Archive for the ‘Children & Environment’ Category

Enjoying the nature at backyard on Earth Day 2017

April 22, 2017

Today is #EarthDay2017 and the theme this year is “Environmental & Climate Literacy”. I had a little field visit with my little ‘birding colleague’ who had her first experience of millipedes. She was fascinated that millipedes have so many legs and the way they are getting coiled when disturbed.

..We also visited the garden enjoying the nature in the backyard. On our way, we also got the chance to pluck few rose apples (ජම්බු).

Regarding millipedes, I wanted to tell my little daughter that these creatures would be a group that will be badly affected by climate change as more severe doubts are due to hit this part of the world. A research paper also stated that elevated atmospheric CO2 and changes in plant community composition are expected to alter leaf litter quality affecting millipedes.

We are already facing disasters that are highly charged due to climate change. Sadly, I believe that my daughter’s generation will have to face more severe disasters due to climate change. On this Earth Day, let’s all determine to do our part to protect environment and act in a way not to fuel global warming atleast for their future.

Let’s all hope there will be better tomorrow for my daughter’s generation (including the biodiversity of the earth)…!!!

Source for Millipede data: http://www.senckenberg.de/files/content/forschung/publikationen/soilorganisms/volume_81_3/32_david.pdf

Message on the Earth Day by Executive Secretary of Convention of Biological Diversity:
Message_Mother_Earth_Day (2)

Infographic showing number of people who do not think climate change is not that serious
http://www.downtoearth.org.in/factsheet/convenience-in-denial-57655

Enjoying nature at backyard on Earth Day 2017 – Dulithi trying to pluck a rose apple (ජම්බු)

Dulithi showing the rose apples that she pucked

They they have so many legs..?? – Dulithi observing millipedes

Curious – A closer look at the millipede

Aggregation of millipedes

We also found a shell of a snail

Let’s meet Abhaya the little Jumbo

June 11, 2011

Hi kids, would you like to be friends with a little jumbo..? If you visit Dehiwala Zoo, you will get the chance meet a new friend, Abhaya; the little elephant – by Malaka Rodrigo

Abhaya came to Dehiwala Zoo only two weeks ago. Before that, Abhaya was at the Pinnawala Elephant Orphanage. The uncles in Pinnawala put Abhaya into a small lorry, early morning on April 23 and after
saying goodbye to his Pinnawala friends, Abhaya started his exciting journey to Colombo.

On the way to Colombo, Abhaya looked curiously at the moving vehicles on the road and was amazed at the large buildings that are higher than trees he had seen in the jungle. The little elephant was anxious to meet new friends at Dehiwala Zoo.

Meanwhile, on hearing about Abhaya’s arrival, lots of friends came to greet him. Abhaya was welcomed by a group of children with an ‘Araliya flower’ garland around his neck. Abhaya had never worn such a beautiful garland, so he was happy with the welcome and immediately became a friend of these little kids.

The director uncles at the zoo arranged a grand party to welcome Abhaya. In fact Abhaya got his name only after coming to the zoo. A little competition was conducted for the zoo visitors to suggest a name for the little elephant and 450 had proposed many names – including kids who visited zoo that day.

This was a big occasion for the zoo, so director uncles and aunties also consulted an astrologer guru to select a suitable name out of the proposed ones. Finally the name ‘Abhaya’ was selected. Kids, when you visit the zoo – remember to make friends with ‘Abhaya’ because he needs your love so much, as he lost his mother and family due to an accident. Do you want to know that story too..??

Abhaya was a baby elephant roaming freely in the jungles in Habarana with his parents. But they often had to cross the railroad to move to the other side to drink water. Abhaya was a playful elephant who sometimes didn’t listen to his mother.

On a dark night last year, Abhaya came to cross the railroad together with his mom. Abhaya was
playing with his best friend who was the same age, despite their mothers’ warnings not to play on the rail track. Abhaya and friend were in playful mood and didn’t hear the noise of approaching train.

The mothers hearing the sound, hurried to rescue their babies, but the train was so fast that it hit all four elephants. Both mothers died in the collision. Abhaya and his friend had their legs badly fractured. Though his friend didn’t survive, Abhaya fought harder and was cured thanks to the treatment of the Doctor Uncles.

However Abaya is sad that he lost his mother, best friend and auntie. Abhaya’s leg is also a little shorter, so don’t try to overly pet him. The doctor uncles say, it is also not good to feed anything to Abhaya – remember, it is not a good habit to eat outside your main meals – so never try to feed the elephant anything, as he gets breakfast, lunch and dinner in time.

The baby hippos

Abhaya is not the only new addition to the Zoo. The Pygmy Hippo family of the Dehiwala Zoo are now having a family of playful baby hippos.

All of them are females and the eldest baby of this family is named ‘Hapani’.

