Archive for the ‘Environmental Events’ Category

Lester presents ‘Brush with birds’

December 1, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191201/plus/lester-presents-brush-with-birds-379757.html Published on SundayTimes on 01.12.2019

Well known wildlife artist and leading naturalist Lester Perera is getting ready for his next exhibition,  ‘Brush with Birds – the frozen moments from the wild’. About 50 paintings using mixed media, pen and ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas would be featured covering raptors, shore birds, forest birds including the birds that are endemic to Sri Lanka.

He uses his brush to capture them on canvas, he smiles and “as a birdwatcher, when I visit the wilds, I do literally ‘brush’ with birds letting my eyes pass through gently observing without disturbing them,” says Lester explaining the exhibition title.

A well known bird artist who has been featured as a guest artist in prestigious international exhibitions held in the UK and France, in 2005, Lester donated some of his paintings to be auctioned at the British Bird Watching Fair in Leicestershire, with the proceeds going to the conservation of birds in the Orient.

‘Brush with Birds’ is Lester’s 10th exhibition in Sri Lanka. He had his last exhibition, ‘Wild in Ruins’ in 2014 on a different theme, painting birds and nature in archaeological sites such as Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Most of the paintings in ‘Wild in Ruins’ were in black and white, but ‘Brush with Birds’ brings birds to life in colour.

“For me, visiting the wilderness is like a visit to a religious place which calms me. I look at every detail and freeze those moments in my mind like someone taking a picture. Even a dead branch has a lot of detail to pay attention to,” he says.

“Brush with Birds” will be at the Harold Peiris gallery of the Lionel Wendt on December 6, 7 and 8 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Entrance is free.

 

Young eyes on nature

November 29, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191124/magazine/young-eyes-on-nature-379123.html published on SundayTimes on 24.11.2019

“Young Eye on Nature” the annual wildlife photography exhibition and “Kin Wild” the annual wildlife arts exhibition by the Young Zoologists Association (YZA) will be held on November 28, 29 and 30 at the J.D.A. Perera Art Gallery, Colombo 7.

‘Kin Wild’ -the exhibition of wildlife paintings and sketches is the longest running wildlife art exhibition in the country. The Young Zoologists Association established the ‘Wildlife Arts’ group in 1989 to assist youth talented in drawing.  YZA held the first wildlife art exhibition in 1990 and since then it has been an annual event.

YZA initiated its wildlife photography exhibition to showcase the talent of its young members who chose photography as a media to capture the beauty of nature long before the digital age of photography. YZA groom the youth who aspire to be wildlife photographers teaching them techniques, while guiding them to take the ethical path. Its members use wildlife photography as a tool to raise awareness among the public on the need to conserve nature.

YZA is conducting Wildlife Art and Wildlife Photography classes every Sunday at the National Zoological Gardens, Dehiwala. The best art and photographs by its members chosen through a selection process will be showcased at these exhibitions.

Entrance is free for these exhibitions.

 

 

From jungles to the city: Lankan wilds in perfect symphony

November 26, 2019

“Wildlife photography shouldn’t be about the ego that is attached to it. It isn’t about the equipment we use, or how many more animals we see compared to others. It is about our connection with nature” – these words truly echo through the pages of ‘Symphony of Serendib’ – the coffeetable book to be launched by wildlife photographer Erich Joseph.

Erich Joseph

“Symphony of Serendib” is Erich’s first book and will be launched at his maiden photography exhibition to be held from November 29 to December 1 at the Harold Peiris Gallery of the Lionel Wendt. Erich who works in the IT field always felt the urge to explore nature and capture its unique moments in his spare time. He bought his first camera in 2007 and his first DSLR camera in 2010 when he began taking his photography seriously.

The book contains over 200 pages that feature not only a wide array of animals, but also some breathtaking scenes of different wildernesses across Sri Lanka. He has a particular passion for birds, tuskers and leopards, but these attractive animals are interspersed with species like frogs, mantises, spiders, lizards, insects and other creatures that are often overlooked. Like a master musician who has skills to build his symphony over little things, Erich captures these usually non-charismatic animals from different angles giving the viewer fresh perspectives. A common bird like the Red-vented Bulbul looks like a ballet dancer performing in the rain to his symphony. Of note are his photos of the elusive leopard in Horton Plains and many rare migratory birds – even from the city of Colombo.

The Symphony of Serendib follows a geographical trail starting from the central hills  mainly featuring Horton Plains and then moving down to Haputale, Ella to the Sinharaja rainforest. He then showcases photographs taken in Uda Walawe, and moves to Galgamuwa, Kalawewa, Wilpattu and Yala.

Writing the foreword of the book, veteran wildlife photographer Namal Kamalgoda states that the cross-section of images from the highest regions of our country down to the coast, showcasing the diversity in location and subjects is remarkable. There is also a refreshing array of landscapes, often ignored by wildlife photographers, but Erich has the eye not to miss them. “One of my favourite images is of the Ghost Crabs, like a wall of aliens. Even a shrew and a mouse have been represented in the book and there are lot more ‘small stuff’ like this to enjoy,” Kamalgoda writes.

The innocent eyes of a leopard cub

In his book, Erich shares the painstaking efforts and sometimes disappointments he had to bear in capturing these unique photographs.

There is sadness to his symphony as a number of his favourite tuskers that he photographed had been killed and their memories are restricted to photographs.

The book contains several black and white photographs particularly featuring leopards and elephants. “Black and white can bring an artistic touch, giving character to otherwise a pretty ordinary photograph,” says Erich.

The coffee table book ‘Symphony of Serendib’ is priced at 8,500 but visitors to the exhibition can purchase it for the special price of Rs.6,000.

