Dragonfly migration

November 15, 2019 by

Published on SundayTimes on 27.10.2019

The possibility of mass migratoin of dragonflies across Sri Lanka was first published by SundayTimes on 2011. It is believed the same phenomena reported last Sunday.

Not only birds, but dragonflies too are found to be migrating long distances. The sudden increase of dragonflies in some areas of colombo suggest their annual mass migration happened last week.

Sudden influx of dragonflies were best felt by those live in coastal belts as they usually arrive as a wave. The coastal community in near Dehiwala railway station confirms they sudden influx of dragonflies on Sunday 20th of October. “It was around 8.30 or 9 in the night that these creatures start coming. They flew directly into our houses like those winged-termites (meru in sinhala) swarming around” said Chaminda Pushpakumara a resident near Dehiwala Railway station. “We tried to put them out, but it was just futile exercise” others in the community too shared similar experiences.

Sudden increase of Dragonflies were observed in other areas as well. Hemal Pieris who lives in Kynsey road in Borella found one in his upstair bathroom. “I haven’t seen a dragonfly in many years and delighted of seeing one inside my own house. I gently coaxed it to fly away through  the
window” Mr.Peiris said.

Responding to a post on the social media put by the team of MigrantWatch who promote observation of migratory species in Sri Lanka, many responded seeing sudden influx of dragonflies from different areas. Vishwamithra Kadurugamuwa made his observation at Town hall in colombo 7. “I Was actually telling my wife that it must be a dragonfly migration” Mr.Kadurugamuwa who had heard of the phenomena said.

The posibility that a mass migration of dragonflies could be happening across Sri Lanka was first observed in 2011 by Nashath Hafi who is a member of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka that setup its MigrantWatch program with intention to study the migration phenomena. “I was waiting for the train in Moratuwa railway station in the morning watching some birds at the time I observed wave of dragonflies. Usually the dragonflies flying casually on circular route, but all these were moving southward. Thousands of dragonflies were seen moving across and it was a spectacular scene” Mr.Hafi reminded his rare sight.

Mr.Hafi continued to observe the Southbound dragonflies from Moratuwa to all the way until Kollupitiya. When finding more information, the information about a dragonfly migration. Maldivian-based biologist Dr. Charles Anderson initially revealed about this migration which he suggest be happening across India to Maldives and all the way to Africa based on observations of mass aggravation of dragonflies in different areas. . According to Dr.Anderson’s study, the path dragonfly use has a distance of around 14,000 kilometres and could be called the world’s longest insect migration.

A Globe Skimmer Dragonfly found dehiwala

Dr.Anderson based on his data calculated the Dragonflies first appear in the capital city of Maldives on mean 21st of October on average. Quite interestingly the wave of Dragonflies was observed in Sri Lanka in 2011 was on 20th October. What is more surprising is this year the mass movement of dragonflies were observed on the same day – 20th of October. Dragonfly numbers peak in November and December, before the insects then disappear once more. The insects arrive in waves, with each staying for no more than a few days.

Indian observers also reported large agrevation of Dragonflies on Indian beaches. a dragonfly swarm reported from Mumbai coast on 14th Oct and different parts according to Sujith Chandran who is from Kerala. The migratory dragonflies fly along with the coast is observed in Indian.

According to Mr.Chandran, the communities in Keral coastal areas know this phenomena happened with the onset of Monsoon winds. “The locals believe the dragonflies emerge at time of when sun enters zordiac of Libra. In local language the Zordiac sign Libra is called ‘thula’ and dragonflies are called as ‘thumbi’- so locals call named them as ‘Thula Thumbi’”, said Mr.Chandran.

When interviewed, even the local coastal community – specially the members of the fishing communities live near coast are known of the phenomena, eventhough it is still least studied phenomena that came into light recently.

The species that involve in the migration are called as the globe skimmer or globe wanderer scientifically known as Pantala flavescens. The dragonfly is up to 4.5 cm long, that can have wingspans around 7.5 cm . They are good flier who tirelessly fly for hours without making any perch. The wandering glider flies in large swarms.