Born six months before, ‘Hapani’ is now a real skillful Hippo. She likes to swim together with her mom in their den.

The other two babies are named Hiyara and Sameena. ‘Hiyara’s’ birthday falls in February while the youngest sibling ‘Sameena’ was born in March.

Pygmy Hippos are smaller than the River Hippos (or Nile Hippos). They live in Western Africa and are threatened in the wild.

published on SundayTimes on 15.05.2011 http://sundaytimes.lk/110515/FunDay/fut_05.html

Wetlands support us all

February 27, 2011
Kumana was recently named as Sri Lanka’s 5th Ramsar Wetland of International Importance. Curious Puncha and Panchi explore the wetlands this week..!!
“Wetlands are wastelands.. Wetlands are wastelands..”
a rhythmic phrase found on a piece of paper made Panchi interested. However, her brother – Puncha found this murmuring irritating.
“Stop nangi.. That is wrong.
It should be read as Wetlands are NOT Wastelands,” Puncha corrected.
But she wanted to irritate her brother more.
“Wetlands are wastelands..
Wetlands are wastelands.”
“NO, WETLANDS ARE NOT WASTELANDS!” Puncha got really annoyed and shouted this time.
Hearing their dispute, Seeya
intervened.
“Well.. Wetlands are infact not wastelands. Look Panchi, you’ve missed something,” Seeya pointed out the missing part of the sentence on the piece of paper to Panchi.
“But Seeya, aren’t wetlands just useless lands full of mud..?” Panchi remembered one of her visits to the Attidiya Wetland nearby, where her shoes were ruined by mud.

“Well.. Wetlands are areas of land that are covered with water for all or part of the year. They look useless, but wetlands provide lots of silent services,” Seeya started to explain the value of the wetlands.

“Wetlands can be thought of as giant sponges. They absorb water from many different sources during wet periods, and release it slowly into the surrounding areas during dry periods. In this way, wetlands can help to reduce flooding, ease the impact of drought and recharge groundwater supplies.”

“Do you know wetlands are also called ‘nature’s kidneys’ because they clean water?” Seeya asked the attentive kids.

“One way that wetlands clean water is by filtering out excess nutrients. Nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen can enter the water system from
agriculture and industrial development which can seriously pollute water, harming the life that depends on it including us.”

“Little.. little creatures, plants and friendly bacteria that live in the wetlands can trap, breakdown or absorb these nutrients,” Seeya explained. “Wetlands also trap soil that runs off with rain water. This is important because it helps to purify the water, as well as lessen the impact of soil erosion. Water held in wetlands seep slowly back into the groundwater deposits after getting purified and filtered. This process makes sure of a supply of clean water which we get from wells.”

“So wetlands are for water as well as water is for wetlands. They are also helpful to face effects of droughts and floods due to Climate Change in future.”
“There are lots of birds in the wetlands too Seeya,” Puncha
remembered the birds they had seen at Attidiya and how much they had enjoyed the nature. “Yes, not only birds – wetlands are home to lots of animals and plants – Wetlands are indeed hotspots of biodiversity.”

“Seeya – what is a Ramsar Wetland..?” Puncha
remembered something he had heard at school at the
World Wetlands Day which was
celebrated on February 2.
“Realizing the value of the wetlands, countries got together at a city called Ramsar in Iran, in 1971 to sign an agreement. These countries agreed to
protect wetlands.The Ramsar Convention this year celebrates 40 years of caring for wetlands.”
“The Ramsar Convention also names a global network of wetlands for sustaining people and our
environment. Do you know we have five Ramsar Wetlands in our
country..?” – asked Seeya.

“Yes.. yes.. Kumana is a Ramsar wetland,” Panchi remembered what her parents were talking about a few days back. “Yes, the Kumana coastal areas are Sri Lanka’s latest Ramsar site. Bundala, Madu Ganga, Anawilundawa and Vankalai are our other Ramsar wetlands.”

“Hmm… Aiya it is true. WETLANDS ARE NOT WASTELANDS,” Panchi corrected herself. “Yes; Sharing, as well as the wise use of wetlands here and now is very important,” Seeya stressed.

Published on FundayTimes issue with SundayTimes on 27.02.2011 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110227/FunDay/fut_05.html

The Year to Save Forests, Bats and Biodiversity

January 15, 2011

Kids, we have just stepped into the New Year 2011. Do you remember that the past year 2010 was the International Year of Biodiversity..?

Naming a year for an important cause is a way used by the United Nations to pay more attention to that cause. But from recent years, there is more focus on Environment and taking the trend forward, UN has taken steps to dedicate 2011 for many environmental causes.

