a leopard and sloth bear around 7am. Then around 8:30am there was a sighting of a White-spotted Mouse-deer – Sri Lanka’s smallest species of deer at Walmalkema and a leopard was also sighted in that area around 8:45am.
On 2nd October 2009 Mohamed Abidally reported two groups of around 25 elephants each at Minneriya National Park. On Saturday the herd, he had a herd of over 150 elephants including a tusker with attitude at Kaudulla National Park.

Unveiling the Kalpitiya Peninsula as Sri Lanka’s third and last Whale Watching Hotspot
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne offers compelling evidence to unveil Kalpitiya as the last of three whale watching hot spots in Sri Lanka. This is the story of one man’s quest to verify a theory by a British marine scientist.

[This article in a shorter edition of around 3,000 words was first published in the Sunday Times Plus on Sunday 7th March 2010. The forthcoming issue of Hi Magazine will also run a version of this article with generous use of images of Sperm Whales photographed off the Kalpitiya Peninsula, just 30 minutes boat ride away from the Alankuda Beach Resort].
Key Facts
* This article offers the first credible case as to why Kalpitiya can be one of three whale watching hot spot is Sri Lanka. The island has three potential whale watching locations. This where the edge of the continental shelf which plunges to a depth of a kilometer or more comes in very close to the shore and infrastructure is available. These are Trincomalee, Dondra and Kalpitiya Peninsula.
* The depth data for Kalpitiya only became available after the ocean floor was mapped in this area in October 2009 for oil exploration. The mapping of the entire island, showing Sri Lanka had just three potential whale watching hot spots were not shown on a map until January 2010.
* No one had made a serious effort to evaluate Kalpitiya’s potential for whale watching by traveling off shore of the reef until February 2010 when Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne succeeded in testing a verbal hypothesis made in March 2009 by Dr Charles Anderson about the proximity of the edge of the continental shelf and Kalpitiya’s whale watching potential.
* Until February 2010, the dolphin watching boats would spend several hours, within a 6-8 km band parallel to the Kalpitiya Peninsula which lies on a North-South axis. They did not go beyond the reef to the deep water where the edge of the shelf plunged deep. The dolphin watching boats only occasionally chanced across a stray whale which had wandered in-shore of this reef.