The Symphony of Serendib exhibition is open to all.

Ghost Crabs, like a wall of aliens – Chundikulam beach

 A mossy labyrinth – Horton Plains National Park

Comb ducks in Colombo

Elephants in Kalawewa – Black & White adds an artistic blend  

Lanka’s biodiversity a global heritage: Asia-Pacific scientists urge Govt. to intensify conservation efforts

October 8, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190922/news/lankas-biodiversity-a-global-heritage-asia-pacific-scientists-urge-govt-to-intensify-conservation-efforts-369502.html published on SundayTimes on 22.09.2019 

Tropical biologists and conservation scientists representing 29 countries have appealed to the Sri Lankan government to redouble its efforts to protect the country’s unique biodiversity which they describe as a global heritage.

Prof. Nimal Gunatilleke

The tropical biologists and scientists were in Sri Lanka to attend the four-day global forum of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation Asia-Pacific (ATBC-AP).

Sri Lanka is home to more than 8,600 plant and animal species, of which more than 1,600 are endemic to the island.

In their appeal, the experts call for the setting up of ecological corridors to link fragmented biodiversity-rich habitats, especially in Sri Lanka’s wet zone, the incorporation of the valuation of ecosystem services into Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and increased efforts to conserve the biodiversity in the Mannar region.

About 350 participants from 29 countries attended Conference held at the MAS Athena complex in Thulhiriya from September 10 to 13. Their appeal and recommendations were included in a end-of-summit communiqué which they called the Thulhiriya Declaration.

Established in 1963, the ATBC is one of the largest international scientific and professional organisations engaged in promoting research, education, capacity building and communication regarding the world’s tropical ecosystems. ATBC’s Asia Pacific Chapter was established in 2007 and the Thulhiriya conference was their 12th annual gathering.

The conference was inaugurated by President Maithripala Sirisena by planting an Atamba (Wild Mango) tree at the MAS Athena premises.
Addressing the gathering, the President said the tropical countries like Sri Lanka faced an imminent threat to biodiversity in the face of climate change, accelerated development efforts and population growth. He said it was important that scientists find ways address the problems by striking a balance.

The event’s co-chair, Dr. Sampath Seneviratne, justifying the decision to invite a political leader to inaugurate a conference on science, said: “We can discuss science within our own academic circles, but we need to take this knowledge beyond these walls toward policy level to make a real impact on conservation. That is one of the main reasons of getting the president of the country to inaugurate the ATBC-AP conference.”

To sustain the momentum of the conference, the organisers established the Sri Lanka Ecological Association (SLEA), a professional body, with the aim of providing advisory services to the Sri Lankan Government, the private sector and other stakeholders.

Adding some diplomatic lifelines to the science forum were French ambassador Eric Lavertu and Indian High Commission diplomat Sanjana Arya.

ATBC global President Dr. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz

During the three-day conference, about 30 symposia were conducted through five parallel sessions where as many as 200 papers were presented.

Seven eminent local and international scientists delivered keynote addresses.

Before the conference was convened, several workshops covering technical subjects were conducted followed by research-oriented field tours.

ATBC-AP chairperson Dr. Enoka Kudawidanage said the conference offered opportunities for scientists and practitioners to gain new insights and knowledge while acquiring skills to contribute towards capacity building within the Asia-Pacific region.

“As there were foreign scientists with number of them eminent experts in their fields, the event had been particularly an opportunity for participants to get networking, collaboration and learning” said Dr. Kudawidanage, who was also elected as the Secretary of the ATBC-AP chapter for the coming year.

Professor Nimal Gunatilleke, the co-chair of the Scientific Committee of the conference, said Sri Lanka and India’s Western Ghatts were collectively considered as one of the global biodiversity hotspots, and therefore, the collaborative opportunities the event created were enormous.

India was represented by a contingent of about 60 scientists.

ATBC-AP chairperson Dr. Enoka Kudawidanage

The tropical region is the area near the equator and between the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere. The tropics comprise 40 percent of the Earth’s surface area; but have diverse habitats ranging from rainforests to deserts and from savannahs to mangroves. With most biodiversity hotspots spread in the area, the tropical zone is home to 80 percent of the earth’s species. But with India and China making up a part of the tropical regions, it is expected that the two countries would harbour half of the human population by 2030 causing huge pressure on natural ecosystems.

The conference became a forum for local researchers to meet experts from the Asia and Pacific region. Dr. Kanishka Ukuwela, who conducted a research on skinks in Sri Lanka, met an Indian scientist who is researching on skinks of India. “In this age of communication, we could collaborate through different means of technology – but it is not like sharing the research interests talking on a live chat face to face,” said Dr. Ukuwela after having a friendly skinky chat with his Indian counterparts.

ATBC global President Dr. Ahimsa Campos-Arceiz of the University of Nottingham told the Sunday Times that ATBC-AP were happy to be here in Sri Lanka, pointing out that there was a good diversity of delegates from different institutes and disciplines.

“Sri Lanka has a big role in tropical ecology and produced some of the eminent researchers such as Prof. Savithri Gunathilleke,” he said.

In 2016, Prof. Savithri Gunathilleke was honored as an ATBC Honorary Fellow – an award given to researchers who have provided life-long distinguished service to science and tropical biology.

Snake specialist charmed by the attention

October 1, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190915/news/snake-specialist-charmed-by-the-attention-368310.html published on SundayTimes on 15.09.2019 

Dr. Anslem de Silva has been honored as the ‘Father of Modern Herpetology in Sri Lanka’ at a global gathering of scientists studying tropical biodiversity. The one-time magician has generated more than 450 publications during 50 years and inspired almost all the next generation herpetologists of the country.