If you are curious to know more about these and be active partners in protecting the environment, keep on reading..!! Your favourite friends, Puncha & Panchie too will meet you in 2011 to explore more on biodiversity. So keep an eye on Funday Times and take a vow to do your part in 2011 to save our Forests, Bats and Biodiversity..!!

Wishing a happy new year to all the kids…!!

International Year of Forests 

Forests are very important habitats of the earth with an estimated 80% of land based animals and plants living in them. United Nations named 2011 as the International Year of Forests with the aim of raising awareness, strengthening sustainable forest management and protecting them for future
generations.

It is estimated that about 60% of the earth’s land area was once covered by forests. But due to the need of lands for agriculture, town houses, mining and logging, these forests are cut down. Now the global forest cover is only about 30%, but deforestation still continues. In Sri Lanka the present closed canopy forest cover has reduced to 22% of the land area.

During the Forest Year, try to visit at least a forest such as Sinharaja or Knuckles with your parents and experience the diversity in
them…!!

Focal point: United Nation’s Forum on Forests.

Decade of Biodiversity

Year 2010 has been the Year of Biodiversity, but recognizing the importance of paying more attention, the next decade starting from 2011 is also nominated as the Decade of Biodiversity by United Nations.

Biological Diversity is the difference between all the living things in the world. But due to many reasons, animals and plants are pushed toward extinction. World leaders are planning many things in order to protect earth’s valued biodiversity.

Focal point: UN Secretary General’s office

The Year of Bats

The Year of Bats The bat is one of the planet’s most misunderstood and mistreated mammals, so United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) together with the Convention of Migratory Species (CMS) has launched a two-year campaign to raise awareness on bats starting from 2011.

There are more than 1,100 bat species around the world. Insectivorous bats eat insects that can harm crops, so it is a friend of the farmers. When these bats decline in number, demands for dangerous pesticides grow, as does the cost of growing crops like rice.

Fruit and nectar-eating bats are equally important in maintaining whole ecosystems of plant life. In fact, their seed dispersal and pollination services are crucial to the regeneration of rain forests which are the lungs and rain makers of our planet.

Some bats must be visiting your garden too. Observe these creatures of the night carefully from a distance when you see them next time.

Focal point: UNEP and CMS

International Year of Chemistry

International Year of Chemistry 2011 is also the International Year of Chemistry. The goals of IYC2011 are to increase the public appreciation of chemistry in meeting world needs, to encourage interest in chemistry among young people, and to generate enthusiasm for the creative future of chemistry.

Chemistry meets the global challenges of clean air, safe water, healthy food, eco-friendly products, renewable energy etc. So even though the Year of Chemistry is not a direct environment theme, this will also touch the environment.

Focal Point: UNESCO

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/110116/FunDay/fut_08.html Published on Junior Section – FundayTimes issued with SundayTimes

 

New lemurs at Dehiwela Zoo

October 3, 2010

The pair of Ring-tailed lemurs in the zoo are so cuddlesome that you’d definitely remember them. They have a spacious, shady cage with a few trees inside. They love to jump around the cage. Did you know this pair of lemurs got some new friends, a few weeks ago..?

Last month, the Dehiwala Zoo received a second pair of Ring-tailed lemurs from United Kingdom’s Rare Species Conservation Centre. Infact these lemurs are friends of the pair of lemurs who came to the Dehiwala Zoo earlier this year. This pair of lemurs had fallen sick at the time they were to be shipped, so had to wait until their veterinary surgeons gave them the ok. They finally arrived in Sri Lanka in September.

Now the group of friends are together and play happily in their cage. They sometimes play hide and seek or chase one another. The zoo keepers have provided a nice hammock for them to spend the night.

Though these lemurs came from the UK, their wild relatives are native to Madagascar. Remember King Julian in the film Madagascar – these lemurs belong to the same family. Lemurs are primates.

Ring-tailed lemurs are the most common lemur species in the world. If you visit the Dehiwala Zoo, don’t
forget to see these lemurs.

published on FundayTimes on 03.10.2010 – http://www.sundaytimes.lk/101003/FunDay/fut_04.html

IYB for Kids: Friends in the ocean

August 25, 2010
 

This is the part 7 of ‘Explore Biodiversity with Kids’ series dedicated to the International Year of Biodiversity. Puncha & Panchi – the curious siblings explore biodiversity around them..

“Look Aiya.. there is somebody similar to Crush, the turtle in the cartoon,” Panchie shouted, seeing a board with a picture of a turtle. Crush was a cartoon character in the film ‘Finding Nemo’, Panchie enjoyed very much.

Puncha too remembered the cartoon. “But are there turtles in these beaches Thaththa..?” Puncha wanted to know. “Do you want to see turtles..?” asked Prof. Uncle who was driving the car. “Yes.. Yes… Please uncle, PLEASE”, brother and sister shouted together. Prof. Uncle stopped the vehicle near a large board with “TURTLE HATCHERY” on it. Puncha and Panchie hurriedly got down.