Globe skimmer is considered to be the most widespread dragonfly on the planet with good population on every continent except Antartica although rare in Europe according to the literature. According to a research by scientists at Rutgers University-Newark of USA studying the genes of Globe Skimmer found that specimen found from different areas of the world have similar genetic profiles so similar. They studied Pantala flavescens from USA, Canada, Japan, Korea, India, South America and interpret this similarities as a result of long distant migration.

Earlier this week, on the coastal areas observed in Dehiwala, Wellawaththa and Bambalapitiya, swarms of dragonflies consisting of 10 – 15 individuals could be commonly observed, but by the Friday, this number had decreased drastically spotting only few individuals according to the observers. This could indicate either the dragonflies moved away from Sri Lanka to continue their journey toward Maldives or spread inland. Perhaps part of the swarm moves away, while another stays. There are more questions for science to find out and if it could firmly establish, the Dragonfly migration could be yet another spectacular wildlife encounter Sri Lanka could be blessed to witness.

Report increase of dragonflies in your area

Have you seen an increase of dragonflies in your area..? If so, it could possibly be a migratory dragonfly. The MigrantWatch team of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) based at University Colombo welcomes your to contribute to their citizen science program to study this phenomena. You can send them your observations through email to migrantwatch.srilanka@gmail.com

තර්ජනයට ලක්‌ වී ඇති ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ උරගයෝ…

November 3, 2019 by
තර්ජනයට ලක්‌ වී ඇති ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ උරගයෝ…
Published on Vidusara science weekly on 30.10.2019  










සැම වසරක ම ඔක්‌තෝබර් 21 වැනි දා ලෝක උරගයන්ගේ දිනය ලෙස සමරනු ලබයි. උරගයන් ගෙන් පරිසර පද්ධතියට සිදු වන සේවාවත්, ඔවුන් මුහුණපාන තර්ජනයනුත්, උරගයන් සංරක්ෂණයේ වැදගත්කමත් ඉස්‌මතු කිරීම මේ දිනයේ අරමුණයි. අනෙකුත් වන ජීවීන්ට සාපේක්ෂ ව, ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ උරගයන් පිළිබඳ ව ඇති උනන්දුව පොදුවේ අඩු වන නිසා උරගයන් පිළිබඳව දැනුවත් කිරීමට මෙවැනි දිනයක්‌ යොදාගැනීම වැදගත් වේ.

සර්පයන්, කටුස්‌සන්, කිඹුලන්, හූනන්, කැස්‌බෑවන්, ඉබ්බන් ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ උරගයන් කාණ්‌ඩයට අයත් නියෝජිතයෝ වෙති. ජාතික රතු දත්ත පොත 2012 අනුව ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ උරග රටාසමයන් (විශේෂ-species) 211ක්‌ සිටි අතර එයින් 125ක්‌ ම ලංකාවට ආවේණික නිසා ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ උරගයන් ගෙන් සියයට 59ක්‌ ම වෙනත් කිසි ම රටක දැකගත නො හැකි ජීවීහු වෙති. මේ අතරින් බොහොමයක්‌ උරගයන් තර්ජනයට ලක්‌ වී ඇති අතර, වනාන්තර විනාශය වැනි හේතු නිසා වාසස්‌ථාන අහිමි වීම ඔවුනට ඇති මූලික ම තර්ජනය වේ. මීට අමතර ව ලැව් ගිනි, කෘෂි රසායන, වාහනවලට යට වීම් මෙන් ම තෝරාගැනීමකින් තොර ව සිදු කෙරෙන සර්පයන් මරා දැමීම වැනි කරුණු ද උරගයන්ට ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ දී ඇති තර්ජන වේ.

ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ කලාතුරකින් සිදු වුවත්, සුරතල් සතුන් ලෙස උරගයන් ඇති කිරීම ලෝකයේ සමහර රටවල ජනප්‍රිය විනෝදාංශයකි. මේ සඳහා විශේෂයෙන් ම ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ අං කටුස්‌සන්, ගැටහොඹු කටුස්‌සන් වැනි උරගයන් අල්ලා හොර රහසේ නීති විරෝධී ලෙස රට යෑවීම ද උරගයන්ට ඇති අලුත් තර්ජනයකි. පසුගිය දා පැවැත්වුණු තර්ජනයට ලක්‌ වූ වන සතුන් සහ අන්තර්ජාතික වෙළෙඳාම පිළිබඳ සම්මුතිය (CITES)හි 18 වැනි සමුළුවේ දී ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ කටුස්‌සන් 10 දෙනකු අන්තර්ජාතික වෙළෙඳාම තහනම් කිරීමට යෝජනා වූයේ මේ තර්ජනය අවම කරගැනීමේ අරමුණෙන් ම ය. මේ යෝජනා සමහරක්‌ සංශෝධන සහිත ව සම්මත වූ අතර, අනෙක්‌වා එලෙස ම සම්මත වූයේ ය. අපගේ ගෙවතු ආශ්‍රිත ව පවා දැකගත හැකි කටුස්‌සන් පිළිබඳ වත් යෝජනාවක්‌ ද මේ අතර තිබුණත්, යම් තාක්ෂණික දොaෂ නිසා එය ඉවත දැමිණි.

උරගයන් අතර වඩාත් ම කතාබහට ලක්‌ වනුයේ සර්පයන් ය. ජාතික රතු දත්ත පොත 2012 අනුව ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ සර්පයන් 103ක්‌ වාර්තා වුණු අතර එයින් 49ක්‌ ම ලංකාවට ආවේණික වේ. ලංකාවේ සර්පයන් අතරින් මාරාන්තික විය හැකි විෂ සහිත සර්පයන් සිටින්නේ අතළොස්‌සක්‌ නමුත්, හඳුනාගැනීමේ අපහසුව නිසා බොහොමයක්‌ සර්පයෝ මිනිසුන් විසින් මරා දැමෙති.

තමන් අවට මිනිස්‌ වාසස්‌ථාන අසල දී හමු වන සර්පයන් බොහෝ විට මරා දැමීමට මිනිසුන් පෙලඹෙනුයේ සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීමට ඇති අපහසුතාව නිසා ය. මේ ප්‍රශ්නයට විසඳුමක්‌ ලෙස ඕනෑ ම අයෙකුට තමන්ට මුණගැසෙන සර්පයන් ඉක්‌මනින් හඳුනාගැනීමට ඉඩ සැලසීමට පේරාදෙණිය විශ්වවිද්‍යාලයයේ පර්යේෂකයන් පිරිසක්‌ ඉදිරිපත් වී ඇත. සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීමේ සේවාව ලෙස නම් කර තිබෙන මේ වෙබ් අඩවිය, පේරාදෙණිය සරසවියේ මහාචාර්ය කලන මාදුවගේගේ ප්‍රධානත්වයෙන් ක්‍රියාත්මක වේ. විෂ සහිත සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයන් හැඳිනගෙන මිනිස්‌ ජීවිත රැකගැනීමට මෙන් ම විෂ රහිත සර්පයන් ආරක්ෂා කරගැනීමට ද සාධනීය ලෙස උපකාරී විය හැකි ක්‍රියාදාමයක්‌ නිසා, මේ වසරේ ලෝක උරගයන් සුරැකීමේ දිනය පාදක කරගත් ලිපිය මේ සර්ප – මිනිස්‌ ගැටුම පිළිබඳ ව මහාචාර්ය කලන මාදුවගේ සමඟ සිදු කළ සාකච්ජාවක්‌ ඇසුරෙන් සැකසේ.