Dr. de Silva was felicitated on September 12 by the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s Asia-Pacific held at MAS Athena premises at Thulhiriya from September 10-13. “I was a magician before becoming a herpetologist,” Dr de Silva revealed.

Most Sri Lankans know him as the leading herpetologist studying reptiles – snakes, crocodiles, and lizards. He has also won a number of magic contests and even published 22 papers on magic. His first paper had been published in an international journal in the United States.

0-Anslem-performing-indian-rope-trick-at-felicitation-ceremony-2-c-Madhava-Botheju-

The former magician turned herpetologist performing an act at his felicitation ceremony. Pic by Madhava Botheju

“At young age, I was a big romeo become an expert on magic” said Dr.Anslem de Silva

“My dad used to show a few tricks to me when I was a kid. That made me interested in becoming a magician. I used to practice magic at school and sometimes visited other schools to perform – specially the girls’ schools. When I was young, I was a big Romeo,” Dr de Silva said.

Tricks such as bottle balancing, lifting a chair with the mouth, and fire juggling are some things he was at first good at, but he learned more. “I later became a leading magician in the country winning two national awards. I had two massive evening shows. Performing from Matara to Jaffna and I was very popular in Jaffna,” Dr de Silva added.

He later became interested in snakes.

While studying at Matara St.Servatius College, he once rescued a rat snake that had suffered at the hands of senior students. “I just grabbed it and threw it into a thicket. I wasn’t scared, and the snake didn’t bite me. After that, I reared a few non-poisonous snakes, a baby saltwater crocodile, and a few sea turtles,” Dr de Silva said. In the evenings, he would go in search of geckos and villagers started calling him ‘Hoony Mahaththaya’ (Mr Gecko).

At the age of 17 years, he got a copy of the “Snakes of Ceylon” written by then expert Frank Wall. He still considers this as a definitive guide. “Our house was in the Fort premises of Matara where the famous ‘Pacha gaha’ stood near the courts where a lot of snake charmers gathered. I used to watch them handling snakes and used to talk with them to get more information.’’

He became one of the leading figures in the field of conservation of amphibians and reptiles of the country engaging in some pioneering work. Dr de Silva was the founder president (1990) of the Amphibia and Reptile Research Organisation of Sri Lanka (ARROS) an NGO dedicated to conserving the amphibians, reptiles. and their habitats. His contributions towards the conservation of amphibians was instrumental in him being nominated as the chairman for Declining Amphibian Populations Task Force, World Conservation Union (IUCN) for Sri Lanka and he is the current co-chairman of the Amphibian Specialist Group of the World Conservation Union.

He also made a significant contribution towards creating public awareness of reptiles and amphibians by publishing the first series of posters illustrated with colour photographs in 1990 and 2001.

At the event, the organizer, Dr Ruchira Somaweera who is now in Australia recalled how he entered the field of herpetology. “One day I saw the poster ‘Snakes of Sri Lanka’ by Anslem de Silva. This made me visit him and he gave me a magazine in which he wrote, ‘may this inspire you to be a herpetologist’. That spark created a hobby. That hobby created passion and that passion made me work in herpetology as a job. And now that has become a lifestyle,” said Dr Somaweera honoring his guru.

Both young and senior herpetologists shared similar stories at the felicitation, but Dr de Silva accepts tributes with humility, saying “I’m really wondering whether I did all these funny things for you”.

He worries that Sri Lanka’s snake population is declining. “When I was a young kid, I used to see lot of snakes, but not now. Even road kills are becoming less. There is a massive decline of reptiles of the country. Habitat destruction is the main reason,” Dr de Silva said.

Though closer to 80 years, he continues field work and conservation efforts. He said he is happy that his son Panduka de Silva who works as a naturalist, is also involved in crocodile conservation. Panduka had done a study of some locations of Andaman islands where crocodiles became a problem.

Anslemi the gecko named after guru  
Geckos received much attention in the past few weeks since researcher Sameera Karunarathna and his team named six new geckos after past warriors stirring controversy. In parliament lawmaker Wimal Weerawansa called it disgraceful. 

But the same researchers named another gecko new to science found in the foothills of Peak Wilderness forest Cnemaspis anslemi. This was a discovery by researchers Sameera Karunarathna and Kanishka Ukuwela. They timed the publication of the findings to the event honouring Dr de Silva. 

“Anslem is my inspiration and I wanted to be an ‘Anslem’” said Dr Ukuwela, “So we wanted to name our new find after our guru.’’ Mr Karunarathne first read about Dr de Silva during the time he was studying for his Ordinary Levels in 1995. He first wrote to Dr des Silva after reading an article in the Vidusara newspaper about a book on snakes by Anslem de Silva and there was an address. He was thrilled to get a reply in a few days with a number of posters and few other publications signed by Dr de Silva. “It was like a letter from the American president. The letter was signed and I still have it,” said Mr Karunarathna.

“I’m really honored to have a gecko named after me and I congratulate the researchers,” Dr de Silva said, graciously. 

 

Need of using innovation in wildlife conservation stressed

September 19, 2019

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190915/news/snake-specialist-charmed-by-the-attention-368310.html  Published on SundayTimes on 15.09.2019

WildLanka is the annual symposium of the Department of Wildlife Conservation that brings together wildlife researchers and administrators of the country. All keynote speeches were delivered by experts from other fields – one was an ICT expert, while the other two are engineers.

