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1  General Chat / Conservation / Human crocodile conflict - Sunday Observer on: January 27, 2011, 05:13:56 pm
According to legend the yearling of the female crocodile which lived in the Matara river (Matara Kimbuli) was not a man eater. Yet interpreting this peculiar female crocodile character is still debatable among the literate. There are numerous explanations for this 'Matara kimbulige petiya'. This story is not a literature survey on the poem. This is an expedition on the current situation the crocodiles of Matara are facing.

The commonest crocodile in the country is the mugger crocodile known as 'hela kimbula' in Sinhala. According to Sri Lankan herpetologists the mugger it has only a few favoured natural habitats left where most of these habitats are cleared, altered and under pressure by human activities. The salt water crocodile or the saltie is a common sight along the Nilwala river in Matara. Today these salties struggle for their survival giving rise to human - crocodile conflict. The IUCN 2007 Red list recorded the salt water crocodile under the 'nearly threatened' category.

Human-crocodile conflict mitigation involves both awareness and the building of some expertise in controlling 'nuisance' crocodiles as well as strategy for translocation when found necessary," said Vice Chairman Crocodile Specialist Group of the IUCN/Species Survival Commission for South Asia and Iran Anslem de Silva. "However, we should be extremely careful of such translocation as the 'homing' instinct of this species is now well established," de Silva explained based on his research in the Nilwala river carried out to investigate the reasons for Human/Crocodile conflicts. The three day research funded by the Mohamed Binzyed Conservation Fund, basically focused on proposing methods on how to minimise this conflict among the vulnerable communities inhabiting the Nilwala river from Modara (the Lands-End) up to Paraduwa in Matara district.

On their three day mission the researchers collected data on eight human deaths due to crocodile attacks and ten cases of attacks resulting in minor injuries. "However, it is felt that most of these accidents might have been prevented if the victims knew some of the basic safety measures," Anslem explained.

Highly threatened
The alarming revelation in the survey was that 95% of respondents considered that crocodiles were not useful or rather did know the ecological roles played by the crocodiles.

Many have said crocodile flesh has curative properties for asthma and improves eyesight.

Although the crocodile is a protected animal, under the Flora and Fauna Act it is illegally hunted mainly for its flesh. Destruction of crocodile eggs and clearing its natural habitats still continue. In addition, occasionally a man-eater gets killed. "Shooting or capturing any specific man-eater is still questionable as an Australian study in 2005 (Caldidicott et al.) indicated that there is no guarantee that the crocodile responsible for the attack could be captured," Anslem de Silva further explained.

Killing of yearlings and sub-adults which get trapped in fishing nets is another threat crocodiles face in Matara. Some drown in the fishing nets and die. "In fact, one fisherman informed me that he killed five young crocodiles that had got trapped in his fishing nets in the past," de Silva said. Occasional attacks on humans give crocodiles a bad reputation. Just a single confirmed man-eater inevitably leads to many of the crocodiles in the vicinity being killed.

Forty-seven percent of the people interviewed have said that they have heard that when a crocodile holds on to its victim, the stomach or the belly of the crocodile should be stroked or tickled, then it will release its bite, whilst 53% did not know any methods to escape from a crocodile's grip. "when I was a young boy my family was living in the ancestral house in Fort, Matara near the Nilwala River during the 1950's. Those days I kept a yearling saltwater crocodile for about four years which I collected from Nilwala River. During this period, in order to verify this popular belief, I use to stroke the belly of the captive crocodile, which responded immediately by becoming passive and did not struggle.

When repeated it produced the same results," de Silva said. Using another yearling crocodile during the present study, de Silva experimented the same method and the animal has shown the same behaviour.

Dumping garbage on the river bank attracts crocodiles as well as its predators like the water monitor. It was observed that large water monitors ('Varanus salvator') swallowing crocodile yearlings as well as large crocodiles swallowing adult water monitors.

"During the survey, we found out that several slaughterhouses and fish stalls discard their refuse into the river, and in two such places crocodiles are attracted when fish and beef by-products are thrown into the river," de Silva said.

The water monitor attacks and feeds on large number of animals, including other reptiles, such as venomous and non-venomous snakes and crocodile yearlings and crocodile eggs. In addition, eagles, hawks and mongoose have all been observed to prey on yearlings.

Human errors
"Regarding the human-crocodile conflict and attacks, investigations revealed that in almost all the case studies the fault was on the part of human beings.

Many use insecure crocodile pens for bathing and washing," de Silva added.

Regarding the approximate length of the crocodiles seen by the interviewed families, 76% stated that they have seen crocodiles possibly measuring over 3 meters in length. Nearly 46 % of respondents have observed crocodiles between 10a.m. to 1 p.m.

An intensive awareness program coupled with protective measures like installing crocodile-pens, crocodile-fences and installing warning sign boards in risk areas should be carried out, he suggests.