As I walked to the beach an Indian Nightjar churred. I was sensing the world through my ears. I was in a world of darkness, like the one inhabited by the Sperm Whales. In their world, in the murky depths where no light penetrates, they will ‘see’ with sound, using echo-location. Starlight filtered softly to be swallowed by the sea. Waves gently lapped the shoreline in front of the boat house at the Alankuda Beach Resort. The silent murmur of the sea was abruptly broken by the scream of a powerful out-board engine as we thundered out, hurtling across the reef at 30kmph to where the continental shelf plunged away into a deep abyss. I was heading in the darkness before day break, in search of the creatures of the darkness of the deep. I had instructed the boatman Susantha to head West, in search of whales and answers to another theory put forward by Dr Charles Anderson.
An orange fireball lurked below the Eastern horizon, still waiting to be uncovered by the Earth’s rotation. I was on my way for one more of my dedicated whale watching trips in Kalpitiya. Amazing as it may seem, it seems that this was the first serious, dedicated effort to look for whales off Kalpitiya and to ascertain whether whale watching could work as an eco-tourism product. Its not that others had not seen whales before. But almost all of them had been chance encounters of people watching dolphins in-shore of the reef. No one it seems had so far made a serious effort to go in search of whales beyond the reef which lies around 6km out, roughly parallel to the peninsula. Any references to the reef in this article is not to Barr Reef which is off Kandakuliya, to which people go snorkelling.
Sri Lanka already had two sites known for its whales. Trincomalee known for its whales since the 1980s. But as at February 2010, it is yet to be assessed for its whale watching strike rate, in Sri Lanka’s post-war environment. I had already led the publicity campaign for Dondra. I was back in Kalpitiya to research another story. That Kalpitiya could be the other whale watching hot spot in Sri Lanka.
My last effort on 19 April 2009 to look for whales off Kalpitiya was thwarted by bad weather. I had anxiously watched the rough seas and diverted my effort to undertake three sessions to find and photograph the Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphins in the Puttalam Lagoon. My successful adventure with Dallas Martenstyn was written in the July-August 2009 issue of Serendib, the in-flight magazine of Sri Lankan.
Despite the bad weather, I had tried once. With the boat buffeted by strong waves, and the chances of spotting a blow almost nil, I called off the search. I decided to bide my time for the next season after the current South-west Monsoon had spent its energy.
My next dedicated whale watching session off Kalpitiya had been the day before, on Tuesday 23rd February 2010. Two boats set out. One had Sandie Dawe, the Chief Executive of Visit Britain, with her husband Jock. They would follow the ‘Dolphin Line’, broadly an area which ran North-South parallel to the Kalpitiya Peninsular, in-shore of the reef. The other boat, prepared with three tanks of fuel and food and water for a long sea faring session carried me, Dallas Martnestyn and Georgina Viney with boatman Susantha for a deep sea mission. None of what I have done in Kalpitiya would have been possible with the help of Dallas and his team who put together all the logistics for my whale watching trips. It is thanks to Dallas and his fellow investors at Alankuda that the world learnt about the dolphin watching at Kalpitiya. As we headed out, we paused a few times to gauge the depth using a fish finder. In a conversation on 24th March 2009 at Alankuda with British marine biologist Dr Charles Anderson and Dallas Martenstyn, Charles had articulated that the continental shelf may be close to Kalpitiya which could explain the presence of the Spinner Dolphins.
The whale watching effort this time got of to a fairy tale start. We had left at 7.00 am and at 7.55am, English photographer Georgina Viney spotted the first blow whilst Dallas and I were fiddling with our two GPS units. We were at N 08 03 583 E 79 35 300 approximately 7 nautical miles out from the shore (Alankuda Beach Resort is at N 08 03 121 E 79 42 560). We had encountered a group of five Sperm Whales. I explained to Susantha he should never make a direct bearing to the whale and explained the importance of keeping a distance from the whale where it would be comfortable with the boat. I coached him on how to pull parallel to a whale and not approach it from behind. Once Susantha had understood these basic techniques I explained what I call the ‘arc-forward’. It works as follows. If you are parallel at a comfortable distance to a ‘logging’ Sperm Whale you pulls away from the whale, and then travel well ahead and later pull back into its projected path, describing a wide semi-circle. You then cut the engine off. If you have pulled in front several hundred meters from the Sperm Whale, if it is comfortable with you, it will swim up to and past the boat. The Sperm Whales off Sri Lankan waters are used to fishing vessels and have no fear of boats. By letting the whale approach you, you may be able to obtain close sightings and have them around for much longer than if you rushed up to one.
We spent about 15 minutes with the school that were traveling on a South to North trajectory parallel to the peninsula. A fishing boat raced up to a Sperm Whale we had been following in parallel at a distance and it immediately dived, proving what I had explained to our boatman.
I was elated that the search for whales had been so successful. Dallas and Georgina were not going to join me for the next two trips. Georgina was to spend that evening and the next morning photographing the Alankuda Beach Resort. So I recruited two new research assistants, Nikki Connolly and Linda Fennell, the sister and mother in law respectively of James Fennell, an Irish Photographer who had done the photography for the book ‘Living in Sri Lanka’ published by Thames and Hudson. I needed a few more pairs of eyes to look for the tell tale blow of a whale and also to operate the Canon XL1S video camera I had brought. The sea had turned rough when he headed out at 3pm. At the boat scudded along, it felt as we were being dragged along the gravel bed of a dry riverbed strapped to a wooden board and picked up and slammed down intermittently as well. We searched in vain for over three hours and we returned as darkness fell, and the orange glow in the sky had dimmed.
Determined to find more whales, the third consecutive whale watching session had begin before day break. I was joined once again by Nikki Connolly and Linda Fennell who had been excited by the images I had taken the previous morning. These are probably the first images of Sperm Whales taken off Kalpitiya of a publishable standard. We headed out due West and the traveled on a South to North axis past the previous day’s sighting which I had marked on Jonathan Martenstyn’s GPS unit. We continued North keeping out sea at a distance of around seven nautical miles, with the shoreline no longer in sight. I stood for some of the journey to enhance our chances of spotting a blow. Three hours of searching yielded nothing when on the way back, I saw a burst of spray dancing over the waves. We had found Sperm Whales. There was a group of three and another pair. They were traveling South, on a South-North trajectory, at a pace of around 10 kmph.
Susantha knew how to handle them this time and we spent over an hour with the group keeping a comfortable distance and trying out the arc-forward a few times. The school of Sperm Whales remained offshore of the reef but were approaching the front of the Alankuda Beach Resort. An earlier phone call brought out James and Jo Fenell with their family. We had positioned the boat a few hundred meters in front of the Sperm Whales when the Fennells arrived and we gestured them to stop. A few minutes later a logging Sperm Whale arrived and swam closely, between the two boats, completely unruffled by the two boats which had both cut their engines. Another Sperm Whale approached us, swam within to ten feet and raised it head to look at us. Then it dived underneath the two boats and re-surfaced about thirty feet away and continued swimming. We decided to leave them go, to avoid causing stress and watched them receding into the distance. For Nikki Connolly it was the highlight of her holiday in Sri Lanka.
Susantha the boatman said that only just once before had he come out beyond the reef to look for whales. It had been with some of the staff. He said that with clients they always stayed in-shore of the reef to look for dolphins and that they encountered a stray whale about once every three weeks. That evening I spoke to Jonathan Martenstyn who runs the boats from Dolphin Beach. He also confirmed that they stay in-shore of the reef and had never gone looking for whales. He said their rate of encounter with whales was les than with Alankuda who ran more dolphin trips. Chitral Jayathilake of John Keels who runs the whale watching from Mirissa and dolphin watching from Kalpitiya also confirmed that they stayed in-shore of the reef. Chitral had never gone out to look for whales off Kalpitiya and had never seen one here, in-shore or off-shore of the reef. Even Dallas Martenstyn had told me that the only time he went out beyond the reef to look for whales was when he had gone out with Georgina and me the previous morning.
It seems quite astonishing that with Kalpitiya becoming publicly known two years earlier for its dolphin watching no one had made a dedicated effort to whale watch and evaluate whale watching as an eco-tourism product from Kalpitiya.
It was not that people had not reported whales from Kalpitiya before. There had been a trickle of reports from people who had gone dolphin watching. Initially, I had dismissed them as chance events. I was a skeptic until March 2009. No one had offered a concrete reason for why Kalpitiya should be good for whales.
My earlier doubts about Kalpitiya being good for whales had to do with the location of the continental shelf. I knew the continental shelf held the key to an area of sea being good for whale watching. It had to be close to land. I had looked for whales off Negombo and Kirinda for example and failed because one had to travel out over 30 nautical miles to reach the edge of the shelf. In May 2008, I had taken the story to the world that the seas South of Mirissa was beyond doubt the best place in the world for seeing Blue Whales. My conviction was based on field results of a theory by the British marine scientist Dr Charles Anderson. In addition to a theory of a migratory movement, a key to the ease and proximity of sightings was the fact that the continental shelf pinched in very close to Dondra Head.
Reports of the dolphins from Alankuda were regular and almost daily outside of the South-west Monsoon. Most of the dolphins seen were Spinner Dolphins, an oceanic species. I just could not understand why Kalpitiya was so good for an oceanic species. My interpretation of Admiralty Chart No 828 Cochin to Vishakhapatnam was that the continental shelf was just too far out from Kalpitiya. I remember telling Libby Southwell in the second half of 2008, that would be whale watchers from Alankuda were not likely to get anything more than the odd stray whale. But I wondered whether there was a submarine canyon which in conjunction with a movement of currents or tides somehow created a channel rich in nutrients which created an unusual and exceptionally rich concentration of marine life. The Spinner Dolphins would be a top predator of this unusually focussed food chain off Kalpitiya.
A more likely answer came on 24th March 2009 as I listened to Charles explaining to Dallas Martenstyn that the latter’s observations of dolphins and the occasional stray whale could be explained by the continental shelf being closer than was previously believed. He also thought that there could be whales to be seen beyond the reef. I interjected. I had been circulating a graphic we had done based on British Admiralty Chart No 828 which showed that the continental shelf was far out from Kalpitiya, not close to it. Charles disagreed with my interpretation and we pulled out a bundle of admiralty charts that Dallas had in the office. I saw that the 1,000m depth contour which is my personal benchmark is not actually shown on any of the admiralty charts. I had carelessly interpolated. It was easier to interpolate smoothly along where the depth was available and draw the 1,000m isocline far out from Kalpitiya than to imagine that somehow it pinched in close to the Kalpitiya Peninsula like it did at Dondra.