“This is a turtle hatchery where little turtles are kept for a few days,” explained Thaththa to the kids, showing them a large tank with little turtles swimming around. They had small shells and were afloat, constantly paddling to catch their breath.

“The sea turtle is a reptile and has to come to the surface to breathe air,” said Prof. Uncle. “But they can also stay under water a long time holding its breath”.

A sea turtle hatchling
An adult sea turtle
Turtles arrive at an Arribada nesting site

Panchie had taken a baby turtle in her hand and took a closer look at it. “It is good to release these baby turtles to the sea, but they have to wait a few days in these tanks,” Prof. Uncle said.

“Where is their mother..?” Panchie wondered. “The mother turtle does not stay with its babies Panchie. It comes to a beach at night, digs a hole and lays dozens of eggs. Then the mother covers the eggs using sand and goes back to the sea”, Thaththa explained.

“After a few days the eggs are hatched and the little turtles usually hurry towards the sea. But unfortunately some bad people dig the turtle nest and steal the eggs”. Puncha and Panchie were sad when they heard this and vowed they would never eat turtle eggs.

“Some turtle varieties like the Olive-ridley turtles visit certain beaches during a certain period to lay eggs in thousands. Some of them migrate across long distances to reach the egg laying grounds known as arribadas”.

“Some bad people also kill the adult turtles. Because of these cruel acts, the turtle has become a threatened creature,” explained Prof. Uncle. The poster on the wall near the turtle tanks explained that there are five turtle species visiting Sri Lanka to lay eggs. They are the Green Turtle, Olive Ridley Turtle,
Hawks-bill Turtle, Leather-back Turtle and Loggerhead Turtle.

The poster said that most of these turtles are ‘Endangered’ or ‘Critically Endangered’. “This means that if we do not protect turtles and their habitats, they will all soon vanish from the seas. Do you want that to happen kids..?” asked Prof. Uncle. “No.. No.. WE MUST PROTECT OUR TURTLES,” said both Puncha and Panchie at once.

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100822/FunDay/fut_05.html Published on FundayTimes on 22.08.2010

Biodiversity in the National New Year

April 25, 2010

Puncha and Panchie had visited their village to see Achchie and Seeya for Avurudu. They got a chance to see nature’s Avurudu messengers…

The visit to the village to see Seeya and Achchie is the favourite Avurudu trip for both Puncha and Panchie. After getting the blessings from the elders, the siblings ran to the garden to use the Avurudu onchillawa (swing) tied to a large kadju tree.

Male Asian Koel

Panchie sat on the swing and asked Aiya to give a push. While enjoying the swing, she heard a bird singing a lovely song.

“Khuu.. Khuu… ” Panchie
wondered what bird sang so beautifully.

“Aiyo Panchie, don’t you know even that..? It is a koha – the cuckoo bird which sings to welcome Avurudu. Can’t you remember a pair of them visiting our garden too..?”

“Hmm is it..??” Panchie was still doubtful. Puncha ran to their car to bring his binocular. It had taken a few
minutes for him to spot the bird singing behind a kadju branch.

“There it is..!!” Puncha managed to show the singing koha to Nangi. It was a glossy black bird. “Hmm.. But why are they singing only during the Avurudu season Aiya..?” Panchie asked. Even Puncha was not sure.. Whether the koha is a migratory bird that visits Sri Lanka only during a certain period of time from a different country had puzzled Puncha too.

But luckily Seeya came to his rescue…
“The Koha is a native bird in
Sri Lanka, but this is one of its
breeding seasons. The male koha (Asian Koel) sings to its mate during this Avurudu period to express his care,” explained Seeya.

“But where is his partner..?” Pancha tried to spot the female Koel.
Adjusting the specs, Seeya looked over the kadju tree. “There is the female Koel.” Seeya showed the bird to his grandchildren. The female had spots all over her body which looked different to the male.
“Show me their nest.. Show me.. Seeya,” Panchie was curious.

“Ha..ha.. Panchie, the koha doesn’t build a nest. Instead they lay eggs in the nest of a crow. While the male koha distracts the parent crows, mother koha secretly lays an egg in the crow’s nest. Crow parents feed this stranger, thinking it is their young until it grows big,” Seeya explained. “This is called Brood Parasitism”…

“Hmm.. Brood … what..?” Panchie found it difficult to pronounce.
“Look, the female koha is eating
something,” Puncha was the first, to spot something reddish in Koha’s beak.
“Ahh… ha.. Koha is eating a cashew fruit,” looking through the bino, Puncha said. The fruit looked so tasty.

“Do you also want a fruit ?” asked Seeya while plucking a low-hanging cashew apple. Avurudu period also is the Kadju puhulan season.