As far as crocodile attacks on pet and farm animals is concerned, most of these attacks have taken place in the river-land interface, pointing to the negligence of the respective owners of these animals.

"During our survey of residents living near the river we observed that some tie their dogs in the backyard of their homes adjoining the river, which prompts the dog to bark at the slightest disturbance which unfortunately attract crocodiles to attack these pets," he explained.

Most of the riverine mangroves have been depleted mainly due to human activities.

As de Silva further explained the people living along the river should be informed of the legal aspects of the river reservation area, such as the 20 metre river bank reservation that belongs to the government, thus any destruction of the mangroves may be liable for legal action.

Install proper crocodile pens in places where it is need by the community. Installing a crocodile fence where crocodiles frequent into compounds during the night.

Crocodile fences
To enhance aesthetic and traditional beauty I recommend building a durable pen using Kitul planks on 3 sides which will create a 10 x 5 metres square, de Silva explained.
But it should be strongly secured from the front with strong wire mesh with a door.

The kitul planks should be around 15 centimetres wide and when installed in water they should be approximately 1.5 metres above the river water level during high tide. The space between two planks should be 10 centimetres. There should be a rough concrete platform and steps leading up to the water.

Considering the fences it should be erected on a secure foundation and should be constructed so that half the land area is for the occupants and the other half for the river or rather for the crocodiles to prowl at night.

"Thus, we create land area for the crocodile, as well as protect the people and their pet animals. This technique has never been attempted anywhere in the world.

In addition, a door should be fixed to this fence so that people could use both land spaces during the day," de Silva explained.

Crocodiles are a keystone species that maintain ecosystem structure and function through selective predation on fish species, recycling of nutrients and maintenance of wetlands in drought. Thus, it is important that we conserve these reptiles and their natural habitats.It is felt that a Conservation Action Plan should be initiated in the country which addresses the specific issues of the country, according to de Silva. Fortunately, major natural habitats of the mugger are in some of the wildlife reserves, such as Yala and Wilpattu National Parks.


By Dhaneshi YATAWARA

2  Latest News Updates / Local Nature News / World Wetlands Day 2011 on: January 27, 2011, 05:08:55 pm
February 2 each year is World Wetlands Day. It marks the date of the adoption of the
Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores
of the Caspian Sea.

Each year since 1997, government agencies, non-governmental organisations, and groups
of citizens at all levels of the community have taken advantage of the opportunity to
undertake actions aimed at raising public awareness of wetland values and benefits in
general and the Ramsar Convention in particular.
Wetlands and Forests, this is the theme for World Wetlands Day 2011, especially chosen
because 2011 is the UN International Year of Forests.
Our slogan is simple - Forests for water and wetlands - allowing us to look at the ‘big
picture’ of forests in our lives, including:

* Forested wetlands and the special benefits they bring. Mangroves, peatswamp forests,
freshwater swamp forests: biologically diverse, helping us manage our freshwater, and
providing us with many other ‘services’ across the globe including vital roles in carbon
storage - our allies in the face of climate change. Despite their utility, they are often under
threat from development, from drainage and conversion.

* The role of forests - wet or not - in our lives, and why looking after them matters. Vital to
all human lives, freshwater availability on a global scale depends on our forests. So too, to
a large extent, does freshwater quality.

* The role of forests in how our wetlands function. It’s simple: the health of our wetlands,
whether forested or not, is linked to the health of forests in our catchments. Losing and
degrading forests means losing and degrading wetlands.

* We cannot manage without forests, whether terrestrial forests or forested wetlands, given
the critical roles that they play in our lives - for water, for food, for livelihoods, for
recreation and more.
3  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Other Wildlife Chat / Other Wildlife / The Stealthy Mongoose on: January 14, 2011, 05:26:10 pm
The Ruddy Mongoose (Herpestes smithii) is a species of mongoose found in hill forests of peninsular
India and Sri Lanka. This mongoose along with the Striped-necked Mongoose are the only
mongoose species endemic to India and Sri Lanka.

The ruddy mongoose is a very closely related to Indian grey mongoose, but distinguished by its
slightly larger size and black tipped tail extending for 2 to 3 inches at the distal end. There are two
sub-species of this mongoose, H. smithii smithii in India, and H. smithii zeylanicus in Sri Lanka.

The ruddy mongoose is mainly a forest living animal in contrast to the grey and small Indian
mongooses and prefers more secluded areas. They have also been recorded from secluded paddy
fields and in comparatively open fields. Like other mongooses, it hunts by day and by night.
In Culture, Sri Lankans call this animal Hotambuwa in Sinhala. Usually regarded as an unlikable
animal and a pest.

Golden Palm Civet (Paradoxurus zeylonensis), altogether a different species
endemic to Sri Lanka, is also called Hotambuwa due to similar appearance and coloration.
The ecology of the ruddy mongoose remains to be studied. Most records of this species are from
forested areas including dry forests, dry thorn areas, and disturbed forests, although there are also
fewer records from open areas and secluded rice paddy fields. In India, this species was found
exclusively in dry forests, and was never sighted near human settlements.