Hmmm. But I was not going to be proven wrong so easily. I pulled out Admiralty Chart No 1586 Pamban to Cape Comorin. “Look” I said to Charles pointing to a depth at a distance from the shore on the chart which was marked at something like 284m, “This clearly shows that the depths are not great at this distance. The continental shelf must be far out. There must be some other reason why the dolphins are coming in”. However, Charles countered ‘See the dash and the dot over the depth number. That means the depth is greater than the amount shown. They ran out of rope’. I studied the charts more intently and with Charles teaching me to read the charts the realisation swept over me, that what I had misinterpreted as hard evidence for a wide shallow basin was no evidence at all. In fact location of the edge of continental shelf was wide open. There was absolutely no data available at that time to us or anyone to know conclusively where the continental shelf lay. I instinctively knew that Charles with his deep experience was onto something. I was astonished by the idea that the continental shelf could be pinching into the Kalpitiya Peninsula as it does at Dondra. That night, long after the others had turned in, I waited in the ‘Ambalama’ thumbing through the charts. Occasionally I stared out to sea, immersed in thought, a shiver of excitement running through me. I knew that Dr Charles Anderson had led me onto another big story. The next day, on 25th March 2009, Dr Charles Anderson, Dallas Martnestyn and I went dolphin watching from Alankuda and saw around 600 Spinner Dolphins. I returned to office as there was a business to run. But I knew I had to come back to nail the story with evidence. I needed to get the whales and get the depths.
Realizing the value of the insight offered by Charles Anderson I wrote about in a book which was published in January 2010. The book was “Sri Lanka the other half’ by Juliet Coombe and Daisy Perry. As far as I know, this was the first airing in print of a theory that the continental shelf is very close to Kalpitiya and that as a result Kalpitiya could be good for whale watching.
On 24th March 2009 I had realised I needed to get the whales and the depths to confirm Charles Anderson’s insight that the continental shelf was close and that explained the presence of whales straying to the dolphin line. I was elated that on 24th February 2010 I had finally found the whales. But I decided not call or text anyone yet with the news that there was conclusive evidence that Kalpitiya could be a whale watching hotspot. In my heart, I knew I did not have all the pieces together. The depth soundings I had taken with Dallas with a fish finder effective up to 700 feet was mickey mouse data. It did not prove anything. Co-incidentally Charles who had pulled into Colombo Harbour briefly, had called me on Friday 19th February. I told him quite proudly that on the Monday I would be driving to Kalpitiya and I will set out with Dallas and a fish finder to test his theory. Charles said that it would require very sophisticated equipment. Driving back, that Wednesday, I knew that the only chance for any meaningful data lay with the National Aquatic Research Agency (NARA). What followed was a remarkable series of fortuitous meetings.
The next day, on the Thursday 25th February I attended a meeting at the World Bank convened by Sumith Pilapaitiya. I looked around for people who could help me in the search for the missing data. I homed in on Dr Malik Fernando a marine biologist and asked him if there was any data available on depths off Kalpitiya and where the continental shelf may lie. Malik told me how he had swum with Arjan Rajasuriya from NARA in the area where they had thought the continental shelf plunged into a deep abyss. Dallas Martenstyn had also told me on the last visit that with his experience as an angler, sailor and diver, that the continental shelf was close. But visibility in water does not go beyond a hundred feet. No one can peer down to a few hundred meters and see the edge of the shelf plunging a kilometer or two deep. So although there were clearly others who shared the Anderson theory, I only had gut feelings to go by. I desperately needed hard data. As if reading my mind, S.A.M. Azmy, Head of the Environmental Studies Division of NARA joined us and introduced himself as from NARA. I asked him whether there were any data, any recent data at all of depth soundings off the Kalpitiya Peninsula. He explained that the search for oil had resulted in the sea floor being mapped. I asked him whether it would show the 1,000m and 2,000m isoclines. He confirmed it would and in fact said that they would have that for all around the island.
The following day on Friday 26th February 2010 as I drove to NARA I called Asantha Sirimanne from Vanguard who produce Lanka Business Online (LBO), Lanka Business Report on ETV, etc. They are one of my favourite media teams for the depth, accuracy and analysis in their reporting. I told him how I was on my way to collect data to prove that Kalpitiya can be a whale watching hot spot. I told him how three days earlier I had watched Sperm Whales swim South to North and a day later I had followed a school of Sperm Whales swimming the opposite way in a straight North-South axis. Its almost as if the 1,000m and 2,000m isoclines ran parallel to the Kalpitiya peninsula. They were clearly hunting along this line as I watched them dive down repeatedly and emerge later on the same axis.
On 26 February 2010, S.A. M. Azmy Head of the Environmental Studies Division of NARA pulled out a chart which showed in remarkable detail the depth contours off the Kalpitiya Peninsula mapped for exploration of oil. There in front of me were the depth contours which showed that the continental shelf was indeed very close and that the edge of the shelf, where it rapidly plunged to 1,000 and 2,000m was parallel to the peninsula. It was the North-South axis at E 79 35 the Sperm Whales had hunted on and for which I had taken GPS readings. I could not believe how well it all fitted together. Wow.
Technically speaking the continental shelf is defined as the 200m isocline and here that was as close as 4 nautical miles. The 1,000m depth isocline which I use as a benchmark for whale watching was 9 nautical miles away. I was probably the first person from the general public to see this chart which had been published internally in October 2009. The data simply had not been available when Charles Anderson had first convinced me to re-consider my view. The data had come out seven months later and I suspected that few in marine biological circles were aware of it.
The previous evening, I had attended a dinner hosted by master facilitator Chris Dharmakirthi at his new house. Seated on either side of me was Tissa Vitarana the Minister for Science and Technology and Dileep Mudadeniya, the Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau. I regaled them with stories of the arc-forward technique and how I had Sperm Whales swimming up to within a few feet of the boat and how one even swam under my boat, completely unafraid and un-disturbed, approaching us entirely at their discretion. I mentioned I was visiting NARA the next day to see the depth data from the oil exploration and details of the shape of the continental shelf around the island. Chris Dharmakirthi mentioned he was involved in the DECOM Project, the Project on Delimitation of the Outer Edge of the Continental Shelf of Sri Lanka under UNCLOS. So I asked Azmy about DECOM. He had already briefed M.A. Ariyawansa the Head of the National Hydrographic Office (NHO) that I would be visiting.
M.A. Ariyawansa, the Head of the National Hydrographic Office (NHO) introduced me to his team and to their amusement I rushed over to a pile of maps on a table and began thumbing through feverishly. Out came an untitled map simply which showed the 200, 1,000 and 2,000m depth isoclines around Sri Lanka and the outer limits of the exclusive economic zone. It showed the continental shelf pinching in three places. Trincomalee with a submarine canyon which has been known for some time and shown in the Admiralty charts. There was Dondra, again shown on the Admiralty charts but its significance for whale watching unknown until Charles Anderson had explained it to me in August 2003. There was only one other place. The Kalpitiya Peninsula. The edge of the shelf where it plunges to depths of a kilometer and more, runs along a North-South axis at approximately E 79 35. It remains un-changed in position for example between Colombo and the Kalpitiya Peninsula. However, because of the curvature of the island, it is far from Colombo but very close to the Kalpitiya Peninusla.
It is easier to explain this with the metaphor that the edge of the shelf with deep depths comes in close to Kalpitiya or that the Kalpitiya Peninisula pushes out (relative to Colombo for example) to where the edge of the shelf lies.
Sri Lanka therefore has three places which in terms of the location of the continental shelf is positioned ideally to be whale watching hot spots because the whale and oceanic dolphins need deep water to come close in. I had now found the conclusive evidence which connected the dots to show that Kalpitiya was one and in fact the last of the three whale watching hot spots to be recognized as such. My role once again had been to listen to scientists and to go out and do the field work and connect the dots to make a big story to bridge science with commerce. I was on a commercial agenda to connect whale watching in Kalpitiya with leopards in Wilpattu (the park was to open that Saturday 27th February). This gave tour operators like Jetwing Eco Holidays a second option for the whales at Mirissa and leopards at Yala. But I also knew that I enjoyed being the man who takes a big story about Sri Lanka to the world, like I had done with Best for Blue Whale, The Gathering of Elephants, Leopard’s Island and so on.
The NHO team were very helpful, courteous and genuinely interested in their work. They gave me a print out of the Mannar depths and a custom print out of the chart showing the continental shelf. I came out of NARA clutching the remaining evidence why Kalpitiya can be a whale watching hot spot. It is utterly strange that despite two years of dolphin watching, only I had ventured out with the purpose of finding whales to develop whale watching tourism and that within a matter of days, the hard data to prove the latest Charles Anderson theory were in my hand. The chart with the continental shelf was dated January 2010. My timing had been perfect. A few weeks earlier and the chart may not have existed.
On my way back to the office I triumphantly called Asantha Sirimanne and Renuke Sadananthan (Sunday Times) to announce that I had a story backed up by hard mapping data and field work to prove that Kalpitiya is one of three whale watching hotspots in Sri Lanka.
On 1 April 2008 when I set out to prove that Sri Lanka is the ‘Best for Blue Whale’ I realized that the boat crew could not at that point in time tell apart Sperm Whales from Blue Whales. It was the same at Alankuda on Tuesday 23rd February 2010. This will change very quickly as it did in Mirissa as clients switch their focus from dolphins to whales. I had listened to first hand accounts of dolphin watchers who claimed to have seen Humpback Whales. But by asking them questions, I had realised they had not seen Humpback Whales which have distinctively long white pectoral flippers. They said the whales ‘humped their back’ before diving. I now realise they have been seeing Sperm Whales which do this. The presence of the 1,000m and 2,000m depth isoclines parallel to the peninsula suggests that there is a deep edge which is a suitable hunting ground for Sperm Whales which are the champion divers of the animal kingdom and habitually dive to depths of between one to three kilometers. Dr Charles Anderson had also told Dallas and me that the South-west Monsoon may bring nutrients from the Arabian Sea as well as from up-wellings from the Kerala Coast to the peninsula. There may be other up-wellings off the peninsula which make it a rich feeding ground. Howard Martenstyn had emailed me accounts of his dolphin watching trips where he had seen more than one species of dolphin in large numbers. Of the three records of Orca since 2008, two have been at Kalptiya, photographed in March 2008 by Senaka Abeyratne and on 31 January 2010 by Maithri Liyanage. It is likely that Kalpitiya could rival Mirissa for the diversity of species of marine mammals. However, Mirissa may remain the top spot for watching Blue Whales because the migratory movement postulated by Dr Charles Anderson takes them past Dondra twice. I saw no Blue Whales on the two days I was whale watching at Kalpitiya. In contrast on Wednesday 24th February, Anoma Alagiyawadu, the Jetwing Lighthouse naturalist observed what he believed to be seven different Blue Whales from Mirissa. But there were also six days between the 17th and 22nd February where no Blue Whales were seen, but partly because the sailings were short due to rough weather. It is too early to conclude where Trincomalee, Mirissa and Kalpitiya will rank in terms of overall species diversity, the likelihood of seeing Blue Whales and Sperm Whales, etc. But what is very clear is that we have a scientific basis for concluding that Sri Lanka has three key sites for whale watching because of the proximity of the continental shelf, the marine mammal species diversity and logistics. The three sites could result in Sri Lanka emerging as the leading whale watching destination in the world.
A lot more work needs to be done to assess the strike rate for seeing whales at Kaplitiya. In May 2008, when I broke the story that Southern Sri Lanka is the best for Blue Whales, I had 22 days of data with a hundred pr cent strike rate for April 2008. With Kalpitiya, I am relying on the steady stream of reports of whales and other marine mammals corroborated by just a a few days at se by myself and the proximity of the edge of the shelf. All of this seems to fit in with the idea that Kalpitiya has high potential.