Vidusara cover story on 30.10.2019


මිනිස්‌ – සර්ප ගැටුම

සර්පයන් යනු පරිසරයේ ඉතා වැදගත් අත්‍යවශ්‍ය ජීවීන් කොටසක්‌ වන අතර ඔවුන් ගෙන් පරිසරයේ සමතුලිතතාව රැකගැනීම සඳහා වැදගත් මෙහෙයක්‌ ඉටු වේ. සර්පයන් බොහෝ ආහාර දාමවල ඉහළ පුරුක්‌ වන අතර සමහර විලොපීන්ගේ ආහාර ලෙස ද සර්පයන් පරිසරයට වැදගත් වේ. සර්පයන් මඟින් පරිසරයේ මීයන්, ගෙම්බන්, හූනන්, කුරුල්ලන්ගේ ගහන පාලනය කෙරේ. මීයන්ගේ අධික ගහන නිසා අස්‌වනුවලට වන හානිය සර්පයන් නිසා පාලනය වේ. තව ද ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් නිෂ්පාදන සඳහා සර්ප විෂ අත්‍යවශ්‍ය වේ. මීට අමතර ව, සර්ප විෂෙහි අඩංගු සංඝටක මඟින් නව ඖෂධ සොයාගැනීම් කළ හැකි ය.

දැනට ලංකාවේ හඳුනාගෙන ඇති සර්ප විශේෂ අතරින් උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන් ගණයට අයත් වන්නේ විශේෂ සුළු ප්‍රමාණයකි. ලංකාව අවට මුහුදේ වෙසෙන විශේෂ 15කට ආසන්න මුහුදු සර්පයන් සියල්ල උග්‍ර විෂ වන අතර මුහුදු සර්පයන් ගෙන් වන දෂ්ඨ කිරීම් සහ මරණ ඉතා අඩු සංඛ්‍යාවක්‌ වේ.

ගොඩබිම වෙසෙන සර්පයන් අතරින් උග්‍ර විෂ කාණ්‌ඩයෙහි ලා සැලකෙන්නේ තෙල් කරවලා / මඟමරුවා (Indian / common krait, Bungaruscaeruleus), මුදු කරවලා / දුනු කරවලා (Ceylonkriat” Bungarus ceylonicus), තිත් පොළඟා (Russell’s viper” Daboia russelii), වැලි පොළඟා (Saw scaled viper” Echis carinatus), නයා / නාගයා (Common cobra” Naja naja), කුණකටුවා / පොළොන් තෙළිස්‌සා (humpnosed pit vipers” Hypnale sp.) යන සර්පයන් පමණි. පළා පොළො`ගුන් මඳ විෂ සර්පයන් වන අතර අනෙකුත් සර්පයන් ඉතා සුළු විෂ හෝ විෂ රහිත සර්පයන් ය.

උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන්ගේ හිස දෙපස පිහිටි විෂ ග්‍රන්ථි (venom glands) මඟින් විෂ නිෂ්පාදනය වේ. සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී මේ විෂ, විෂ දළ (fangs) හරහා දෂ්ඨ කිරීමට ලක්‌ වන පුද්ගලයාගේ ශරීරයට එන්නත් කිරීම සිදු වේ. සර්ප විෂ (snakevenom) තුළ සරල සහ සංකීර්ණ විෂ රසායන සංයෝග (toxins) රාශිය අඩංගු වේ. ඉන් සමහරක්‌ මිනිසාගේ ශරීරයේ ප්‍රතිග්‍රාහක (receptors) ක්‍රියාකාරීත්වය අඩපණ කරන අතර විෂෙහි අඩංගු එන්සයිම අණු, ශරීරයේ රසායනික ප්‍රතික්‍රියා නතර කිරීමට හෝ අධි ක්‍රියාකාරීත්වයට හෝ පත් කරයි.