Panchi wanted the first bite. “Be careful, it is so juicy and can spoil your clothes,” Seeya warned.
“The seed of all the other fruits are inside, but why is Kadju different..?” The strange look of the Kadju
puhulam puzzled Puncha.

Kadju puhulam

“Infact the kidney-shaped nut is the real seed of the Kadju puhulam. The cashew apple is just a false fruit which is a modified fruit stalk,” showing a tender fruit, Seeya said.

He had taken out a small pen knife and cut the cashew apple into a few pieces. Achchie brought a plate of salt and they start eating the pieces of cashew apple, applying salt.

“Hmm… it is really tasty Seeya,” Panchie wanted another piece. “Do you know it has lots of Vitamin C in it – as much as five times more than in an orange..? When we were young kids, there were lots of Kadju trees”. Seeya told them that eating Kadju was one of their favourite pastimes during the Avurudu season.

“Seeya.. Seeya..

I want to see an Erabadu flower,” Panchie also remembered another messenger of Avurudu.
“Come.. This way…” Seeya had taken both Aiya and Nangi towards the edge of the garden. “Here, this is Erabadu,” said Seeya showing a large tree with a thorny skin. The tree had bright red flowers similar to Tiger’s Claw.

“Erabadu is the real messenger of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year as the flower blooms in this period of time,” Seeya said. “Though it looks a useless tree, Erabadu flowers have nectar that birds like to feed on. Its tender leaves are also made as a curry in the villages.”

“Seeya, why can’t these nature symbols of Avurudu be seen in our area now..?” Panchie was sad she couldn’t get Erabadu or Kadju puhulam in her area.

“Hmm… yeah, Panchie – most of these trees were cut. But Kadju and Erabadu are Nature’s New Year
messengers together with the Asian Koel, so you need to keep in mind that these should be protected…” Taking the hands of Puncha and Panchie, Seeya started walking back to the house.

Published on 25.04.2010 on FundayTimes under 2010 Year of Biodiversity series http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100425/FunDay/fut_06.html

Our National Butterfly

April 8, 2010

Hi Kids…

We all know about Sri Lanka’s National Bird – the Sri Lankan Junglefowl (wali kukula), National Tree – Ironwood (na tree) and National Flower – the Blue Water lily (nil manel). Add one more to that list – we now have a National Butterfly – the Sri Lanka Birdwing.

The Sri Lanka Birdwing is a beautiful butterfly with yellow and black wings. It is also the largest butterfly that lives in our country.

Different varieties of Birdwing butterflies can be seen in other parts of the world, but the Sri Lanka Birdwing scientifically known as Troides darsius is a unique species that can be found only in our country.

Here are the reasons for selecting the Sri Lanka Birdwing as our National Butterfly…

  • Birdwing is the largest butterfly in Sri Lanka.
  • Birdwing is distributed all over the island.
  • Birdwing is endemic to Sri Lanka so can be found only in our country.
  • Birdwing is a beautiful, attractive butterfly that can be easily identified.
  • Birdwing is not a pest that harms crops.
  • Birdwing does not spread any disease.
  • No bad cultural or spiritual beliefs are associated with Birdwing.

Though the Birdwing butterfly was common in our gardens earlier, they have disappeared from some areas because we have cut most of the trees and bushes that the butterflies feed on and lay eggs on.

The Birdwing mother always lays eggs on sap sanda vines, so by planting these you can try to attract Birdwings to your garden again. They also like to feed on nectar in flowers such as Ixora and Pinna – so plant lots of those too. Tell your friends to make their gardens Butterfly-friendly by planting lots of plants that attract butterflies.

Look at the Butterflies around you !

Go out and have a look at the butterflies that visit your garden during this school holiday. You’ll be able to observe different varieties of butterflies – sometimes the Birdwing too if you are lucky. There will be brown butterflies, orange butterflies, white and yellow butterflies with different kinds of patterns on their wings.

They have different names such as Crimson Rose, Common Jezebel, Lemon Emigrant, Common Crow etc. Kids, why don’t you go out, observe these butterflies and draw their pictures..?

You can send them to the Funday Times to share with your friends. We will send your drawings to one of our Butterfly experts and get them identified. We will also present a Butterfly Guide Book for the best drawing…!!

So hurry, go out and observe the butterflies in your garden, and send your drawings to
The Funday Times, by April 30, 2010.

Guide to draw your butterfly…

Step 1:

Go out and spend some time looking at different butterflies that visit your garden. Choose one
variety that you would like to draw.

Observe its shape and patterns on its wing. The wings may have stripes and round shapes that are in different colours. Observe these patterns very carefully (but never touch the butterfly).

Step 2:

Start drawing. A butterfly basically consists of three shapes, a triangle, oval and a cone. So what you need to do is sketch out these shapes and then position them like in Sample 2.