Chandana Sooriyabandara – the DG of Wildlife

DWC head Chandana Sooriyabandara at the symposium

Innovative solutions devised collectively by experts are needed to address wildlife challenges, was the message that emerged from speeches at a symposium on ‘Innovation for Conservation’, held at Waters Edge from September 2-3.

The first speech was delivered by the group chief information officer and the center head for Virtusa Sri Lanka, Madu Ratnayake.

“When we say innovation, often the technological innovation comes into our mind. But there can be innovation in other means that can help to achieve conservation successes. The way we work, methods, work process are some of the areas that can be improved by innovation,” he said.

Delivering the keynote address on “Using Technology in protecting wildlife and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts,’’ Mr Heminda Jayaweera, the chief operating officer of the Sri Lanka Institute of Nanotechnology, stressed the importance of identifying the issue before providing a solution.

The engineer said that innovative solutions can emerge from the collective efforts of experts from different fields.

The Minister of Wildlife and Tourism, Mr John Amaratunge was chief guest of the WildLanka symposium.

“Through WildLanka, the department aims to encourage research on wildlife, which is required in taking management decisions in conservation. More importantly, we want to improve the research capability of the department itself, while encouraging wildlife officers to carry out more research on relevant fields,’’ said Chandana Sooriyabandara, the director general of DWC.

Held for the sixth year, WildLanka 2019 witnessed 46 research papers. Twenty of these were presented by wildlife officers of the DWC and the rest by researchers at universities and other institutions. The presentations were judged by experts and recognised at the end of symposium.

The research papers based on presentations made at the symposium are published in WildLanka, the journal of the department. The DWC has been publishing this quarterly science journal since 2006. The symposium is its annual event.

“WildLanka is a peer-reviewed journal where the papers are assessed for accuracy and quality by an editorial panel of experts. Experts from India, Malaysia and the US are also part of the WildLanka editorial board,” said Chief Editor, Ms Nilanthi Rajapakse.

There has been a gradual increase in the contribution of research papers to the WildLanka journal and it is encouraging, she said. For example, over 75 papers were presented at the symposium, whereas only 46 was selected, Ms Rajapakse, said.

A deputy director of DWC, Ranjan Marasinghe, said the department also tries to use technology in conservation and management
The DWC introduced the SMART (Spatial Monitoring And Reporting Tool) patrolling in a number of national parks to measure, evaluate and improve the effectiveness of wildlife law enforcement patrols and site-based conservation. SMART helps the patrolling groups to collect field data.

Technology tools for wildlife research
 The three-day symposium of Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s Asia-Pacific chapter (ATBC-AP) held this week involving about 400 scientists (with half of them foreign) working on tropical biodiversity also demonstrated instances of using innovative methods in wildlife study.Lakimini Abeywardhana, who studied IT and is doing post-graduate studies at University of Colombo, presented her research developing an application to identify tiger beetles. This is a rare groups of bugs and this illustrates how experts from different fields can assist wildlife research.

“This was started towards the end of 2017. Not having images due to their endemicity and rareness has been an issue and I’m now trying to increase the accuracy of the app with limited images,” she said.

Tharaka Kusuminda, a doctoral student at University of Ruhuna illustrated how he used sound to identify the bat species, the painted bat.

“Bats use ultrasound to find their pathway and food and these are out of our hearing range. To be sure whether a particular species of bat is in an area, rigorous observation has to be done. Sometimes, you need to catch one. But I identified the frequency of the painted bat and now we could record the sound and by analysing, we could find out the presence of painted bats,’’ Mr Kusuminda said.

Catharina Karlsson, a researcher of frogs, shared information about innovative identifying devices she used for her doctoral study at Malaysia’s Kinabalu Park.

“There are about 15 species of frog in the study, but they are so tiny and usually hidden under logs and so on. But each species has a unique sound, so I developed a device to record the sound. Its analysis helped to identify the frog,” said Ms Karlsson. “It was not easy. The devices failed initially, but with the assistance of my father in assembling the electronic devices properly, I could gain the results,” she said.

Watch video on Catharina Karlsson’s study through following link.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-o33wtcTmQ

Environmentalists, conservationists gather for tropical biodiversity conference in Sri Lanka

September 19, 2019

The 12th Asia-Pacific Chapter Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) got underway yesterday (Sept 10) at MAS Athena in Thulhiriya. Published on SundayTimes Online on 11.09.2010 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/article/1102195/environmentalists-conservationists-gather-for-tropical-biodiversity-conference-in-sri-lanka


By Malaka Rodrigo

The 12th Asia-Pacific Chapter Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC) got underway yesterday (Sept 10) at MAS Athena in Thulhiriya. The conference which was inaugurated by the President will go on till September 13. President Sirisen opened the sessions with the planting an Atamba (wild mango) tree.

ATBC is one of the largest international scientific and professional organizations engaged in promoting research, education, capacity building and communication regarding the world’s tropical ecosystems.  The Asia Pacific Chapter was established in 2007.

The tropical region is the area near the equator and between the Tropic of Cancer in the northern hemisphere and the Tropic of Capricorn in the southern hemisphere.

The tropics comprise 40% of the Earth’s surface area; but has diverse habitats ranging from rainforests to deserts and from savannahs to mangroves. With the majority of biodiversity hotspots spread in the area, the tropical zone is home to 80% of species that live on earth.

With India and China making up a part of the tropical regions it is expected that it would harbor half of the human population in the world by 2030.

“This indicates that the problems faced by the environment and wild animals as well as plants would be enormous. Science has the answers on how to sustain life, so this is an important summit for Sri Lanka,” said Country representative of ATBCAP, Dr.Enoka Kudawidanage.