සර්ප දෂ්ඨන

සර්ප විෂ මිනිසාගේ රුධිර කැටිගැසීමේ පද්ධතිය (coagulation system), රුධිරවාහිනී, ස්‌නායු උපාගම සන්ධි (synapse), මාංශ පේශි පද්ධතිය, වකුගඩු ක්‍රියාකාරීත්වයට හානි පමුණුවයි. සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී එන්නත් කරනු ලැබූ විෂ, දෂ්ඨ කළ ස්‌ථානයේ සිට වසා (lymphatics) පද්ධතිය හරහා රුධිර සංසරණ පද්ධතියට සහ සියලු ම අවයව දෙසට සුළු කාලයක දී ව්‍යාප්ත වීම සිදු වේ. විෂ බලපෑම් කරන අවයව අනුව රෝගියාගේ රෝග ලක්ෂණ පහළ වීම සිදු වේ. මේ අතර අධික රුධිර වහනය, මුත්‍ර සමඟ රුධිරය පිට වීම, ඇස්‌පිල්ලම් කඩා හැළීම, ශ්වසනය අඩපණ වීම, මාංශ පේශිවල අධික වේදනාව, මුත්‍රා පිට නො වීම වැනි මාරාන්තික රෝග ලක්ෂණ ලෙස ප්‍රධාන කොට සැලකේ.

වසරකට ලෝකයේ සර්ප දෂ්ඨන මිලියන 1.8 – 2.7 අතර සංඛ්‍යාවක්‌ සිදු වන අතර එයින් පුද්ගලයන් 81,000 – 138,000කට ජීවිතය අහිමි වේ. ලෝකයේ සර්ප දෂ්ඨන වැඩි ම සංඛාවක්‌ සිදු වන්නේ දකුණු ආසියාවේ වන අතර ශ්‍රී ලංකාව ලෝකයේ සර්ප දෂ්ඨන වැඩියෙන් ම සිදු වන රටක්‌ වශයෙන් සැලකේ. සර්ප දෂ්ඨන වැඩියෙන් ම සිදු වන රටවල් සහ මරණ සලකා බලා ලෝක සෞඛ්‍ය සංවිධානය (World HealthOrganization), සර්ප දෂ්ඨ කිරීම්, නො සලකා හළ, ඝර්ම කලාපීය අනතුරක්‌ (NeglectedTropical Disease) ලෙස නම් කර ඇත.

ශ්‍රී ලංකාව තුළ වසරකට සර්ප දෂ්ඨන 80,000ක්‌ පමණ සිදු වන අතර ඉන් සියයට 50ක්‌ පමණ රෝගීන් ප්‍රතිකාර සඳහා රෝහල්ගත කෙරේ. ඒ අතරින් වසරකට 400ක්‌ පමණ පිරිසකට ජීවිතය අහිමි වේ.

ඝර්ම කලාපීය කෘෂිකාර්මික රට වීම නිසා ලංකාව උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන්ගේ ව්‍යාප්තියට ඉතා සුදුසු දේශගුණයක්‌ සපයයි. විශේෂයෙන් ම ලංකාවේ වියළි කලාපය තුළ උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන්ගේ ගහනය ඉතා අධික ය.

සර්ප දෂ්ඨ කිරීමක්‌ යනු රෝගියාගේ ජීවිතයට හානි විය හැකි ඉතා ඉක්‌මනින් ප්‍රතිකාර කළ යුතු බරපතළ රෝගී තත්ත්වයකි (medical emer-gency). විෂ ශරීරගත වීම ඉක්‌මන් වීම මඟින් කෙටි කාලයක්‌ තුළ රෝග ලක්ෂණ පහළ වීම සිදු වේ. එනිසා සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී හැකි ඉක්‌මනින් රෝගියා රෝහලට රැගෙන ඒම අතිශයින් වැදගත් වේ.

සර්ප ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත

සර්ප ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත (snake antivenom), සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී දෙනු ලබන ප්‍රධානතම ප්‍රතිකාරයයි. ලංකාවේ භාවිත වන සර්ප ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත ලංකාවේ සිටින උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන් හතර දෙනෙකුගේ විෂට එරෙහි ව නිපදවා ඇත. මේ එන්නත ඉන්දියාවේ නිෂ්පාදනය කෙරෙන අතර ඒ සඳහා ඉන්දියාවේ ව්‍යාප්ත ව ඇති සර්පයන්ගේ විෂ යොදාගැනේ. මේ එන්නත ලංකාවේ තෙල් කරවලා, තිත් පොළඟා, වැලි පොළඟා සහ නාගයාගේ දෂ්ඨ කිරීම් සඳහා එන්නත් කෙරේ.