Step 3:

The shapes are a guide and now that you have the basic shape down you can start to add detail. So now what you need to do is erase the lines that overlap like in Sample 3, and using the shapes as a guide you can draw in your own wings and body shapes.

Step 4:

Now erase the guide and add a pattern within the wings like in Sample 6. You need to observe the butterfly first before you start drawing. Pay attention to the shape of the forewings.

Step 5:

It is important to have a clean image before you start to add colour. So you may want to consider drawing around the whole image with a much neater line and erase any unwanted lines or marks, like in Sample 7.

from http://www.howtodrawguide.com

Please send answers to competitions to:Funday Times
C/O the Sunday Times
P.O. Box 1136, Colombo.
Or
8, Hunupitiya Cross Road,
Colombo 2. Sri Lanka.

Please write the name of the competition clearly at the top of your entry and include the following details:

Full Name, Date of Birth, Address, Telephone No. (if any) and School.

Please underline the name most commonly used. All competition entries should be in your own
handwriting and certified by a teacher or parent as your own work.

Closing date for weekly competitions : April 28, 2010

Telephone: 011-2479337 / 2331276

Email: funtimes@sundaytimes.wnl.lk

Published on FundayTimes on 04.04.2010 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/100404/FunDay/fut_05.html

Biodiversity for Kids -> National Icons

February 7, 2010

Sri Lanka’s 62nd Independence Day is celebrated on February 4. Puncha and Panchie are curious about the lion in Sri Lanka’s flag, and also want to know more about our National Flower, National Bird and National Tree…

Father came home early that day, after casting his vote, and was looking for something.

“Amma.. where is our National Flag..?” Father asked.”Check the cupboard,” replied Amma, who was busy making their lunch.

Panchie was curious. “Why are you suddenly looking for the National Flag Thaththa..?”
“Hey, Panchie… We celebrate our Independence Day on February 4th, every year, “Thaththa said, as he found the Flag and unfolded it.

“We should hoist the National Flag at our houses to mark Sri Lanka’s independence which we got in February 1948”, explained Thaththa while dusting the flag. “Why do some people call it the Lion Flag?” Panchie had another question.

“Ah Panchie… It is called the Lion Flag, because there is a lion printed on it,” Puncha who came from nowhere teased Panchie as usual. “A Lion..? I like them, because I heard they are so brave,” said Panchie.

“I’ve seen them on TV. They look beautiful with fur around their head.””Yes, that is called a Mane. But only the male lions have it,” explained Thaththa. “The lion is called the king of the jungle.””Will they catch us if we go to the jungle Thaththa?” Panchie was worried about their Professor Uncle who always went to the jungles to find out more about animals.

Na (Iron wood): Mesua ferrea

“No Panchie, we do not have lions in Sri Lanka. The lion in the flag signifies that we are a proud nation as brave as a lion,” Thaththa clarified.

“The lion was the symbol on the flag of Sri Wickrama Rajasingha – who was Sri Lanka’s last king – and we started using it as our National Flag with a few additions, at the time we got independence,” Thaththa explained.

“The lion also carries a sword to show its bravery,” Puncha added more to the discussion. “Thaththa, our teacher said that we have a National Flower too. Is it true?” Now Puncha was curious.”Yes, the Nil Manel or water lily is our National Flower. It is a bluish, star-shaped flower that grows in lakes. It was named our National Flower in February 1986,” Thaththa said.

Wali Kukula (Sri Lankan Jungle fowl): Galus lafayettii

Wali Kukula (Sri Lankan Jungle fowl): Galus lafayettii

“Remember the flowers we took to the temple to worship Lord Buddha..? That is Nil Manel,” he reminded both kids. Panchie loved the mild fragrance of the Nil Manel flowers. “Nil Manel is a symbol of purity and truth.”

Nil Manel (Water Lily): Nympheae stellata

“We also have a National Bird and a National Tree. Hasn’t the teacher told you about it..?” Amma, also joined their conversation.

“Yes.. yes.. I’ve forgotten,” Puncha now remembered what he had learnt last week at school. “The Na tree (Iron wood) is our National Tree and the Wali kukula (Jungle fowl) is our National Bird,” he was quick to add.

“Very good… Now come here, I will show you a Na tree,” said Amma, showing them the neighbour’s Na tree that could be seen from their kitchen. “Why are some of the leaves different Amma..?” asked Panchie seeing a mix of reddish and greenish leaves.

“Well, Panchie, the tender Na leaves are reddish in colour, but become green when they grow older,” Amma explained. Panchie had also seen the
neighbour’s rooster on the wall.

“Aiya… aiya… there is our National Bird… Come quick,” Panchie shouted.
“No Panchie, that is not a Jungle fowl. It is just a normal domestic rooster. The Jungle fowl lives only near jungles,” Puncha did not tease his sister this time.