The theme ATBC-AP 2019 is “Bridging the Elements of Biodiversity Conservation: Save–Study –Use” which is in line with the global, regional and local agendas for the conservation of natural resources accompanied by sustainable development.

Reiterating the significance of this gathering, the co-chair of the Scientific Committee of the conference, Emeritus Professor Nimal Gunatilleke said that, “This timely meeting of over 300 international and local scientists and other stakeholders is being held in Sri Lanka at a time when the international community is trying to find new strategies to sustain life on this planet.”

The Chairperson of the Conference, Dr. Enoka Kudavidanage is confident that, “this conference creates a platform for local and international scientists, as well as conservation practitioners, to network and initiate collaboration while sharing their findings at a global forum.”

She went on to say that twenty-six symposia with over 200 oral and poster presentations are being made by the participants on a wide range of topics aimed at bridging the elements of biodiversity conservation.

While university students and researchers are also taking part in this conference  Co-chair of the Conference, Dr.Sampath Senerathne said the conference was an important opportunity for such groups to learn and network with experts from different parts of the world.

While seven eminent national and international scientists are due to present keynote and plenary presentations during this four-day international conference, several workshops covering technical subjects were conducted before the conference and will be followed by research-oriented field tours.

The wholesome experience creates opportunities for scientists and practitioners to gain new insights and knowledge while acquiring skills to contribute towards capacity building within the Asia-Pacific region.

International scientists to meet in Lanka on tropics crisis

June 29, 2019

International scientists will meet in Sri Lanka in September to discuss saving life forms in the tropics, where 80 per cent of all species live and where the greatest threats to biodiversity lie. Published on SundayTimes on 16.06.2019 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190616/news/international-scientists-to-meet-in-lanka-on-tropics-crisis-353692.html 

Tropical region is home to diverse habitats (c) Ruchira Somaweera

“About 200 world-renowned scientists are expected to participate in this conference, organised by the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)’s Asia-Pacific Chapter,” Dr. Enoka Kudavidanage, conference chair and ATBC country representative said.

Discussions will take place with a heightened sense of urgency as a key United Nations study predicts that 1 million species risk extinction.

“The bonds that hold Nature together may be at risk of unravelling from deforestation, overfishing, development and other human activities,” National Geographic stated, reporting on the results of the UN Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services issued in May.

The tropics, which encompass 40 per cent of the Earth’s surface area, has diverse habitats ranging from rainforests to deserts, savannah to mangroves that are threatened by deforestation, overfishing, poaching, climate change, pollution and invasive alien species.

The knowledge aired at the conference would help scientists dealing with biodiversity problems in Sri Lanka, conference co-chair, Dr. Sampath Seneviratne of the University of Colombo, said.

The event would be a good opportunity to put Sri Lanka at the “focal point of conservation science at this important juncture”, said Professor Savitri Gunatilleke, Emeritus Professor at the University of Peradeniya.

Dr. Gunatilleke, who was awarded Honorary Fellowship of the ATBC in 2016, the first Sri Lankan to be honoured thus, pointed out that this country had a number of “renowned conservation scientists and many young researchers who aspire to be successful scientists of tropical biodiversity”.

The ATBC conference, the first of its kind to be held in Sri Lanka, will take place at MAS Athena, Thulhiriya from September 10-13. Visit http://atbcap2019.org/index.html for details.

Founded in 1963, the ATBC is the world’s largest and oldest academic society dedicated to the study and conservation of tropical ecosystems. As many as 65 countries are involved in its activities.

Meanwhile the much-hyped World Wildlife Conference (CITES COP18) has been postponed to October pending security clearance following the Easter Sunday bomb attacks.

Authorities hope this conference, which hundreds of foreign scientists are expected to attend, will boost the tourism industry which was devastated by the bombings, carried out by Islamic militants in churches and hotels on April 21.

Most of the earth’s biodiversity hotspots are in tropical region

Earth Day – Every single individual matters

April 22, 2018
#Earth_Day: Today – 22nd of April- is the ‘EARTH DAY’. Have you noticed the popular search engine Google had following as its GoogleDoodle today..? Visit the link to read Earth Day message by leading primatologist Dr.Jane Goodall.
“Every single individual matters. Every single individual make some impact on the planet on every single day and we have a choice what kind of difference we are going to make” Let’s all hear Dr.Goodale’s Earth Day call to live all our lives in better harmony with nature..!!

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

Stitching together a love for needlework and the wilds

December 4, 2016

The joy of needlework as a hobby never left Samanthi Gamage. She also loves wildlife and so she began stitching images of birds, bears, trees and much more. Samanthi will now showcase her work at ‘Sonduru Soba’, an exhibition at the Lionel Wendt Gallery on December 10 and 11.

Samanthi is the wife of Rajika Gamage who has done several guide books on Birds and Butterflies. With the assistance of her husband, Samanthi previously held an exhibition named ‘Siyoth Ru’ on 2009 and 2012. Birds were the main subject of this exhibition, but ‘Sonduru Soba’ will contain needlework featuring other wildlife as well.

Needle painting also known as thread painting or painting with a needle, is a hand embroidery technique blending long and short stitches to create realistic images on cloth. Samanthi works mainly on ‘Amu redi’ and first makes a sketch of the picture and background. She says it is mostly a family affair with Rajika helping to draw the images on the cloth and her sons – Sakuna and Vihanga assisting in different ways.

photo-2

1-elephant

3-velvet-fronted-nuthatch

Published on SundayTimes 2 on 04.12.2016 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/161204/sunday-times-2/stitching-together-a-love-for-needlework-and-the-wilds-218911.html 

A Thought for World Environment Day 2016…!!