සියලු සර්ප විශේෂ උග්‍ර විෂ නො වන අතර උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන් දෂ්ඨ කළ සියලු රෝගීන්ට විෂ ශරීරගත වීම සිදු නො වේ. එනිසා සර්ප දෂ්ඨ කිරීමට ලක්‌ වූ සියලු රෝගීන්ට ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත ලබා නො දේ. සර්ප විෂ නිසා රෝගියාගේ හටගන්නා රෝග ලක්ෂණ සහ පර්යේෂණාගාර රුධිර පරීක්ෂා (investigations) ප්‍රතිඵල අනුව වෛද්‍යවරු ප්‍රතිවිෂ ලබා දීම නිර්ණය කරති. රෝග ලක්ෂණ පහළ වූ රෝගියකුට ප්‍රතිවිෂ ලබා දීම ප්‍රමාද කිරීම මඟින් රෝගියාගේ අවයව ගණනාවකට දැඩි හානි සිදු වන අතර ප්‍රමාද වී ලබා දෙන ප්‍රතිවිෂවල ප්‍රතිඵල රහිත විය හැකි ය. එනිසා ඉක්‌මනින් රෝග ලක්ෂණ හඳුනාගැනීම සහ ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් කිරීම ඉතා වැදගත් වේ.

දැනට ලංකාවේ භාවිත වන ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත ඉන්දියාවේ නිපදවන බැවින් එය භාවිත කළ හැකි වන්නේ ලංකාවට සහ ඉන්දියාවට පොදු ව්‍යාප්තියක්‌ ඇති සර්පයන් හතර දෙනාට පමණි. එබැවින් ලංකාවේ ව්‍යාප්තියක්‌ ඇති අනෙකුත් විෂ සහිත සර්ප දෂ්ඨන සඳහා නිශ්චිත ප්‍රතිකාර ක්‍රමයක්‌ මෙරට නැත. විශේෂයෙන් ම ලංකාවේ වැඩි ම සර්ප දෂ්ඨන සිදු වන උග්‍ර විෂ කුණකටුවන්ගේ විෂට කිසිදු ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නතක්‌ නොමැත. මෙනිසා වසරකට සැලකිය යුතු රෝගීහු සංඛ්‍යාවක්‌ කුණකටුවන්ගේ විෂ නිසා වකුගඩු ආබාධ සහ රුධිර කැටිගැසීම් පද්ධතියේ බලපෑම් නිසා මරණයට පත් වෙති.

සර්ප ප්‍රතිවිෂ නිෂ්පාදනය සඳහා උග්‍ර විෂ සහිත සර්පයන් ගෙන් ලබාගන්නා විෂ යොදාගැනේ. මේ විෂ කුඩා මාත්‍රා ලෙස අශ්වයන්ට එන්නත් කිරීම සිදු වේ. මෙමඟින් අශ්වයන්ගේ රුධිරය තුළ එන්නත කළ විෂට එරෙහි ව ක්‍රියාත්මක වන ප්‍රතිදේහ (antibodies) සංඝටක නිපදවේ. ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් නිෂ්පාදනයේ දී මේ ප්‍රතිදේහ සංඝටක අශ්ව රුධිරයෙන් වෙන් කරගෙන ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් ලෙසට රෝහල්වල භාවිත කෙරේ.

සර්ප ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත්වල අශ්ව ප්‍රොaටීන අඩංගු බැවින් සහ නිෂ්පාදනයේ දී සිදු වන සමහර අඩුපාඩු නිසා ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් කිරීමෙන් රෝගීන්ට අසාත්මිකතා ( allergies) ඇති විය හැකි ය. ඖෂධ නිසා සිදු වන අසාත්මිකතා අතර ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් මඟින් සිදු වන අසාත්මිකතා සංඛ්‍යාව ඉතා අධික වේ. ඉන් සමහරක්‌ අසාත්මිකතාවන් ඉතා බරපතළ (anaphylaxis) වන අතර එමඟින් ජීවිතයට හානි විය හැකි ය. එනිසා සර්ප ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් එන්නත් කළ යුතු වන්නේ එය අවශ්‍ය ම රෝගීන්ට පමණි.