“Because it is an endemic bird that can be seen only in Sri Lanka, we call it the Sri Lankan Jungle fowl,” Puncha knew a lot about birds. “I don’t understand Aiya.. that is also a fowl isn’t it?” Panchie was confused.

Puncha brought his school book. “Look Panchie, this is a Jungle fowl. Can you see it has a bright yellow and orange crest on its head, unlike the domestic rooster,” Puncha pointed out.

“But why do we need a National Bird, National Tree or a National Flower, Thaththa..?” Panchie asked.
“Well, most countries have symbols to show their uniqueness. It is also a respect to the unique
biodiversity of each country,” Thaththa said. “For example, the Sri Lankan Jungle fowl is an
endemic bird that can be seen only in our country and the Na tree and Nil Manel are culturally unique to our heritage,” Thaththa clarified.

After dusting the National Flag, Father gave it to Puncha, to be hoisted in readiness for Sri Lanka’s Independence Day.

Planting a tree on January 1, 2010 to commemorate the International Year of Biodiversity

Thivyan Suresh, St. Peter's College, Colombo 4

Claudia Reginald, Good Shepherd Convent, Kotahena

2010 International Year of Biodiversity

December 28, 2009

Say ‘Hi’ to the Year of Biodiversity
[NOTE: this has been done for the Kids section – the FundayTimes]

Kids, we have only 4 more days to welcome 2010. But do you know that it is going to be a very special year..? Yes, you heard it right. Year 2010 is named as the International Year of Biodiversity. Your friends Puncha and Panchie are going to plant a small sapling on January 1 to welcome the Year of Biodiversity. You too can do the same. Write to Funday Times on what you have done to welcome 2010 – the Year of Biodiversity.

It was Christmas. Puncha and Panchie got up early and rushed to their Christmas tree to see what Santa had brought them. To their joy, there were two gifts hanging on the Christmas tree wrapped in bright, shiny papers. They couldn’t wait for Amma and Thaththa, so they jumped and picked up the gifts. “It is a magnifying glass”, shouted Panchie looking at Aiya through her treasured gift. Puncha had taken a longer time to open his gift box. “Mine is a binocular…” Puncha shouted louder than his sister.

Both were joyous about the gifts they received. “Aiya, there is a note attached to my gift,” said Panchie. Searching the bottom of the box, Puncha too found his note. Both notes said “A gift to explore biodiversity around you in 2010, signed by Santa”. “Biodiversity..? What is it Aiya?” questioned Panchie. Even Puncha was not too sure.

“Biodiversity means different kinds of living beings around us.” Both Aiya and Nangie looked back toward the unexpected voice. “Hey..!! You two… MERRY CHRISTMAS..!!” It was their Professor Uncle who came to greet them for Christmas. Puncha and Panchie ran and showed their gifts and the note to their uncle.

“Hmm… Not bad items to explore biodiversity,” said uncle with a wink. “Come let’s go to the
garden”.

He stopped near a line of red ants. “Panchie, take your magnifying glass and look at them closely,” uncle said. “Wow..!! The ants look so big when looked at through the magnifying glass. They are all red and have two antenna on their head.” Panchie observed the ants closely.

Different ants & different birds in the Backyard

“Professor Uncle.. Professor Uncle… There is a different coloured ant. It is all black and goes
slowly,” she shouted excitedly. “Yes, that is what we call diversity. Even among ants you can find that different varieties differ in colour, size or the way they behave. That is part of the
biodiversity,” explained Professor Uncle.

Using his new binoculars, Puncha too started his observations and already spotted four different kinds of birds. “I saw a crow, a yellow bird, a polkichcha and a bird that has a tail like a fish”, said Puncha. “Yes, that is another example of differences between animal species.

Birds differ from ants, but birds among themselves too are different.” Now Puncha and Panchie are getting to know what biodiversity is and they are happy about Santa’s gift. “Do you know that
we – humans too are part of Earth’s biodiversity..?” asked Professor Uncle. Puzzled Puncha and Panchie looked at themselves. “Yes, like there are different varieties of birds, insects, plants and reptiles – we are also part of life on earth belonging to the mammal category, that grow by feeding on milk from their mother.”

2010: Year of Biodiversity

“Do you know that 2010 is called the Year of Biodiversity..?” Professor Uncle explained why Santa would have decided to give these special gifts to Puncha and Panchie.” Because bad people destroy forests and pollute the environment, animals that live in them become homeless and ultimately die. So we need to protect these places and next year is declared as the ‘International Year of Biodiversity’ to start activities to save the places where animals live in.”