June 5, 2016

Today, 5th of June is the World Environment Day 2016. I had a little field visit to the neighborhood land in the morning with my little ‘birding companion’ to feel the nature to celebrate the day. The land was full of grass that still holds silvery morning dew. As we walked in, grasshoppers that disturbed by our foot movements jumped out on different directions. Butterflies were seeing flying from one wild flower to another in search of nectar. A lonely lizard basking the rays of morning sun was watchful, but did not make a move by our presence. My little daughter was excited as many of these things in the nature were new to her. She had quickly find friendship with mimosa (නිදිකුම්බා) shrubs found plenty in the land. She started enjoying kicking mimosa shrubs one after another watching joyously how the leaves go to sleep by her touch. She also liked its flower and plucked few, showing me her priced collection.

‘Nature’ is indeed a wonderful thing, but we often ignore the beauty of its little things still survive around us. Hope my little daughter and all the kids in the world would get more chances to experience the joy of nature and they will not destroy nature, but protect it when they grow up. This is my World Environment Day wish..!!

2016 WED - showing the flower 2 2016, WED - plucking nidikumba flower 1 2016, WED - plucking nidikumba flower 3

Celebrating Biodiversity with කොස් කොත්තු & පොළොස් කට්ලට්

May 24, 2015

The world celebrates International Day for Biological Diversity each year on 22nd of May. In Sri Lanka atleast 3 events were held to mark this important day paying attention to the Earth’s Biological Diversity.

The main event was organized by the Ministry of Environment (Biodiversity secretariat) and Ministry of Agriculture commissioning a food outlet ‘Hela Bojun’ that promotes food made out of healthy ingredients closer to nature. The president of Sri Lanka, Mr.Maithripala Sirisena inaugurated the ‘Hela Bojun’ outlet. කොස් කොත්තු (Kos Kottu) – kottu made of Jack, පොළොස් කට්ලට් (Polos Cutlet), samabala rotti – balanced rotti are some of the interesting food items being served at ‘Hela Bojun’ which will be open for the public.

A lecture on ‘Biodiversity and Development’ and ‘Biodiversity and Foods’ too were delivered by prominent experts in the field. Minister of Agriculture and other senior officers of the department were among those present.

Later, the website of Sri Lanka UN REDD – http://www.redd.lk. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) is an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.

The Business and Biodiversity Platform with the assistance of Dilmah Conservation organized a lecture on the theme “Biodiversity Imperative” on the evening of the Biodiversity Day. The Young Zoologists Association (YZA) based at zoo also conducted 3 day awareness session on Biodiversity to mark the special day.

BioDiv Day - Aturaliye Rathana Thero BioDiv Day - from Dr.Siril's talk bioDiv Day - Kos Kottu BioDiv Day - Polos Cutlet 1. Launching of REDD website - LOW RES 2. Minister launching the REDD Web.- LOW RES 4. audience 5

More on the International Day on Biological Diversity, visit this link https://www.cbd.int/idb/

 

‘Birding with the 3rd eye’

January 24, 2015

“Birds’ welfare comes first” is the message of the FOGSL photography exhibition. This article has been published on SundayTimes on 07.12.2014 – http://www.sundaytimes.lk/141207/plus/birding-with-the-3rd-eye-130738.html

Dushantha Wasala’s photograph “The Battlefield” showing a mid-air fight of Malabar Pied Hornbills was the overall winner of the “Birding with the 3rd Eye” exhibition. Sandaruwan Abayaratne, S.N.P. Rodrigo, Dr. Gihan Rajeev and Dr. Sudheera Bandara won first prize in the categories Bird portrait, Bird behaviour, Endemic and Rare Birds and Birds in Crisis respectively.

‘Mid-air Battle’ – the overall winner

 

Today is the final day of the exhibition being held at the University of Colombo with the aim of reminding nature lovers that the birds’ welfare should come first and that the ethical photographer can explore a great deal of birdlife – undisturbed.

The exhibition contains 150 photographs selected from the competition held recently. Nearly 100 photographers submitted close to 500 bird photographs and an independent panel of judges – wildlife photographers – Kithsiri Gunawardane, Mendis Wickremasinghe and Isuru Udana de Zoysa selected the winners.

“It is good to see people are getting more and more interested on nature, but at the same time the same excitement should not disturb nature. Our main aim is to raise awareness that the animal’s welfare should come first,” said Dr. Sampath Seneviratne of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) that coordinated the exhibition.

Photographers always try to go close to the birds to take their photos. But it is important to keep a safe distance. If the animal shows signs of distress, then you should stop disturbing it. You also need to be patient – never force an action. The most beautiful photographs result from natural action,” Dr. Seneviratne added.

Nest photography is another area that photographers need to be careful about. Never encroach on nests as certain species will abandon the young. Some birds select a safer place that is hidden from the predators, but if you remove foliage to get a good shot, you could be exposing the nest.

So educate yourselves by learning about birds that will allow you to take a good bird photograph without disturbing them, appeals the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka.

Veteran Herpetologist and expert wildlife photographer Mendis Wickremasinghe says the competition is unique as it has different categories helping to recognise different aspects of bird photography. The competitors could submit the photos under categories such as Bird portrait, Bird behaviour, Endemic and Rare Birds, Birds in Crisis. “If these are judged under the same category, it is natural that a Bird Behaviour photo emerge the winner. But in this format, even a portrait kind of photo is recognised,” he explained.

With the experience of judging the photos, Mendis said there were lots photos submitted for Bird Portrait and Behaviours; but very few for categories such as ‘Birds in Crisis’ and ‘Birds Habitats’. “It looks like photographers have not properly understood these categories, meaning their attention is mainly on taking a photograph. But these are categories photographers can contribute toward conservation through educating others through their photos,” Mendis added.