From the conversations I had with Dallas and Jonathan Martenstyn, Chitral Jayathilake and Maithri Liyanagae (Ruwala Adventure & Nature Resort) it was clear that none of the boat operators were going off shore of the reef after whales off the shores of Kalpitiya. They stayed in the dolphin watching area between the reef and the shore and had only the occasional chance sighting of a whale. My whale watching sessions and this article have now created awareness that whales can be seen off the Kalpitiya Peninsula if you set out to look for them. If you are called out for a sighting it could at times be as little as thirty minutes away but three hours of searching is more likely. The explanation that the continental shelf is close to Kalpitiya explains why. At least two boatmen have now learnt from me how to handle the Sperm Whales and begun to show them to clients. The appetite to go after whales from Kalpitiya and not to dally with just the dolphins will grow. Serious whale watching will now start from Kalpitiya. A trail has been blazed. In Kalpitiya as with elsewhere, legislation or guidelines will need to come in for the safety of the whales as well as the whale watchers. But legislation must be intelligent, practical and simple, to allow the whale watching industry to grow and create livelihoods. Whale Watching in Sri Lanka can easily grow to be worth several billion rupees of revenue each year. Wildlife can pay its way.
2.0 Dragonflies, Butterflies, Birds and Wildlife Tour of Sri Lanka
by Karen Conniff
Quest for Nature Trip, 3rd October to 14th October 2009
Sri Lanka Tour leader ‘Wicky’ Wickramasekera (Jetwing Eco Holidays), Guest dragonfly expert Karen Conniff and Quest for Nature Guide Dan Powell
Saturday October 3th – Talangama – Villa Talangama
We met briefly at Villa Talangama in the red glow of a stormy sunset. We agreed to meet early the next morning so that everyone could eat and go to bed after their long flight. Denise and Andy were back for a second tour and I was happy to see them and made it my personal challenge to show them some new dragonflies and new territory. I was happy to finally meet Rosie and Dan Powell, the Quest for Nature leader. After wishing Andy an un-happy birthday – since he was not going to celebrate or even discuss it, I went home to see what else I could throw into the van.
Sunday October 4th – Talangama, Bodhinagala, Sinharaja – Martin’s Simple Lodge
We met up again in the morning ready to see some rainforests. We had a short delay since Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (CEO, Jetwing Eco Holidays) was there to meet the group and show everyone a few endemic birds. However, we were diverted from birds by a water snake Andy was lifting from a small drain next to Villa Talangama and then someone noticed a special endemic, newly emerged, on the plants above the drain with an unusual name, the Transvestite Clubtail (Cyclogomphus gynostylus). This happened to be one of the top on Dan’s list to see (I think it was partly due to the name). The drain also had two other local endemics, Adam’s Gem (Libellago adami) and Stripe-headed Threadtail (Prodasineura sita). With Wicky at the wheel, we departed, heading for Bodhinagala. We made one brief stop at the local bathing well to see Yellow Featherleg (Copera arginipes). Bodhinagala rainforest is protected by Buddhist monks that meditate in the upper reaches of the forest. It is famous among birders for endemic species such as the endemic Green-billed Coucal and soon to be famous for endemic Platysticta and Drepanosticta damselflies that we were able to find along the small path leading to a bathing tank. On the way Denise stopped to photograph Nietner’s Shadowdamsel (Drepansticta nietneri) at a small stream in the rainforest when a Millard’s Hump-nosed Pit Viper (Hypnale nepa) was spotted in the leaves next to her foot!
The road to Sinharaja rainforest, a World Heritage Site, is not a pretty sight these days, however the surroundings are fantastic and worth the bone jarring drive. Martin’s Forest Lodge is situated right next to the entrance and we arrived in time to have a late lunch. The view and the sounds were begging for attention. As soon as lunch was finished we got our gear out and went directly into the forest. It gets dark quickly in the forest and at this time it was also relatively quiet. We moved at a slow pace and spotted a few more birds and various other creatures as the light faded. No damsel or dragonflies were found; I was worried. The calm weather and lack of rain had made no difference to the leeches that quickly introduced themselves. I just hoped the dragonflies would show themselves. Andy disappeared before dinner we wondered where he had gone. Denise was not too worried but we still called out into the night for him. It was worth the wait. He showed up with a good story and a photo of the mid-section of a Sri Lanka Krait (Bungarus ceylonicus) on his camera. It seemed he had trouble holding his snake-stick, torch, and camera all at the same time. Naturally, this made him late for dinner.
Monday October 5th Sinharaja – Martin’s Simple Lodge
As we ate breakfast a group of six Sri Lanka Blue Magpies showed up to groom and call from the trees around Martin’s Lodge. I got that anxious feeling again when Rosie showed up with a knee brace on, but she assured me it was not a problem. We slowly started out into the forest and that would be the pace for the whole day. It was one of the slowest walks I have ever had; it took 4 hours to walk from Martin’s to the Research station a distance of 3 Km. A few dragonflies appeared along the edge of the road, ones that are common most places, Asian Pintail (Acisoma panorpoides), Marsh Skimmer (Orthetrum luzonicum) and Shinning Gossamerwing (Euphaea splendens). We had to really search for it but we did find a newly described species Corbet’s Gem (Libellago corbeti). It was perched on the tip top of some leafless branches (a typical location for them). In the distance above the small stream next to the entrance of the park we sighted a large Gomphid flying just above eye level. It was not too difficult, with binoculars, due to the size and coloration to determine that this was a Sri Lanka Giant Clubtail (Megalgomphus ceylonicus).
Then again after some searching Fruhstorfer’s Junglewatcher (Hylaeothemis fruhstorferi) showed up. It seemed a struggle to find these dragonflies, but they were some of the best to be found in terms of rarity and endemicity. The rest of the walk was fairly uneventful (slow) with a long stop to watch the endemic Sri Lanka Keelback water snake (Xenochrophis asperrimus) at the fish pond. Andy found a Green Pit viper not a new one for him but always a thrill to find one because they are so well camouflaged. Back for a late lunch, again, and a short rest. We decided since we had so thoroughly and slowly walked through the park we would go to the visitor center for the afternoon. Sometimes we find damselflies there that we would not see in the main forest, but again it was slow but not by walking by dragonfly activity. Oh well…
Tuesday October 6th Sinharaja, Kitulgala, Mahabage – Royal River Resort
Rosie is now with one crutch and I feel sorry for her because we will do a lot of walking. We pack up head up to the visitor’s center one more time to see if we had missed anything the previous evening. Instead of dragonflies we locate a feeding flock with fantastic views of Malabar trogons. By then time is passing and we still need to walk to the van at the bottom of the road. We quickly scanned the visitor center pond for activity, returned to Martin’s to load the jeep and prepared to walk to our van. It was slow with Rosie managing on a crutch and the road is awful – really awful and hard for people with two good knees.
We had become used to looking for reptiles. Andy usually showed up with a vine snakes or tree snake but then one more hump-nosed pit viper showed up in the small stream beside the road. We also found one Blurry Forest Damsel (Platysticta maculata). I had hopes for good activity at the pond next to the new entry gate. In the past this pond has been bustling with dragonflies. Wrong again, we only found Indigo Dropwing (Trithemis festiva), Burmeister’s Glider (Tramea basilaris burmeisteri) and Sri Lanka Cascaders (Zygonyx iris ceylonicus). It was again a slow morning for dragonflies and humans. We continued on to the gate and into the van for the drive to Kitulgala.
It was another late lunch when we arrived at Plantation House situated on the scenic Kelani River. The weather was still good, but the dragonfly sightings were not as numerous as in the past. We headed up to Royal River Resort a lovely small hotel perched on the Ing Oya about 2Km from Beli Lena cave, an ancient man site. The swimming pool was the therapy that Rosie needed for her bad knee and soon everyone was in the water.
Wednesday October 7th Mahabage – Royal River Resort
We spent the morning above the hotel on a small scenic section of the Ing Oya. We had some good dragonfly sightings here. Henry’s Brook Hooktail (Paragomphus henryi), Red-striped, Jungle and Dark Glittering Threadtails (Elattoneura tenax, caesia, and centralis), Nietner’s Shadow Damsel (Drepanosticta nietneri), Wijaya’s Forktail (Microgomphus wijaya), Ultima gem (Libellago finalis), and several other more common Skimmers (Orthetrum species) were found. It was a good morning with high quality sightings. Gehan was again on the move and met us for lunch with Gangath Weerasinghe, Paramie Perera and Luka Alagiyawanna from his team from the Jetwing office. We strolled toward the Beli Lena caves with them and kept an eye on Rosie’s bad knee, thinking the road would be easier. Andy, turning over rocks as usual, came up something I have never seen before – a Three Toed Snake Skink (Nessia burtonii) and a pair of angry blue back scorpions ready for battle. Denise found a lovely black and red spider that would be a great Halloween photo decoration for her shop. Another swim in the cold hotel pool and a noisy evening next to the river ended a great day.
Thursday October 8th Mahabage, Lakshapana, Nuwara Eliya – St. Andrew’s Hotel
There was a light rain in the morning. We set off quickly after breakfast so that we could cover some new territory – to fill my promise to Andy and Denise. We took a different route to Nuwara Eliya via Lakshapana, where one finds the 7th tallest waterfall in Sri Lanka (126 meters) and a new endemic Platysticta sp. The trip was lovely with some new sights, a Corrugated Frog, a new Shield-tail snake (Uropeltidae sp.) for Andy and the new Platysticta species. It was just a short detour and we ended up at Nuwara Eliya for a late lunch, again. An afternoon stroll in Victoria Park at Nuwara Eliya is tradition for our tour and we have always had our first view of the Mountain Reedling (Indolestes gracilis), this one did not disappoint us. We found plenty around the pond in the park. Wicky said this was the perfect time (dusk) to go to a nearby jungle/forest just outside of Nuwara Eliya to look for the Ceylon Whistling Thrush. Rosie’s knee was not in shape to go down the steep path in the dusky light and Denise and I felt it was best to wait with Rosie plus the path was not appealing. We were entertained while we waited by a lovely yellow eared bulbul and a vegetable seller that was equally entertained by us. The thrush was heard and spotted so it was a good trip for everyone.
Friday October 9th Nuwara Eliya, Hakgala Gardens – St Andrew’s Hotel