“Uncle, can’t we do something to protect biodiversity..?” asked Puncha. “Yes, why not… If each of us does our part, animals will not loose their homes. Hmm… do you really want to do something to protect our biodiversity..?” asked their uncle again. “Yes, yes… We need to do something to welcome the Year of Biodiversity”, shouted both Puncha and Panchie enthusiastically.

Walking to his car, Professor Uncle brought a box full of little plants. “Here, is a little sapling that you can plant on January 1, 2010 to welcome the Year of Biodiversity. This will grow bigger and provide shelter to
butterflies, birds, ants and other insects. It will even give fruits for you to eat. “You can give the
additional plants to your friends or plant in your school”, said Professor uncle.

Both Puncha and Panchie are now waiting until 2010 dawns to plant the sapling to welcome the Year of Biodiversity.

This was published on FundayTimes on 27.12.2009 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/091227/FunDay/fut_04.html

Climate change and Kids at Copenhagen

December 19, 2009

Hi kids, have you heard that our climate is changing..? Yes, it is going to be a very big problem in the future affecting all of us… When it rains in future, it will rain heavily with big thunders, scaring us all… and the times without rain will get lengthier, making all our friendly animals thirsty. 

But do you know how our climate is going to change..? It is because our earth is getting hotter. 

At Copenhagen 'Children's Climate Forum'

 

Sun; the burning hot ball in the sky sends its rays to the earth to heat us. That heat is too much, so the earth sends back the unwanted rays. But because all the gases like carbon dioxide gets collected as a curtain around the earth, more and more heat is trapped in our earth, raising earth’s temperature. 

We call these bad gases Green House gases. Even the ice mountains where penguins and polar bears live will be turned into water, so our sea levels too will rise. Take an ice cube out of the fridge; it will melt in a minute. The same will happen, if the earth’s temperature rises. 

Take a deep breath, hold it and then exhale. Do you know that you too have emitted carbon dioxide to the atmosphere..? But don’t worry; it is not a very big amount. What scientist uncles worry about is smoke that goes out from factories, power plants and vehicles. 

So, world leaders gathered at the city of Kyoto in Japan a few years ago and promised to reduce producing these bad green house gases. But rich countries like USA and Canada did not agree to this, even though they produce these green house gases more than others. 

It is not good to break a promise, but countries could carry out only a few things that they planned. So these scientists and leaders of the world are gathering again at Copenhagen in Denmark these days to discuss what they are going to do to reduce these bad green house gases.

It really is a big conference organized by the United Nations (UN) organization, with 160 countries of the world participating. Presidents and Prime ministers of many countries too will be 

coming to Copenhagen to make their promises. 

Kids around the world gathered last week at the city of Copenhagen to make their promises at the
Children’s Climate Forum. There were 165 kids like you, from 44 countries who participated at this meeting. Do you know that the countries of some of these kids will be badly affected by climate change..? 

Maldives – our neighbouring country consists of little islands.  They will go under water when the sea level goes up. Our friends in Nepal and India will also be in trouble as large ice mountains in the Himalayas turn to water. This change will be good for bad insects like mosquitoes. 

Kids’ wishes – join hands to save the world

So these kids who gathered at Copenhagen signed their wishes and pasted them on a tree for all the leaders to see and make a promise to save the world. Would you like to help slow down global warming together with the kids who met at Copenhagen..? 

Well, you too can do a lot. If you see an unnecessary light, switch it off immediately. Ask your mom to always switch off all the electronic items without keeping them on standby when not in use. 

Turn off the taps too. Plant a tree on your next birthday and look after it. Trees collect carbon dioxide from the air, so it is a great way to remove CO2.

 

Our country too will be affected. But if you do what you can do, together with your friends, you can help to slow the heating of the world. The kids who met at Copenhagen will also tell their friends about this dangerous climate change. So you too should tell your friends and join hands to fight it!! 

Published on FundayTimes on 20.12.2009 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/091220/FunDay/fut_02.html

Junior Zoologists celebrate 10th Anniversary

November 8, 2009

Close-encounter-with-a-pythThe Young Zoologists’ Association’s junior section celebrated its 10th anniversary in October. Junior YZA has been established with the aim of seeding the need to “Protect Nature” in the young minds and carrying out its aims successfully. 

Junior Zoologists meet on Saturdays at the zoo, twice a month. The kids are taught simple facts about the identification of animals and how to appreciate nature around them. There are several field trips to wildernesses, which allow them to have a close encounter with wildlife.

Additionally, Junior YZA is also developing the various skills of these kids. The paintings and sketches done by Junior Zoologists are really commendable.

To celebrate this success, YZA has also printed 5 postcards using illustrations of 5 young artists who emerged as a result of Junior YZA. 

Published on SundayTimes – FundayTimes section on 08.11.2009  http://www.sundaytimes.lk/091108/FunDay/fut_06.html