[The Birding with the 3rd Eye exhibition and the P.B. Karunaratne Bird Exhibition has been held on December, 2014 at the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo]

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Overall winner gets the prize from Mrs.P.B.Karunaratne.

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I spy with my little eye a bird!

January 24, 2015

‘Wild in Ruins’, Lester Perera’s exhibition celebrates both wildlife and archaeological sites. This article was published on 31st of August 2014. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140831/plus/i-spy-with-my-little-eye-a-bird-115448.html

Well known wildlife artist and leading naturalist Lester Perera is ready with his next exhibition of wildlife art under the theme ‘Wild in Ruins’. Among the colourful paintings of birds using watercolours and acrylics, the exhibition contains black and white ‘ink and pen’ drawings. At a glance, they seem to showcase archaeological sites in Sri Lanka, but a closer look will reveal the birds that perfectly blend into the ruins. There are kingfishers perched on top of ancient korawakkgala, the owl in wata da geya, an Indian Pitta in the ruins of Polonnaruwa- hence the theme ‘Wild in Ruins’. Lester says he wanted to promote birding in Heritage Sites through this exhibition while also highlighting the importance to step up conservation of Sri Lanka’s wildlife, before human activities ruin them. In a colour sketch the artist has shades of different colour to bring life to a painting, but in black and white, the artist has to use different shades of the same colour to give depth to the drawing, which needs lots of patience and skill. “Drawing wildlife in black and white is more difficult, but I enjoy it. It is like a meditation that brings me enormous personal pleasure,” Lester says. This is Lester’s 8th exhibition of wildlife art. With almost 30 years’ experience as a birdwatcher, Lester is undeniably one of the most accomplished bird artists in the region. He has exhibited his work at many international exhibitions and was invited by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds for “Art on the wing” 2005 to exhibit his work along with the leading wildlife artists in Europe at the Maclaurin Gallery in Scotland.

He annually donates his work to the Oriental Bird Club of the UK to be auctioned at the British Bird Watching Fair held in Leicestershire, the proceeds of which are used for significant bird related conservation work in the Orient. “I’m already framed as a ‘Bird Artist’, but I also wanted to prove I’m versatile and I can take up the challenge of drawing other things,” says Lester explaining why he has chosen to focus more on habitats this time – particularly archaeological sites. As a renowned naturalist, Lester points out that people need to enjoy nature as a whole when they go out into the wild. “Other than birds, leopards or elephants – there are so many things to observe when people go out into a forest. Simple things such as the fallen leaves on the forest floor in different stages of decay can be something unique to explore,” added Lester, who is critical of the behaviour of visitors to wildlife parks who chase behind animals like leopards in a crazy effort to photograph them. It is not easy to become a wildlife artist in Sri Lanka as there is very little assistance from the state and no proper government run Art Gallery that can be used by the budding artists to showcase their talents, points out Lester who feels it is high time the State played a more active role in fostering the arts. “Wild in Ruins” will be at the Harold Peiris gallery of the Lionel Wendt on September 6 and 7  of 2014 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wild in Ruin - Indian Pitta (Black & White) Wild in Ruin - Owl (in Black & White) Wild in Ruin - A kingfisher (Black & White)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Instead of Erabadu; Pink Trumpet unfolds petals for New Year

April 13, 2014

Erabudu is the flower of the Avurudu season but you will hardly be able to find erabadu these days. Instead, rosy trumpet (tabebuia) flowers bloom, marking the onset of the New Year season. (photos by Susantha Udagedara) 

This is the famous sakura flower season in Japan with thousands of cherry trees in full bloom. The cherry trees shed their leaves in winter and in spring become fully covered by white or pink blooms, making a spectacular show of nature.

In a similar spectacle, a pink flower started blooming in many parts of Sri Lanka two weeks ago — the blooms of the rosy trumpet, Tabebuia rosea, colloquially known as rabarosia.

Tabebuia usually blooms in February-March; but this time the trees were in full bloom in the last week of March, marking the onset of the Aluth Avurudda. The full bloom is over now, and the trees have fresh greenish tender leaves, but a few flowers can still be seen.
Tabebuia is native to South America and was brought to Sri Lanka as an exotic plant for the Royal Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya in the 1800s.

The Japanese plant sakura trees close to one another so that when they bloom they make a spectacular scene. Our urban planners can think about using the 30-foot tall tabebuia trees in a similar manner. Like sakura, the falling tabebuia flowers make a spectacular scene — the ground under the trees becomes pink with fallen flowers, making it a treat for the eyes. Street sweepers might not like it!
The recent sporadic rains brought flowers to ehela trees and some mara trees that start blooming as Avurudda approaches. But sadly, erabudu – the traditional sign of the season – seems to be vanishing.

Erabudu is the Indian coral tree (Erythrina variegate) and its bright red flower (inflorescence) that resembles a tiger claw blooms from February to April, coinciding with the Avurudu season. Erabudu trees have thorns and grow straight, making them a perfect hedge planting. But nowadays such fences have been replaced by parapet walls.

Sri Lanka gets 300 Sakura Plants 

Meanwhile the Japan Sakura Exchange Association donated 300 sakura plants to Sri Lanka at a small ceremony held at the Japanese Embassy recently. Japanese Ambassador Nobuhito Hobo said sakura flowers symbolised peace and the donation would strengthen the long-standing relationship between Japan and Sri Lanka. These sakura plants belong to a special cultivar called Prunus campanulata cultivar “Yoko”, suitable for planting above 1,500m. Some will be set in the grounds of the Hakgala Botanical Gardens.