Our day was spent at Hakgala Botanical Gardens (27ha) located within the Hakgala Strict Natural Reserve. The gardens are famous for many reasons including the huge rock sitting above the gardens is supposedly the site where King Rawana held Sita captive according to the Ramayana an Indian epic; and it was established in 1860 as an experimental Cinchona plantation from which the anti-malarial drug quinine is derived. We decided not to rush things here since there was so much to see in these amazing gardens. To begin with the ponds gave great views of Fiery Emperors (Anax immaculifrons), Mountain Reedlings, Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii) and Triangle Skimmers (Orthetrum triangulare). The garden is home to several endemic bird and reptile species which thrive in the impressive collection of trees from around the world. Wicky was locating the Yellow Eared Bulbul and I hunted for Rhino-horned Lizards which are supposed to be found there. After searching without success I found Andy and asked if he had seen any. Well, he immediately produced a male and a female that were so docile I could have photographed them for hours. After lunch and a short rest we had an afternoon stroll to an area above St. Andrews Hotel. There was not much happening there except for a few lovely amphibians but it was getting late and (I thought) rather cold.
Saturday October 10th – Nuwara Eliya, Kotemale, Kandy, Hunas Falls Hotel
While waiting for Wicky to bring the van someone pointed out a Black-lipped Lizard (Calotes nigrilabris) on a tree in front of St. Andrews Hotel. Again trying to change the tour routine for Andy and Denise we drove to Kandy via Kotmale. Wicky said it was a bit tricky since part of the road is under strict security. We still managed to hop out and look around interesting streams and drains on the way. At one of these stops Andy found some great and first time views for us of two Worm Snakes (Typhlops sp). Dan found another Brook Hooktail (Paragomphus henryi) in the security zone and was busy photographing it when we decided we might be attracting too much attention. Arriving in Kandy again at lunch time we decided to skip the Peradeniya Botanical Garden for the Temple of the Tooth. Dan and Rosie wanted to go have a quick trip to the temple, while Denise, Andy and I went to the lake. A few photographs later Dan and Rosie returned and we went headed up to Hunas Falls Hotel. We stopped first at the tiny golf course at the entry to the hotel and did not see much in the way of dragonflies or snakes. Wicky showed us the Ceylon Small Barbet before we went on to sign in at the hotel. Before dinner Andy and Denise had already found a several geckos including the Kandian Gecko, Spotted Bowfinger Gecko, and Rough Bellied Gecko.
Sunday October 11th Hunas Falls grounds, Elkaduwa – Hunas Falls Hotel
We started the day next walking around the lake and up the path to the waterfall behind the hotel. The trip to the waterfall didn’t even locate one Gem. We circled around through the top of the forest where Andy was busy moving stones and produced another Spotted Bowfinger gecko (Geckoella triedra). More first time events were in store – these included a Caecelian, and Spotted Supple Skink that Andy found plus a female Yerbury’s Elf (Tetrathemis yerburyi) next to the lake at the hotel. We continued on to the bridge toward the waterfall end of the lake and found a mating pair of Yerbury’s Elf with the female ovipositing light orange colored eggs on stick in front of us. It was a decent morning after all.
Above Hunas Falls Hotel is Simpson’s Forest Trail, during past tours we have taken a long walk along this road. Still trying to diversity the trip and with Rosie’s knee problem we decided to drive toward Elkaduwa for the afternoon. My goal was to find a Mountain Shadowdamsel (Drepanosticta montana). We started out after lunch driving slowly and checking the various drains along the way. Butterflies were numerous, Red Pierrot, Blue Mormon, and Danaid Eggfly to mention a few of the more spectacular. Again disappointed by the lack of dragonflies, I decided to walk down the road and check the small drains beside the road. Finally, at a rather dirty area next to tea plant and with lots of human activity I found several Mountain Shadowdamsels and a perfectly posed Blue Mormon. We were driving back when a small barking deer jumped in front of the car.
Monday October 12th Hunas Falls, Dambulla – Amaya Lake Resort
Driving from Hunas Falls toward the dry zone we pass the Sudu Oya, a muddy river above Matale. Rains have become so unreliable the farmers here have given up planting rice here. It was their paddy fields that have given us wonder busy dragonfly activity in the past. Still with a bit of luck and persistence we found what I was looking for – the Metallic-backed Reedlings (Indolestes divisus) and Paddyfield Parasols (Neurothemis intermedia), and Pruinosed Bloodtail (Lathrecista asiatica). We needed refreshment after that and Wicky found a King Coconut stand on the road to Amaya Lake Resort in Dambulla.
We thankfully just missed a huge political gathering next to the Kandalama tank as we pulled into the Amaya Lake Resort. It is a large area with lots of endemic medicinal trees – good habitat for birds and butterflies. There are many tanks (reservoirs) new and old surrounding ancient Sigiryria that have been continuously used for hundreds of years for agriculture. Sadly, delayed rain gave us only dried up mud in these old tanks. We went to one of the bigger tanks that surely would have some water in it. Well some water but not the usual amount. It was not a tremendous success. We saw many of the more common dragonflies and one new one for our list the Blue Percher (Diplacodes trivialis). That night Andy and Denise found another new gecko, a Termite-hill Gecko (Hemidactylus triedrus lankae). I asked how he found it and he said he just stuck his hand down inside the termite mound – it is no wonder I have never found one before.
Tuesday October 13th Dambulla, Vil Uyana, Minneriya Tank Reserve, Amaya Lake Resort
Gehan and Gananath from Jetwing Eco Holidays was again in range and able to meet us at Jetwing Vil Uyana, a special hotel within a wetland agricultural environment. We met him and several other naturalists to have a walk along the paths looking for anything flying or crawling around in the marshes and water ways at the hotel. We found two large species there the Blue-eyed Pond Cruiser (Epophthalmia vittata cyanocephala) and Rapacious Flangetail (Ictinogomphus rapax).
Next we went as a group to a tank nearby. The dragonfly display was pretty good considering the low water conditions. Here we found the usual pond taxa Lillysquatter, Waxtails, and Sprites (Paracercion, Ceriagrion and Pseudagrion). We took time to watch many wading birds then decided to move on to Sigiriya where the inner and outer moats are good places visit. The water level in the moat was low and in some places completely dry. The species from 2008 were not there this time, but there were other things to find such as the crocodile Andy spotted in one section of the moat that still had some water. No wonder they have no swimming signs up – they just don’t say why! The outer moat had water in it and some lovely butterflies and good dragonflies for us to find. One that is reliably found there is the Dancing Dropwing (Trithemis pallidinervis).
The afternoon was special for everyone, a new detail in the tour, elephant watching. This time it was fortunate the rains were late because it meant that the Elephants had stayed on longer at Minneriya National Wildlife Park, where they could find water and food. Our first elephant group was having a bath and there were several babies and younger ones rolling around and submerging themselves with only their truck above water. The next group was moving slowly across an open area from the scrub jungle toward the tank. We parked as they quietly advanced, eating, tossing dirt onto their backs, and making the low humming pleasing sound elephants make when they are content. It was sunset and magical with the fading light and tranquilly swaying elephants grazing beside us. It was hard to leave such an amazing scene.
Wednesday October 14th Dambulla, Arankele, Kurunegalla, Wariapola, Negombo – Blue Oceanic Hotel
We left Dambulla early trying to get to Arankele earlier than we have in the past. The dry season was hard on this area too. The small tank, originally a bathing pool, located in the center of the ruins was dry, and even though it had rained in Dabulla the previous evening it must have soaked through the upper layers. Last year it was dry but had a small amount of water but this year it was bone dry. The main goal was to find the Indian Rockdweller or Granite Ghost (Bradinophyga geminata), since this is the place where we always expect to see it. We searched and searched and had no luck. There was no point in spending more time there.
Keeping in mind the objective I set to show Andy and Denise some new territory I called a friend with a coconut estate near Kurunegala to see if they had any water in their tank. Their home garden is a butterfly paradise and carefully cultivated to keep it that way. I knew it would be a great opportunity for them to see this wonderful place. I was lucky; they were home and said a visit was fine. We bought our lunch in Kurunegala and took it along to eat on their porch. When we arrived we had a problem getting through the mass of butterflies to eat on their porch. Everyone got out their cameras and forgot about food. Eventually, lunch was accomplished and we had to move on. As we said good bye and gave our thanks for such a great visit Rosie looked on the cement column next to the gate and found….. the Indian Rockdweller! A farewell present for all of us.
Driving to Negombo we tried a few ponds but the light was not great and we gave up. The last entry on the list was still the Rockdweller. We arrived at the Jetwing Blue Oceanic beach hotel where my husband would meet us for one last meal together. I am fairly sure I will see Andy and Denise again; I know they can find more snakes and geckos. It was a great pleasure work with Dan and Rosie. I hope to see them again next year with another group.
Again, I gained as much as everyone else did from the trip. It was sharing our mutual and diverse interests that made this trip so motivating and produced some of the best sighting Sri Lanka has to offer both above and below the ground. I had many firsts on this trip. I want to thank everyone for their individual and collective contributions to the success of the trip. My special thanks go to Wicky, who had to do it all, drive, spot birds, keep everyone fed and happy – he did a wonderful job.
Odoanta = 71 Endemics = 30
Birds = 159 Endemics = 26
Butterflies = 65 I am sure there were many more tiny ceruleans that we missed.
Mammals = 16
Reptiles = 29 We will expand the list for next year – many were not on the ID sheet.
Amphibians = 14 (minimum)
This year Andy made an effort to identify them and it made a big difference. Next year we will add more names to the list.
Fish = lots but identification of individual species was not possible. I hope someone comes out with a good ID guide.
Crabs & Snails = again lots of crabs all are endemic to Sri Lanka but individual species were not identified – anyone interested in producing a guide?
Moths = lots but no key for identification.
Miscellaneous Insects = Cicadas, grasshoppers, fireflies, praying mantis, millipedes, scorpions, crickets, flat worms.
Leeches – not so bad this year – well behaved leeches.
Most common – We saw the Indian Palm squirrel, White Four-ring and Common Sailor Butterflies every day. The Indian Swiftlet and Oriental Magpie Robin were seen almost every day but one.