The ruddy mongoose is crepuscular, hunting by day as well as by night, and leads an at least
partially arboreal existence, as it hunts, feeds, and rests in trees. In India, it is frequently sighted
scavenging road kill. Little is known of direct threats to the ruddy mongoose but there appear to be
no major threats to the global population. Local-scale major threats include hunting and snaring by
local tribes.

This species is listed as Least Concern in view of its wide distribution, presumed large number, and
because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened
category. The impact of habitat loss and degradation and hunting are unknown but the number is
not suspected to be declining at a rate sufficient to qualify for Near Threatened.

This species not only has a wide geographical distribution, but it also lives in varied vegetation
types from arid regions in the plains of northern and western India to high altitudes (> 2000 m) of
southern India and Sri Lanka, as well as in human-dominated agricultural landscapes. More
information is needed to determine the true status of this species and there is a need to monitor its
trends.


Sunday Observer & Wikipidea Org
4  Nature Article & Trip Report / Nature/Travel Destination / Kala wewa on: January 14, 2011, 05:23:30 pm
Kala Wewa is an ancient reservoir in Anuradhapura. This reservoir has a circumference of
40 miles (64.4 km) and has a total area of seven square miles (18.1 km).

Kala Wewa is a large, ancient irrigation tank, which was built by King Dhathusena (455-473
AD) by damming the Kala Oya. This ancient tank was restored in 1887 and again in 1939.
Kala Wewa plays a pivotal role in the modern Mahaweli irrigation scheme, as is one of the
main storage tanks in North-central Sri Lanka. There is a thriving inland fishery in the Kala
Wewa - Balalu Wewa system.

The vegetation, particularly the grass in the drawdown area, provides the primary source of
fodder for sizable herds of cattle and buffaloes in these areas. Kala Wewa is the largest
water storage tank in the Kala Oya basin, with an active surface storage capacity of 123
mcm.

The command area of Kala Wewa is 23,800 ha. Since the implementation of the Mahaweli
Development Project, the tank receives water through the Dambulu Oya, a main headwater
tributary of Kala Oya.

Kala Wewa is located in the dry zone, the area receives rainfall mainly during September -
November (northeast monsoon), with an average annual rainfall of 1,219 mm. The mean
monthly temperature is around 27.9 C while the mean monthly relative humidity varies
from 60% (March) to 80% (December).

During the southwest monsoon period strong, dry winds blow constantly over the plain,
making the area drier. The soil in this area consists of reddish-brown earth and low humic
gley soils typical of the northern lowland region, with some alluvial soil being found in the
river valleys.

The aquatic vegetation comprises mainly of phytoplanktons, while rooted, floating and
submerged macrophytes are also present. Terminalia arjuna and Nauclea orientalis
dominate the seasonally inundated plant communities associated with the tank fringes of
the Kala Wewa.

The undergrowth in this area is not dense and it is ideal habitat for wildlife. Flagship species
such as Asian elephants are frequently recorded in this area. Herbaceous flora mainly
comprises, annuals with a decrease in diversity towards the waterline. The grass Cynodon
dactylon is the only species found in the shallow areas along the waterline. The surrounding
landscape includes natural vegetation types such as dry mixed evergreen forests and manmade
habitats such as chena cultivations, paddy fields and home gardens.

The freshwater fish are dominated by exotic species such as Oreochromis mossambicus,
Labeo rohita, and other carp species. Indigenous species such as Etroplus spp, Puntius spp
and Channa spp. have been recorded from Kala Wewa. Aquatic reptiles include Crocodylus
palustris, Lissemys punctata and Melanochelys trijuga. This is also an ideal habitat for large
colonies of water birds including Pelecanus Philippensis, Phalacrocorax Niger and
Anastomus Oscitans, Phalacrocorax Fuscicollis. Raptors such as Haliaeetus leucogaster and
Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus are also notable species that are found at Kala Wewa.

Mammals that visit the tank include Elephas maximus, Prionailurus viverrinus and Lutra
lutra. Wetland values include hydrological and biophysical values also make Kala Wewa
valuable. Kala Wewa acts as an important water storage tank in the Kala Oya basin. It
stores Mahaweli irrigation water from upstream and releases the water for agriculture in the
Maha season according to downstream irrigation requirements.
 The water level of the
perennial tank fluctuates, depending on the amount of water released for irrigation hence
the tank has an extensive drawdown area, which gets exposed during periods of low water
level.

The biodiversity is such that dry mixed evergreen forest patches are found distributed
around the tank, which harbour valuable timber species such as Manilkara hexandra and
Vitex pinnata. The seasonally inundated swamps are dominated by Terminalia arjuna.
However, residents around the area indulge in fishing activities using bottom set nets, cast
nets and drift nets.