Mr Wakisaka and the Ambassador Hobo showing a photo of the flowers of the Sakura plants gifted.

Mr Wakisaka and the Ambassador Hobo showing a photo of the flowers of the Sakura plants gifted.

Published on SundayTimes on 13.04.2014 http://www.sundaytimes.lk/140413/news/newcomer-unfolds-petals-for-new-year-92563.html

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Young Zoologists bring out the beauty of the wild

November 6, 2013

The annual wildlife art exhibition together with the wildlife photographic exhibition by the Young Zoologists Association (YZA) will be held this week.

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‘Kin Wild’ -the exhibition of wildlife paintings and sketches by the Young Zoologists is probably the longest running wildlife art exhibition in the country. The Young Zoologists Association established the ‘Wildlife Arts’ group in 1989 to assist talented wildlife artists who study wildlife through the society’s other programmes. YZA held their first exhibition in 1990 and since then it has been an annual event.

YZA members study different wildlife groups through the regular education programmes held each Sunday afternoon at the Zoological Gardens, Dehiwela. The YZA has five study groups focusing on birds, mammals, reptiles, aquatic life and flora. Members who are mainly students get the chance to study the animals and their behaviour. Wildlife photography and art classes are conducted as special study groups held on Sunday mornings.

The Young Zoologists’ Association was established in 1972 by former Zoo Director and renowned conservationist Lyn de Alwis, who saw the need to promote an interest in the study and conservation of nature among young people.

Over 100 of the wildlife paintings/sketches and wildlife photographs will be on display at the exhibition at the J.D.A. Perera Gallery of the Faculty of Visual Arts at 46, Horton Place, Colombo 7 on November 8,9 and 10 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.

some of the wildife arts and photographs that will be on display…

Sambur at Horton Plains

An owlet

Drawing - Yellow-eared Bulbul

Terns

invitation

Published on 03.11.2013 on SundayTimes http://www.sundaytimes.lk/131103/magazine/young-zoologists-bring-out-the-beauty-of-the-wild-67415.html

Wildlife Diaries- Memoirs from the wilderness

October 23, 2013

“Rajiv is different to the new crop of wildlife photographers that Sri Lanka is producing. Firstly he doesn’t concentrate only on the national parks. Secondly he is deeply concerned about conservation,” says veteran wildlife photographer Namal Kamalgoda of Rajiv Welikala who is preparing for his maiden wildlife photographic exhibition “Wildlife Diaries: Memoirs from the Sri Lankan Wilderness”.

Back to back - the young tuskers of Kalawewa herd

Back to back – the young tuskers of Kalawewa herd

Armed with his camera, Rajiv has braved wildernesses across the country, been chased by elephants while trying to photograph tuskers in Kalawewa and once had a narrow escape in an encounter with a bear in Lunugamwehera while on foot. But he is undeterred in his passion for bringing out the true beauty of Sri Lanka.

Rajiv has a passion for photographing tuskers. He believes documenting them is the first step towards protecting these gentle giants before they all vanish. The majestic tusker known as ‘Medha’ (weather god in Sinhala) hidden in a jungle patch in Wilpattu is his favourite tusker photo. “We had to wait over 15 minutes as many vehicles passed the spot even without noticing the majestic tusker taking shelter in the jungle. Slowly but surely the tusker started coming out. I captured this image at the right moment, when a beam of sunlight hit the side of his face, giving this amazing picture,” he recalls. The photograph captures the sense of mystery and awe the tusker inspires, and the landscape Wilpattu is famous for, he adds.

Photos of several tuskers showing different characteristics will be part of the exhibition. “I like to focus on locations outside national parks to search for tuskers especially in the North Central and Wayamba Provinces. The best time of day is evening, roughly between 4.30-5.30 p.m. which I like to call “Magic Hour” where the light is golden and optimum for photography,” Rajiv revealed. Rajiv Welikala

But Rajiv’s love for nature goes beyond tuskers as the over 70 such photographs exhibited will reveal- birds, mammals and reptiles among

his subjects.

While he loves to spend time in the wild, he points out that wildlife is all around us and one does not necessarily need to look to far-off jungles to photograph wild animals. Even closer to Colombo, there are many locations which are a haven for a multitude of species. Home gardens provide opportunities to capture photos of birds and other creatures, says Rajiv showing us a photo of a Brown-headed Barbet he had taken at his grandparents’ garden in Bambalapitiya.

Nature is so diverse and full of surprises there is never a boring day if you learn to open your eyes and broaden your horizons, he says, pointing out that many wildlife enthusiasts looking only for leopards in sanctuaries such as Yala, totally ignore the other species found in plenty there.

Rajiv started wildlife photography at the age of 13 while at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia. He did his higher studies at the University of Wales and now aged 28 is currently reading for an MBA from the Cardiff Metropolitan University, while working at MAS Intimates as a merchandiser.

‘Wildlife Diaries – Memoirs from the Sri Lankan Wilderness’ will be held from October 26-27 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Lionel Wendt Gallery, Colombo 7.  http://www.sundaytimes.lk/131020/plus/the-true-beauty-of-sri-lanka-66097.html

The whisper - sambur family

The whisper – sambur family

Ulama - the Devil Bird or Forest Eagle Owl from Wilpattu

Ulama – the Devil Bird or Forest Eagle Owl from Wilpattu

Megha - An elusive Wilpattu Tusker - Rajiv's favorite Tusker photo

Megha – An elusive Wilpattu Tusker – Rajiv’s favorite Tusker photo