Nature Observations December 2009
(by Nadeera Weerasinghe, Naturalist Jetwing St. Andrew’s)

Special Birding Observation & Photography
22nd December 2009
An observation was done on a Black Eagle’s Nest at a suburb of Kandy by us, Thilanka Ranatunga (Nature Odyssey), Kalana Weebadda (Youth Exploration Society) & Nadeera Weerasinghe on information given by veteran Birdwatcher Upali Ekanayake.
Nishantha, a person from the area who has seen the nest for the first time directed us to the place and we were able to photograph some feeding behavior for a duration of four hours.
The nest is built on a Sabukku (Gravilia robusta) tree about 30 meters high. A single chick was observed and feeding took place by parents at a time. Both of them were seen together only for one occasion and one of them brought a mouse as food. One left after a few minutes and the other continued feeding and spent about two hours in the nest. We noticed that one of the parent birds was always guarding the nest, either perching on a branch nearby or flying over the nest till the other bird brings prey for the chick.
The chick is about seven or eight days old according to our observation and the analysis of digital images. A detailed paper is expected to be published later.

1. Internships with Jetwing Eco Holidays
Internships are available with Jetwing Eco Holidays for periods varying from one month to a year. Candidates should have excellent written English. A creative eye is also very helpful. Interns are exposed to a wide variety of office skills as well as occasional field visits.
If you are interested in an internship, please email Paramie Perera on with the header titled ‘Internships with Eco Holidays’.
2. Book on the ‘Primates of Sri Lanka’
10 February, 2010 – ‘Primates of Sri Lanka’ a 156 page guide to the primates of Sri Lanka has been published by The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB), as part of its efforts to promote wild life related tourism to the island.
“Sri Lankan primates have an established track record of generating millions of US dollars worth of television coverage” explains Dileep Mudadeniya, the Managing Director of the SLTPB.
“We have realized that in the search for new tools for gaining media coverage we have to think laterally. Because of the fascination for primates in developed countries, they offer a good medium though which we can gain access to print and television in these countries. Even high end travel magazines such as Conde Nast Traveller runs stories on primates and so do other travel magazines such as Wanderlust. We therefore realized that it would help Sri Lanka to have a publication which could be used by print and television media as a credible brief” he said.
The publication which is authored by Anna Nekaris with photography by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, is sponsored by Metropolitan, the agents for Canon in Sri Lanka. At present it is available only in electronic format as a pdf and can be downloaded free of charge from
“Canon is the preferred choice of wildlife photographers world-wide. Sponsoring this pdf shows our support for conservation’ said Taslim Rahaman, CEO-Regions of Metropolitan Office Pvt Ltd. “Canon were delighted to sponsor the publication. Furthermore, it also underlines our support to Sri Lanka Tourism to brand Sri Lanka and generate tourism revenues in a post war environment” Rahaman said.
Primates are a group of animals that fascinate television audiences world-wide. This is especially true of countries in Europe, which are an important source of tourists for Sri Lanka. In the 1980s, the BBC filmed ‘The Temple Troop’ and in 2009, Natural History New Zealand launched the 13 part series, Dark Days in Monkey City. Both of these drew on the work of the Smithsonian Primate Project in Polonnaruwa.
The book can be downloaded on or on and from

About the Book
The book was written by Dr Anna Nekaris of Oxford Brookes University who conducted research work in Sri Lanka. Visits by her and her students have been supported by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, various individuals, organisations and companies in Sri Lanka’s tourism sector. The latter include Jetwing Hotels, under the Jetwing Research Initiative. Dr Nekaris continues to be in dialogue with many local researchers and assists them by the provision of technical literature, academic contacts, funding and other resources needed for research.
The book is in two parts, with the first part having a series of chapters which provides and overview of the social behaviour and ecology of primates. The second part is a series of semi-technical species accounts on the five species of primates found in Sri Lanka. This includes three diurnal species, the Hanuman Langur, Toque Monkey and the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey. The last two species are endemic to the island. The Purple-faced Leaf Monkey has four sub-species, of which the Western Purple-faced Leaf Monkey is listed amongst the 25 most endangered primates in the world. These critically endangered monkeys can still occasionally be seen in central Colombo although sites such as Talangama wetland on its suburbs offer a better chance of seeing it. Sri Lanka also has two nocturnal primates, the Red Slender Loris an endemic found in the wet zones and the Grey Slender Loris. More studies may show that there is more than two species of Loris in the island.
The design of the book was undertaken by Divya Martyn, following a set of design principles laid down for the publishing arm of Jetwing Eco Holidays by Chandrika Maelge. The photography for the book was undertaken by wildlife celebrity Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, who is a brand ambassador for Canon in Sri Lanka. He shoots exclusively on Canon professional equipment.