The surrounding forest is a source of medicinal plants while paddy cultivations and chena
cultivations are also found. Animal rearing is a common livelihood particularly in the middle
basin. Locally found reeds are utilised for the production of handicrafts. Brick making also
takes place to some extent using the sediment from the draw down area. There is a threat
that allocation of more land to agriculture and increased conversion of land for the
Mahaweli Irrigation Scheme are potential methods of land use change.

Invasive alien species Lantana camara is extensively found in this area. Other disturbances
include the deforestation of the seasonally inundated forest and clearing of land for
expanding cultivations. As the tank is situated within the culturally important and
touristically popular Anuradhapura District, a large number of tourists visit the area
annually.

Elephant and bird watching are popular activities among the tourists. There is a new hotel
under construction in the area. Conservation measures taken to protect is that part of the
tank catchment and fringing region falls under the Kahalle-Pallekelle Sanctuary

Sunday times
5  Latest News Updates / Local Nature News / Re: Baby Orangutan at Dehiwela Zoo on: January 14, 2011, 05:06:44 pm
Baby orangutan at the Dehiwala Zoo
 
By Shalomi Daniel, Pix by M. A. Pushpa Kumara
A baby male orangutan was born on November 3, 2010 at the Dehiwala Zoo in Sri Lanka. The general public was asked to suggest names, and the name suggested by six year old Dimuth Tharinda was chosen. He named the baby Sakifo.

“This baby orangutan made history as it is the first Sumatran orangutan to be born in Sri Lanka,” says Veterinary Surgeon of the Dehiwala Zoo, Dr. Jagath Jayasekera. The previous birth recorded in
Sri Lanka is that of a Bornean orangutan 28 years before.

The only two surviving species of orangutans in the world are the Sumatran orangutan and the Bornean orangutan. Though both species are endangered, the Sumatran orangutan is critically endangered. The Sumatran orangutan is the species found in Sri Lanka currently.

There are less than 6000 orangutans in the world today and the Sumatran orangutan is only 14% of the total. The parents of the new born baby orangutan were bought to Sri Lanka on November 11, 2003 from Indonesia. They were the last couple to be sent out of Indonesia, as orangutans are endangered and facing extinction. The father is 14 years old and the mother is 12 years old at present.

The diet of the baby will be limited to the mother’s milk for the first six months. It would take seven to eight months for the baby to start eating solid food such as fruits and vegetables. The mother will be kept on a diet of fruits, vegetables, proteins and milk, to ensure the adequate supply of milk for the baby.

Dr. Jayasekera added that as it was not possible to approach the orangutans, photographs will be taken every four to five days and the size etc., of the animal will be monitored digitally. He said that the baby is in good health so far.

Dr. Jayasekera also said that the baby is very much attached to the mother. However, the baby has not yet been introduced to the father. It has been recorded that in certain species the father kills the male baby due to the threat of competition in the future.

In the wild the mother would escape with the baby for a while, to avoid such a situation. Dr. Jayasekera went on to say that research is being conducted to check if the father is a threat to the male baby in the orangutan family as well. If the father is not proved to be a threat, the baby will be introduced to the father gradually.

As the birth of this baby orangutan is of international importance and as the baby is considered an
international resource, it has been recorded in the International Stud Book. The International Stud Book is where details of valuable species in the world are recorded

Sunday times

 
6  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Birds Chat / Birds Chat / Re: Learn with Gehan De Silva Wijewardana - Birds of Sri Lanka on: January 14, 2011, 05:03:45 pm


Sunday Times
7  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Other Wildlife Chat / Other Wildlife / Re: Red Slender Loris –Loris tardigradus on: January 14, 2011, 04:50:28 pm
Getting to know the langur and toque macaque

The Cinnamon Lodge and Chaaya Village hotels in Habarana was the setting of a three month study of the two most commonly seen primates in Sri Lanka.

Of the five species of primates observed in Sri Lanka -the grey langur, purple faced langur, toque macaque, grey slender loris and the red slender loris, two species - the grey langur and the toque macaque were under observation in the 25 acre twin hotel compound situated in the heart of primate country at Habarana.

The project, a joint effort between the John Keells Hotels and Oxford Brooks University, UK was arranged by Chitral Jayatilake, Head of Eco Tourism and Special Projects for Keells Hotels and Dr. Anna Nekaris who heads the Primate Research division at the university.

Two MSc students from Oxford Brooks arrived at the Lodge in early May this year to team up with the Nature Trails in house naturalist team in conducting a 90 day study of the primates that roam the hotel complex.

Kate Grounds from Oxford Brooks who headed the team watching macaques soon discovered two main toque macaque troops, one that roams the Chaaya Village compound and the second that is seen on the Lodge side of the complex, though both these troops and their territories did overlap at certain points. Alice Martin and her team studying the Langurs also found two troops of this species named as the Chaaya Group and the Farm group.

Both species spent more than 90 percent of their time within the hotel compound while 55% of the time, they were observed within close walking distance to tourist areas of the hotels showing an amazing habituated behaviour.

The study focused on their feeding habits, home ranges, human primate interaction, staff perceptions, guests comments of seeing high densities of primates in such close proximity and potential to conduct primate observations as a tourist attraction.The study completed by both students offered an in-depth insight to a group of animals which are often taken for granted and seen as a pest rather than a part of the environment that we enjoy so much.

A mini survey conducted through a questionaire given to guests was useful in understanding how the visitors viewed the primates while a list of comprehensive recommendations were made to the management.

They included further habitat management especially of trees between 2 – 10 metres, planting of feeding trees in the compound, discouraging all feeding by visitors, more signage enhancing awareness, printing of information brochures, educational programmes for all staff at the hotel while carefully planned primate watching excursions were recommended with the in-house naturalist team.

The John Keells hotels management team plans to develop primate watching excursions within their sprawling 25 acre site promoting another sphere of wildlife tourism which is otherwise dominated by the leopard and the elephant in Sri Lanka.

Such studies can change our perceptions on animals that are otherwise seen as a nuisance and make a vast majority of staff and visitors sensitive to looking at primates as an asset, thus helping their cause to survive in a changing world dominated by unfriendly humans, said Chitral Jayatilake.


Sunday Times
 
8  Latest News Updates / Local Nature News / Unblocking more of Yala soon on: January 14, 2011, 04:47:57 pm
As the Yala National Park, the country's most visited wildlife sanctuary prepares to open hitherto closed sections of the park to the public, Malaka Rodrigo looks at the problem of over-visitation and the need for responsible tourism
The last phase of the war forced the closure of many of our national parks, including Yala. No sooner had the military given clearance, the public was allowed to access the country's most popular National Park, but what many were unaware of was that it was only a part of the Yala wilderness that they could visit. The area opened was Block I.

Now comes the news that the remaining sections of Yala National Park will also be thrown open to the public soon by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC).

"We are planning to open the remaining sections of Yala National Park gradually. In line with the 'Deyata Kirula' exhibition that will be held at Buttala, Block III will be open in February,” said Director General (DG) of the DWC, Dr. Chandrawansa Pathiraja. The DG said wildlife officers were already engaged in preparing the infrastructure such as building the road network in Block II and III as well as visitor facilities like camp sites together with a few bungalows
 
Some wildlife lovers who frequently visit Yala welcomed the news and the chance to revisit old haunts.

"Poththana Beach in Yala Block II was one of my favourites in Yala," said Mevan Piyasena, a field naturalist and wildlife photographer. He recalls large sand dunes in the area which constantly shifted with the wind. Mevan also remembers seeing large herds of deer during his last visits in early 2000. "Some of the herds consisted of more than 100 deer and as a photographer, there was always some special movement to capture," said Mevan.

Yala Block II has a large stretch of beach as it abuts the sea. It also has large open areas with several natural water holes and man-made ones. There are several streams or 'ara's that flow across it. Block II is also of archaeological value and has signs that Yala was part of an ancient civilization. There are ruins of a stupa, and a few stone pillars that visitors can see.

Block III which is also in line to be opened soon has some ruins and cave dwellings containing 'brahmi' inscriptions. The vegetations in these blocks is also a bit different to Block I though the concentration of wildlife is not as much as Block I. However, some areas in these blocks are good for bear- sightings according to the trackers.

"The opening of the Block II and III will help to reduce the pressure of over-visitation of Block I a little," says Namal Kamalgoda, another wildlife photographer who also voices concerns over conservation. Namal, who has been a a fan of Yala now doesn't go into the park as frequently as he did in the past. "Yala Block I is simply overcrowded and you cannot enjoy the wildlife's uniqueness that way. Such crowds also spell harassment to the animals," he says.

Namal believes opening of these areas will also protect the park from illegal activities like poaching and cannabis chena cultivation which occurs in areas less frequented.

Yala Block II has now been open for some time and some have already begun visiting these areas. But most of them are 4 wheel drivers looking for adventure and Namal highlighted the need for responsible off-road driving in these national parks which are environmentally sensitive. "Recently I had to shout at an off-roader who was ready to drive through a villu in Wilpattu. Villus are unique ecosystems that could be damaged by these kind of activities. Even the open areas of Kumana are now full of tyre-tracks which disrupt the natural settings," he says.
Manori Gunawardana, another wildlife enthusiast involved in the conservation of Yala stresses the need to regularize visitation. "We have a good opportunity for tourism, but it shouldn't be done in a haphazard way," she said. She says visitation should also be managed properly to maintain the serenity of the national parks.

Opening up of new areas requires more wildlife officers and trackers to accompany the visitors. Block-I has been managed for decades, but infrastructure in most of the other areas should be looked into and developed accordingly she says.