3. Book on the Lizards of Sri Lanka
Somaweera, Ruchira & Somaweera, Nilusha (2009). Lizards of Sri Lanka: A colour guide with field keys. Chimaira Buchhandelsgesellschaft mbH, Germany. 304 pages with over 600 colour illustrations. ISSN 1613-2327. ISBN 978-3-89973-478-2
This latest book on Sri Lankan reptiles covers all known lizards (agamids, chameleons, geckos, skinks, snake-eye lizards and varanids) and has colour illustrations for all species, including the doubtful species. It gives comprehensive information (current taxonomy including all know synonyms and chresonyms, details about the type specimens, vernacular name, range, distribution in Sri Lanka, diagnosis, size, natural history and conservation status) for all Sri Lankan species over eight chapters, and colour illustrations depict most of the colour variations known for each species. The book also features a set of field keys with thumbnails for each lizard family.
Professor Indraneil Das, the eminent Asian herpetologist, has done the foreword for the book and a part of the foreword reads as fiollows. “A modern checklist of species is included, as is an illustrated key (a first for the region), showing thumbnail images for the benefit of non-technical users of the guide. Thereafter is the heart of the volume, comprising species accounts, that include multiple images of each taxa (museum specimens, in case of rare species), showing different ontogenetic stages, sexes and colour morphs. Following this is a short listing of species erroneously or dubiously recorded from Sri Lanka. At the end of the book are the glossary, gazetteer of localities, references and scientific names index.
The Somaweeras have now set a high standard for field guides to an important component of the herpetofauna, and one hopes this example will be emulated regionally and globally”.
This hard-covered is currently available through University of Peradeniya (contact Suranjan Fernando – and IUCN Sri Lanka (contact Sameera Karunarathne – for SLRs 3,400 excluding postage. Its also available online through most online dealers including:—A-Colour-Guide-with-Field-Keys.html
4. Nature Camp 2010
[Unfortunately SLWN did not run in time to give advance notice of this event. It has been retained to draw attention to the workshops run by the Institute of Sri Lankan Photographers.]
Residential Workshop on Nature & Wild Life Photography February 19 to 21, 2010
At Ruhuna National Park – Yala and Tissa Resort
This is an event that the Nature & Wild Life lovers and photographers longing to participate once in two years, which is organised by the Institute of Sri Lankan Photographers.
Participants were delighted the way that the workshops were organised and conducted, from the very first one held at Pollonnaruwa – 2002, to the recent one at Horton Plains – 2008. The participants were enchanted especially at the workshops held in Udawalawa – 2004 and Yala – 2006.
This time too we have selected Yala because it is a world class Nature Reserve (1,259 sq. km) where the participants can see and photograph not only Elephants, Deer, Sloth Bear, and Leopard but varieties of Birds including Eagles, Painted Stork and variety of Malkohas to mention a few. Yala is famous for Nature & Wild Life photography not only among locals but among foreigners as well. It is a golden opportunity for the Nature & Wild Life Lovers to experience and photograph under the guidance of experts the relentless beauty of the Nature.
The transport will leave Colombo at 5.00 am on February 19, 2010 to arrive at lunch time to Tissa Resort. There will be lectures & presentations to familiarise the participants about the program and the park and the habitat including photography by lecturers specialised in the relative fields.
The following day will be spent in the park from 6 am to 6 pm. The breakfast, lunch and snacks will be provided at appropriate times. After lunch discussions will take place before starting of the second safari session. After arrival at the resort and freshening up, participants will experience another dimension of the nature at the “Get together” including “The Peduru Party”.
On the final day, “Early Birds” will experience the enchanting surroundings of the “Tissa Wewa” in the early morning sunlight and will capture the same on celluloid or on “chips”. After breakfast at the closing ceremony there will be discussions with the resource personnel and every participant will receive a Certificate. Immediately after lunch transport will leave to Colombo.

Resource Personnel
Mr. Rukshan Jayawardene – Involved in studying and photographing Leopards for over 10 years. He was in the field for one week every month continuously for a period of 8 years.
Mr. Gamini Kumara Vithana – Human resource development consultant and a Presidential award winning environmentalist. Also has been honored with the “Bunca award” in 2002 for the valuable service done to the Sri Lankan society through his Environmental and Scientific publications.
Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando – Chairman of the Center for Conservation and Research. Involved in research on human-elephant conflict mitigation and conservation of elephants for last 15 years.
Mr. Aruna Kirthisinghe LISLP – Veteran Wild life and commercial Photographer. Winner of the mammals section and overall winner of the “Wild life Photographer of the year 2002” contest.
Mr. Ranjith de Silva LISLP – A Wild life & Portrait Photographer who has held three wild life exhibitions. Won the “Wild life Photographer of the year 2006” award in competition organized by the Wild life and Nature Protection Society of Sri Lanka.
Please contact
Ranjith- 077 7707600 Aruna -071 2759241 Berty- 077 7382860 for more details.
Institute Of Sri Lankan Photographers, 17/2A, Greenlands Lane, Isipathana Mawatha, Colombo 5. Phone: 011 2580933 e-mail:

5. Help us protect ‘Sri Lanka’s Natural Heritage’…a pictorial wall calendar for 2010
The Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL), a non profit organisation working for the conservation of Sri Lanka’s environment and natural resources since 1981 is publishing ‘Sri Lanka’s Natural Heritage’, a wall calendar for 2010.
The diverse and many hued landscapes that make up Sri Lanka’s rich natural environment are featured in this 12 page wall calendar (11 ½”x11 ½“) priced at Rs. 550.00, which can be purchased at Vijitha Yapa Bookstores, Barefoot, Odel Unlimited, Sarasavi Bookshop and EFL.
Through the use of stunning photographs and information regarding the ongoing threats to ecosystems such as Horton plains, Peak Wilderness and coastal dunes, EFL aims to generate public awareness regarding the importance of the country’s natural heritage in order to foster greater environmental action and increase contribution towards conservation efforts.
You too can support the conservation of Sri Lanka’s threatened ecosystems by buying this calendar. All proceeds are in aid of enabling EFL to carry out preservation of our protected areas, research on threatened ecosystems, disseminate information, organise environment oriented educational programmes and continue efforts to bring about justice for nature.
Price: Rs 550
Limited copies available – order now! Call on 452 8482/ 739 6702
For more details please contact:
Environmental Foundation Limited
No. 146/34, Havelock Road Colombo 05
Tel: (+9411) 452 8482/ 739 6702
Email: Website:
6. Rainforest Tea
Sri Lanka is famous for its tea, but unsustainable farming practices in both small-holdings and large plantations has seen a dramatic degradation in the quality of water and soil – leading to a loss of biodiversity as well as a loss in income for farmers dependent on the tea sector.
Rainforest Rescue International and Rainforest Tea Gardens of Sri Lanka have been researching and developing a unique, hand-picked tea, grown by rainforest buffer communities in Sri Lanka. Working alongside smallholder farmers the project includes workshops on sustainable farming to try and minimise rainforest encroachment. Awareness programmes in the community also provide a forum for people to discuss and learn about the importance of protecting the rainforest trees in the area – and the vital habitat they provide to local animals.
Smallholders are working to achieve organic certification through Analog Forestry practices, which means not only do the gardens produce some of the most unique teas of the island but, they also act as home to many rare and endangered animals.
With a premium hand-rolled black tea (OPA) and hand-rolled, full-bud green tea on offer, these teas offer the very best tastes of Ceylon all in one environmentally sustainable cup.
To find out more please contact or visit

Rainforest Rescue International
Rainforest Rescue International (RRI) works to protect vulnerable environments through ecosystem restoration, development of sustainable livelihoods, education, research and advocacy.
Established in 2002 by a group of environmentalists, RRI has grown to support seven plant nurseries, work in over 20 communities and 15 schools across the South and East of Sri Lanka, restoring more than 1,000 acres of land and planting nearly one million trees. RRI is a non-profit organisation based in Galle, Sri Lanka. RRI believes that by bringing together people and the environment, we can build a harmonious and sustainably managed world.

Release date: 19th January 2010
For more information please contact:
Julia Frankl

7. Ceylon Books for Sale
by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
7.1 Ceylon Books Collection for Sale
I have over the years acquired a collection of old-ish Ceylon Books on various topics (excluding natural history) dating from the early 1900s. I am looking to sell the entire collection of approximately 200 books for Rs 150,000. For anyone who collects or is looking to start a collection, this would be a good start. For a dealer who is prepared to carry inventory, this would be a cheap way to buy a collection of Ceylon books. Some of the books are in soft covers which show their age and a serious collector may opt to have them put in fresh hard cover bindings. There are far too many books for me to have the time to make a listing. Some of these books will be a few thousand rupees each. But note that I am selling the entire set as a collection, at an average price of Rs 750. I am not pricing and selling them individually. I have not had the time to make a complete list. I have listed five books below to give an idea.
Dance and Magic Drama in Ceylon. (mcmlvii). Beryl de Zoete. Faber & Faber. 237 pages.
Social History of early Ceylon. (1969). H. Ellawala. Department of Cultural Affairs. 191 pages.
Ceylon in my time 1889-1949. (1951). Colonel T.Y. Wright. The Colombo Apothecaries. 366 pages.
Ceylon Dilemmas of a new nation. (1960). W. Howard Wriggins. Princeton University Press. 505 pages.
Letters on Ceylon 1846-50. The Administration of Viscount Torrington and the ‘Rebellion’ of 1848. (1965). Edited by K.M. de Silva. K.V.G. de Silva & Sons. 240 pages.
If you are interested please email me on with ‘Ceylon Books for sale’ as the subject header.
7.2 Wildlife Books for Sale
I have over 50 duplicates in my collection of natural history books, which I am selling at a discount of 25% of the list price. If anyone is interested in receiving the list please email me on with “Wildlife Books for Sale” as the subject header.

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. Rs 1,750.
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. A pdf of the book can be downloaded (free of charge) from
BirdGuides Ltd. (2007). British Birds interactive. DVD-ROM. £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.

Bright, M. (2008). Whale Odyssey. A Humpback Whale’s first perilous year. JR Books, London. 216 pages. ISBN 978-1-906217-4.
See review on
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2009). Birds of Sri Lanka. National Trust – Sri Lanka: Colombo. 215 mm x 275mm. 218 pages.
This is the first title to be published in the Heritage Publications series of the National Trust – Sri Lanka. The book covers 100 species of birds in 208 pages. 215 mm x 275mm (slightly shorter and fatter than A4). The book is lavishly illustrated with photographs and the text written in a style to foster an interest in birds amongst the public.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2008). A Photographic Guide to Mammals of Sri Lanka. New Holland, London. 128 pages. ISBN 978 1 84773 142 5.
The first photographic guide to the mammals of Sri Lanka, richly illustrated with photographs and packed with information. 40 species are described covering all the terrestrial mammal families. The text is based on the many years of field work by the author but also brings in what has been published in the latest scientific literature. Many intriguing aspects of mammalian behavior are written in a style intelligible to the lay reader.
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2007). Sri Lankan Wildlife. Bradt Travel Guides, UK. 144 pages. 13.5 cm x 21.5 cm. ISBN-10 1 841621 74 9, ISBN-13 978 1 841621 74 6.
An overview of Sri Lanka’s wildlife and wilderness areas, illustrated with over 120 photographs. Probably the best overall introduction to Sri Lankan wildlife. Text and principal photography by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne. GBP 15.99.

de Vlas – de Jong, J., and Dr. de Vlas, J. (2008). Illustrated Field Guide to the Flowers of Sri Lanka. 269 pages. Mark Booksellers and Distributors (Pvt) Ltd: Sri Lanka. ISBN: 978-955-1917-00-5.
Descriptions of approximately 1000 plant species, which are illustrated with more than 2000 colour photographs of flowering plants in Sri Lanka. The information presented is written in simple English and is divided into various topics which are easy to understand.
Fernando, J. & Fernando, T. (2008). A Selection of Fruits of Sri Lanka. Published by the author. 72 pages. ISBN 955-50431-1-3.
Colour illustrations of 85 species of fruits. Hard cover. This is the only illustrated guide to Sri Lanka’s fruits which includes endemic, native and introduced species. Rs 1,950.

Jayatilake, C. (2008). Moments of Truth in the Wilderness. Published by Vijitha Yapa Bookshop. 185 pages. Printed in Singapore. ISBN 978 955-665-023-5. 12″ x 9″. The book includes chapters on Leopard cubs, Mammals, Birds, Snakes, Elephants, dominant male Leopards and Village Folk. More than 225 colour images will take you on a safari like never before when animals had done more than just stare at the cameras. Foreword by Dominic Sansoni.
Jayewardene, J. (2008). The Diversity of Sri Lankan Wildlife. Published by the Author: Colombo. 8 x 10 inches. 229 pages. ISBN 978-955-956777-2-1. Rs 4,500.
The book covers a wide range of subjects. It is lucidly written. Each chapter contains many facts on the subject of the chapter. It also records the wide personal experiences of the author. There are many colour photographs. The writing is very comprehensive and covers species groups as well as eco-systems.
Morgan – Davis, M. (2008). From Ceylon to Sri Lanka – Experiences of a Naturalist Tea Planter. 166 pages. Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha Printers: Sri Lanka. ISBN: 978-955-
Designed in the form of a typical 19th century explorer naturalist style, the author has set out to capture the minds of his readers so that they could read about some of his life’s adventures which he experienced as a young man in “Ceylon”. The book comprises of 21 chapters, of which the first two speak about his early years. A few others include “Yala National Park – A Legacy from the Kingdom of Ruhuna, Crocodiles – The Leviathans of Sri Lanka” and “Mannar – Baobab Trees and Palmyra Palms”. The book also features a variety of maps, photographs and paintings of both the author and of various Sri Lankan folklore and wildlife.
Nadaraja, L. (2008). The nature of Sri Lanka. Published by Wildlight (Pvt) ltd. Printed in Singapore. ISBN 978-955-1989-00-2. 320 pages. 13” x 10” full colour and black and white photographs of Sri Lankan wildlife and nature. Eminent writers and conservationists, Dr T.S.U. de Zylva, Shirley Perera, Dr Sriyanie Miththapala, Dr Arjuna Parakrama, Dr Shyamala Ratnayeke, Sri Lanka Thilaka Martin Wijesinghe, Arjuna Nadaraja, Richard Simon and Arittha Wikramanayake have contributed interesting essays on varied subjects.
Somaweera, R. & Somaweera, N. (2009). Lizards of Sri Lanka: A colour guide with field keys. Chimaira Buchhandelsgesellschaft mbH, Germany. 304 pages with over 600 colour illustrations. ISSN 1613-2327. ISBN 978-3-89973-478-2.
This book on Sri Lankan reptiles covers all known lizards (agamids, chameleons, geckos, skinks, snake-eye lizards and varanids) and has colour illustrations for all species, including the doubtful species. It gives comprehensive information (current taxonomy including all know synonyms and chresonyms, details about the type specimens, vernacular name, range, distribution in Sri Lanka, diagnosis, size, natural history and conservation status) for all Sri Lankan species over eight chapters, and colour illustrations depict most of the colour variations known for each species. The book also features a set of field keys with thumbnails for each lizard family.

Warakagoda, D. & Hettige, U. (2008). Birds of Sri Lanka: Vocalization and Image Guide Volume 1. 2008. CD ROM.
It features 135 species of Non-Passerine birds – Little Grebe to Woodpeckers – with 222 types of vocalizations by them and nearly 300 colour images. This multi­media publication is designed (in the form of an ‘e-book’ or ‘e-guide’) for easy access to the species featured and their vocali­zation types. All the sounds and plumages shown in the images are identified in detail. This work presents an extensive amount of information previously unpublished on the vocalizations of these birds. This CD-ROM is an excellent companion to any guide book on the birds of Sri Lanka. Also featured are a number of vocalization types not included in the audio guides on the birds of Sri Lanka by the first author, the only such guides available.
SRI LANKA WILDLIFE NEWS is an ad-hoc e-mail of birding and wildlife sightings, events, short notes, articles, and publications etc of interest to birders, photographers, conservationists and tourism professionals reaching over 6,000 subscribers. To receive a copy, please e-mail with “Subscribe Wildlife News” in the subject header. SLWN values your privacy, to be removed, e-mail with “Unsubscribe Wildlife News” in the header. Please e-mail your sightings, events etc to The media are welcome to extract details, but please attribute the source and author(s). Past issues are on