It is clear that the opening of new areas will bring inevitable challenges to the DWC. Most of the other blocks are accessible only with 4 wheel drive vehicles, and there is much road development to be done to make it accessible to the general public. Dr. Pathiraja said the DWC staff is working hard to build these facilities.

2011 is also being considered as the Year of Wildlife Development said Wildlife and Agrarian Minister S.M.Chandrasena. Rs.513 million has been allocated in the budget for development of the National Parks and DWC is planning lots of development activities. "Opening of the remaining sections of Yala is also part of this plan," says the DG. Deputy Director of the Southern Region P.M. Dharmathilake said there is a plan to combine some of the area and name them as ‘Yala North’.

Conservationists point out that the economic value that can be gained by nature-based tourism can have a positive impact on actions to protect these animals, but also highlight the dangers of mass tourism. "It is a good thing to recognize the potential of wildlife, but wildlife is a resource that can deplete due to over-exploitation like in other industries, if not managed properly," points out Manori Gunawardane. The nature-loving tourist does lots of research before visiting a country, and in this digital era, bad experiences promptly accessible to a wide audience through blog postings and Facebook updates can tarnish Sri Lanka's image as a wildlife hotspot.

Clearly there is much to be done before the opening of the remaining sections of Yala National Park. Most importantly visitors have a larger responsibility not to harass the animals in their eagerness to explore more of Yala's terrain.

Sunday times
9  Nature Article & Trip Report / Nature/Travel Destination / Nuwara Eliya on: December 31, 2010, 05:42:11 am
This Christmas time, we look at the town that has the Christmas -like look and reflects the cool climate that can be associated with this season. While other parts of Sri Lanka have heavy rains making it cooler than normal, nothing beats the fresh and cool climes of Nuwara Eliya. The cool town of Nuwara Eliya is so-called because its name is derived from the meaning “city on the plain” or “city of light”. It nestles snugly in the central highlands of Sri Lanka with a picturesque landscape and temperate climate. It is located at an altitude of 1,868 m(6,128 ft) and is considered to be the most important location for tea production in Sri Lanka. The town is overlooked by Pidurutalagala, the tallest mountain in Sri Lanka.

The city was founded by non other than illustrious Samuel Baker,the legendary discoverer of Lake Albert and the explorer of the Nile in 1846. Such was the salubrious climate that in no time Nuwara Eliya became the prime sanctuary of the British civil servants and planters in Ceylon. Nuwara Eliya, called ‘Little England’ then, was also the ideal hill country retreat where the British colonialists could immerse in their pastimes. Although the town was founded in the 19th century by the British, today the whole district is visited by native travellers, specially during the month of April, the season of flowers, pony races, go cart races and the auto rally.

Anyone who visits the city can wallow in its nostalgia of bygone days by visiting these
landmark buildings. Many private homes still maintain their old English-style lawns and
gardens.Due to the high altitude, Nuwara Eliya has a much cooler climate than the lowlands of Sri Lanka, with a mean annual temperature of 16 degrees Celcius. But the temperature changes and sometimes it can be as low as 3 degrees Celcius. Now, in the winter months it is quite cold at night, and there can even be frost even though it rapidly warms up as the tropical sun rises higher during the day.

The town’s attractions include the golf course, trout streams, Victoria Park, and boating or fishing on Lake Gregory. Victoria Park is an attractive and well-used oasis. It is popular with birdwatchers at quieter times because of the good opportunities it gives to see various species. Galway’s Land Bird Sanctuary, close to Lake Gregory, is another wildlife site. The town is a base for visits to Horton Plains National Park. This is a key wildlife area of open grassy woodland. The famous lover leap place of World’s End is also accessible from here.One of the distinctive features of Nuwara Eliya’s countryside is the widespread growing of vegetables, fruit and flowers usually associated with temperate Europe. The slow-growing tea bushes of this highland region produce some of the world’s finest Orange Pekoe tea, and several tea factories around Nuwara Eliya offer guided tours and the opportunity to sample or purchase their products.

A place related to folklore is the Hindu temple called “Seetha Kovil” (Hanuman Kovil). It is found on the way to Badulla from Nuwara Eliya before reaching the Hakgala Botanical Garden.

The temple is located in the village called “Seetha Eliya”. The area is related to the Ramayana story in Hinduism. Folklore says that the mighty king Ravana kidnapped Princess Seeta and hid her in the place where the temple now is. There is also a church called the Holy Trinity Church on  hurch Road, which accommodates an old graveyard and most of the grave stones have British names engraved on them.

Daily News Paper
10  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Birds Chat / Birding Site / Gal Oya National Park on: December 31, 2010, 05:39:54 am

Gal Oya National Park is situated in the eastern part of Sri Lanka and is an ecological
destination and national park centred around the Senanayake Samudra reservoir the
largest inland body of water in Sri Lanka. Gal Oya is a great place for birdwatching, nature expeditions and elephant sightings. The National Park lies South-East of the country in the eastern and UVA provinces. In addition to the national park, three sanctuaries were declared to protect the catchment area of this tank. They are Senanayake Samudra sanctuary,

Gal Oya Valley North-East Sanctuary and Gal Oya Valley South-West Sanctuary. Together these reserves and the national park cover approximately 63,000 ha of land. The park and the three sanctuaries were established by the Gal Oya Development Board on February 12, 1954 and subsequently handed over to the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1965. Gal Oya is a valley, which has given refuge to several kings in the ancient past. In the second century BC, king Tissa sought refuge at the Digavapi, a place Buddha visited in his third visit to Sri Lanka .
The Digavapi Dagoba, built in the second century BC to marks the spot where the Buddha sat on his last visit to Sri Lanka , attracts thousands of pilgrims even today. About 45 percent of the vegetation is evergreen forest, 33 percent savanna, nine percent grassland, two percent chena cultivations and the balance is water bodies dominated by Senanayake Samudra. A host of medicinal shrubs and trees such as aralu, bulu, nelli can be readily found in the Nilgala area, while a number of locally known trees such as vevarana, halmilla, veera, palu, ebony and mahogany are found in great numbers. The park with its thick green canopy is a haven for species of birds and nearer to the Samudra even migratory birds such as painted storks, pelicans, cormorants and teals could be seen. A host of local birds such as the grey dove, malabar horn bill and grey horn bill, koel and a number of water birds are found in this jungle habitat. In addition to elephants, the park is home to leopards, bear, spotted deer, sambur, wild boar etc. Among other fauna are several species of monkeys, porcupine, a number of fish species, reptiles and four species of butterflies such as the crimson rose and glassy tiger have been recorded.

Daily News Paper
11  Nature Article & Trip Report / Nature/Travel Destination / Trincomalee on: December 30, 2010, 04:42:07 pm
With the end of the 30 year long civil war, Trincomalee is becoming a major tourist destination. Here are some of the interesting places to visit.

Located within the Trincomalee Fort, Koneswaram Hindu kovil is also known as the temple of thousand pillars. The primary deity worshipped here is Lord Shiva in the form of Konesar.

During the conflicts between the Portuguese and Dutch, the original kovil which is over 2000 years was destroyed.

To house some of the destroyed statues, Hindus built another monument in the vicinity during the British period, which is worshiped to date

. In July 1950, while a workforce was digging a public well some of the original ruins and statues were excavated. They were installed in the rebuilt structure which is designed according to the classical Hindu Dravidian architecture.

Lover’s Leap

This famous spot in Trinco is found in the vicinity of the Koneswaram Kovil. The legendary story about Lover’s Leap, revolves around the love story of a British lady by the name of Marina who jumped off this rock which has a 350 feet drop, after she lost her lover.

The British captain whom Marina fell in love with was recalled to the UK. Soon after he left the country in a ship from the Trincomalee harbour, unable to cope up with the grief, Marina took her life by jumping off this rock.

Located along the Trinco - Nilaveli Road, the Trincomalee War Cemetery is built in honour of the soldiers who died during the period of World War II.

Trinco sea port was formerly a naval base and during the war it came under attack by the Japanese.

Following the incident, a British war ship in the harbour got destroyed killing 368 soldiers and injuring many.

It is believed that the bodies of those who died and some of the corpses which could not be taken back to Britain were buried here.

In addition the cemetery has the graves of Lankan soldiers who died during the phase of the World War II.

Hot Wells


Hot Springs of Kanniya located four kilometres from Trincomalee has a history that spans over 1000 years.

What is remarkable about this location is the fact that it consists of seven hot wells which has water of varying temperature. It is therefore a major attraction among tourists and locals.

Koneshwaran Kovil


Sunday times
12  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Other Wildlife Chat / Other Wildlife / Re: Red Slender Loris –Loris tardigradus on: December 30, 2010, 04:37:55 pm
The slender loris

The slender loris is a small, nocturnal primate found only in the tropical rainforests of
Southern India and Sri Lanka. Until recently, they were discovered to be very much in
existence in the Horton Plains National Park. They are able to live in wet and dry forests, as
well as lowland and highland forests. They prefer thick, thorny vegetation wherein they can
easily escape predators and find the large assortment of insects that is the mainstay of
their diet.
Loris tardigradus malabaricus is a subspecies of the slender loris which is found only in
India. The greatest concentrations of these slender lorises are found in the southeastern
Ghats of India. The Ghats are a narrow strip of rainforest that runs down the length of
western India.
The slender loris is about the size of a chipmunk, with long, pencil-thin arms and legs. It is
between 6-10 in. (15-25cm) long and has a small, vestigial tail. It weighs about 10.5-12
oz. (275-348g). The slender loris’ round head is dominated by two large, closely set,
saucer-like brown eyes. They flank a long nose which ends in a heart-shaped knob. The
eyes are surrounded by dark-brown to black circles of fur, while the bridge of the nose is
white. It has a small, narrow lower jaw. The ears are large and round.
Its coat is light red-brown or gray-brown on its back and dirty white on its chest and belly.
The fur on its forearms, hands and feet is short. The slender loris has small fingernails on
its digits. The second digit on the hand and foot are very short. They move on the same
plane as the thumb, which helps them grasp branches and twigs.
The slender loris is an arboreal animal and spends most of its life in trees. Their movements
are slow and precise. They like to travel along the top of branches. For the most part they
hunt by themselves or in pairs at night, although they will come together and share a food
supply.
They live alone or with a mate and an infant. They will sleep with up to seven other lorises
in a hollow tree or sitting up in the angles of branches. They are very social at dusk and
dawn, playing, wrestling and grooming each other.
Mating occurs twice a year; in April-May and October-November. Gestation is 166-169
days, after which one, and occasionally two infants are born. During the first few weeks the
mothers carry their infants constantly. The infant will grasp its mother around the waist
with both its front and hind legs. After a few weeks the mother “parks” the infant on a
branch at night while she forages. The babies move around carefully at first but by two
months they manoeuvre around quite well. More mature lorises who sleep in the same tree
may visit them at night to play and eat with them. Females will reach sexual maturity in 10
months and 18 months for males. The slender loris has a life span of 12 to 15 years.
The slender loris is for the most part insectivorous. This means they eat insects, but they
will also eat slugs, young leaves, flowers, shoots, and occasionally eggs and nestlings. They
can stretch and twist their long arms and legs through the branches without alerting their
prey.
The slender loris eats a lot of noxious and bad smelling insects.
They particularly like the acacia ant whose bite can numb a human arm. They also like toxic
beetles and roaches. The slender loris will engage in urine washing, or rubbing urine over
their hands, feet and face. This is thought to soothe or defend against the sting of these
toxic insects.
Native people have always believed that all parts of the slender loris have some medicinal
or magical powers. This has contributed greatly to the decline of the slender loris.
Destruction of their habitat is another reason for their decline.
It is not clear how many slender lorises survive in the wild. Because of their small size and
nocturnal habits, it has been difficult to do an accurate count. Until recently not much
attention has been paid to the plight of the slender loris, but new interest has been shown
in their species and studies are under way. The government has laws protecting the slender
loris, but its effect is difficult to gauge.

Sunday Observer
13  Latest News Updates / Local Nature News / Re: Find Raja’ project slowly draws to a close _ Sunday Times Paper on: December 26, 2010, 06:49:52 pm
Save Our Elephant - Daily Mirror

14  Sri Lanka & Indian subcontinent Other Wildlife Chat / Other Wildlife / Re: The Green Turtle – Chelonia mydas on: December 26, 2010, 06:47:55 pm

The Turtle’s song  - Daily Mirror


15  Latest News Updates / Local Nature News / Baby Orangutan at Dehiwela Zoo on: December 25, 2010, 05:47:56 pm


The male baby orangutan born on November 3, 2010 at the Dehiwela Zoo made its first public appearance today. The previous birth recorded in the island is that of a Bornean
Orangutan 28 years before.

“This baby male orang utan made history as it is the first Sumatran Orang utan to be
born in Sri Lanka” said Veterinary Surgeon of the Dehiwala Zoo, Dr. Jagath Jayasekera.

The only two surviving species of Orang utans in the world are the Sumatran Orang utan
and the Bornean Orang utan. There are less than 6000 orangutans in the world today and
the Sumatran Orangutan constitutes only 14% of the total. Both species are endangered
while the Sumatran Orangutan is critically endangered. The Sumatran Orangutan is the
species present in Sri Lanka currently.

The parents of the new born baby orang utan were brought to Sri Lanka on November
11, 2003 from Indonesia. They were the last couple to be sent out of Indonesia, as orang
utans are endangered and facing extinction. The father is 14 years old and the mother is
12 years old at present.

The diet of the baby, who is 42 days old, will be restricted to mother’s milk for the first
six months. It would take seven to eight months for the baby to start eating solid food
such as fruits and vegetables. The mother will be kept on a diet of fruits, vegetables,
proteins and milk, to ensure the adequate supply of milk for the baby.

Dr. Jayasekera added that as it was not possible to approach the orangutans, photographs
will be taken every four to five days and the size etc of the animal will be monitored
digitally. He assured that the baby is in good health so far.

Dr. Jayasekera noted that the baby is very attached to the mother, but has not yet been
introduced to the father. In certain species it has been recorded that the father kills the
male baby due to the threat of sexual competition in the future.

In the wild the mother would escape with the baby for a while, to evade such a situation.
Dr. Jayasekera went on to say that research is being conducted to check if the father is a
threat to the male baby in the orang utan family as well. If the father is not proved to be a
threat, the baby will be introduced to the father gradually.

The birth of this baby orangutan has been recorded in the International Stud Book, in
which the details of valuable species are recorded

Sunday Times,
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