දැනට ලංකාවේ භාවිත වන ඉන්දියාවේ නිෂ්පාදිත එන්නත නිසා ඉතා විශාල සංඛ්‍යාවකට මේ අසාත්මිකතාවන් හටගනී. මෙයින් සමහරක්‌ අසාත්මිකතාවන් ශරීරයට දැඩි හානි පමුණුවන බරපතළ අසාත්මිකතාවන් වේ. තව ද ලංකාවේ කුණකටුවන්ගේ සහ මුදු කරවලාගේ දෂ්ඨ කිරීම් සඳහා මේ එන්නත ලබා දිය නො හැකි ය. මෙනිසා අසාත්මිකතාවන් ඉතා අඩු, ලංකාවේ සර්ප විෂ නිවැරැදි ව ම නිෂේදනය කළ හැකි (ලංකාවේ සර්ප විෂ යොදා නිෂ්පාදනය කළ), කුණකටුවන්ගේ විෂ නිෂේධනය කළ හැකි එන්නතක අවශ්‍යතාව ඉතා වැදගත් වේ. එසේ නො වේ නම් ප්‍රතිවිෂ එන්නත් නිසා හටගන්නා අසාත්මිකතාවන් නිසා ජීවිත හානි විය හැකි ය. කුණකටුවන්ගේ විෂ සඳහා එන්නතක්‌ තිබීම මඟින් කුණකටුවන්ගේ දෂ්ඨ කිරීම් නිසා සිදු වන සියලු මරණ වළක්‌වාගත හැකි ය.

කෘෂිකාර්මික රටක්‌ වීම, උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන්ගේ අධික ඝනත්වය, සර්පයන් සමග නිතර ගැටීම සහ ප්‍රතිකාර ක්‍රමවල අඩුපාඩු නිසා ලංකාවේ සර්ප දෂ්ඨ කිරීම් නිසා සිදු වන මරණ වළක්‌වාගැනීම අසීරු කටයුත්තක්‌ වී ඇත.

ප්‍රතිවිෂෙහි ගුණාත්මක බව සහ රෝහලේ දී ලැබෙන ප්‍රතිකාරවලට අමතර ව රෝගීන්ගේ දායකත්වය මේ මරණ අඩු කිරීම සඳහා අතිශයින් වැදගත් වේ. දෂ්ඨ කළ සර්පයා රෝහලට රැගෙන ඒම අවශ්‍ය නො වන අතර එමඟින් ලැබෙන ප්‍රතිකාරවල කිසිදු ප්‍රමාදයක්‌ සිදු නො වේ. රෝගියාගේ රෝග ලක්ෂණ මඟින් දෂ්ඨ කළ සර්පයා නිර්ණය කිරීම වෛද්‍යවරුන්ට හැකියාව ඇත.

සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීම සඳහා නව වෙබ් අඩවියක්‌

දුටු තැන සර්පයන් මරා දැමීම ලංකාවේ බොහෝ දෙනකුගේ පුරුද්දක්‌ වී ඇත. බොහෝ විෂ රහිත සර්පයන්, උග්‍ර විෂ සර්පයන් සේ සලකා බියට පත් ව මරා දැමීම සිදු වේ. මූලික ගණනයන්ට අනුව දිනකට ලංකාවේ 10,000කට අධික සර්පයන් සංඛ්‍යාවක්‌ මරා දැමෙන බව අනුමාන කළ හැකි ය. විෂ සර්පයන් වෙන් කර හඳුනාගැනීමේ ඇති නො හැකියාව මෙයට ප්‍රධාන ව ම හේතු වී ඇත. සමහර විෂ රහිත සර්පයන් ලංකාවට ආවේණික දුර්ලභ සර්පයන් වන අතර මිනිසාගේ ක්‍රියාකාරකම් නිසා මේ දුර්ලභ විශේෂ වඳ වීමේ තර්ජනයට ලක්‌ ව ඇත.

සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීමේ ඇති නො හැකියාව මඟහැරවීම සඳහා නව වෙබ් අඩවියක්‌ http://www.snakesidentification.org පේරාදෙණිය විශ්වවිද්‍යාලයයේ පර්යේෂකයන් පිරිසක්‌ හඳුන්වා දී ඇත. මෙමඟින් ඕනෑ ම කෙනකුට තමන් දුටු සර්පයාගේ ඡායාරූපයක්‌ සහ අදාළ තොරතුරු කීපය වෙබ් අඩවිය හරහා යොමු කළ හැකි ය. සර්පයාගේ හඳුනාගැනීම සහ විෂෙහි ප්‍රබලතාව පිළිබඳ තොරතුරු කෙටි කාලයකින් නැවත අදාළ පුද්ගලයාට දැනුම් දීම මේ වෙබ් අඩවිය හරහා සිදු වේ. මීට අමතර ව ලංකාවේ සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීම ගැන සියලු දැනුම මේ වෙබ් අඩවිය තුළ  ඇතුළත් වේ.

සර්පයන් සමඟ ගැටෙන විශාල සංඛ්‍යාවක්‌ මේ වෙබ් අඩවිය හරහා දිනපතා තමාට හමු වන සර්පයන් නිවැරැදි ව හඳුනාගැනීම සිදු කෙරේ. මේ අතර, රෝහල්වල වෛද්‍යවරුන්, අනෙකුත් සේවකයන්, පරිසර හිතකාමීන් විශේෂ වේ.

ලංකාවේ සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීම, සර්ප විෂ, රෝග ලක්ෂණ හටගැනීම, ප්‍රථමාධාර ක්‍රම, ප්‍රතිකර්ම ක්‍රම, සර්ප දෂ්ඨන වැළැක්‌වීම සහ සර්පයන් සංරක්ෂණය ගැන නිවැරැදි දැනුම බොහෝ ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන් හට අඩුපාඩුවක්‌ ව පවතී. මේ දැනුම සහිත පොතපත ඉතා අල්ප ය. නවතම දැනුම තවමත් පොත්වලට ලියවී නැත. බොහෝ කරුණු දැනට පවතින්නේ පර්යේෂණ පත්‍රිකා ලෙස වීම මේ සඳහා හේතු වී ඇත. මේ අඩුපාඩුව මඟහැරවීම සඳහා නවතම දේශන මාලාවක්‌ නිෂ්පාදනය කර ඇත. මේ දේශන මාලාව යූටියුබ් (Youtube) හරහා Snakebites (The whole story ලෙසට ටයිප් කිරීමෙන් නැරඹිය හැකි ය. රූප සහිත දේශන නවයකින් සමන්විත මේ වැඩසටහන මඟින් ලංකාවේ සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීම, සර්ප විෂ ආශ්‍රිත රෝග ලක්ෂණ, සර්ප ප්‍රතිවිෂ, ප්‍රථමාධාර, සර්ප දෂ්ඨන වැළැක්‌වීම සහ ලංකාවේ සර්පයන් සංරක්ෂණය ගැන නවතම තොරතුරු ලබාගත හැකි ය. ඉහත සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීමේ වෙබ් අඩවිය සහ දේශන මාලාව පේරාදෙණිය විශ්වවිද්‍යාලයයේ, වෛද්‍ය පීඨයේ මහාචාර්ය කලන මාදුවගේ මහතා විසින් හඳුන්වා දී පවත්වාගෙන යනු ලබන අතර වෛද්‍ය භාග්‍යා නිකපිටිය, සජිත් තිලකරත්න, ආසිරි සෙනවිරත්න සහ වෛද්‍ය ශිෂ්‍ය පරාක්‍රම කරුණාතිලක මේ සඳහා සක්‍රිය සහයෝගය ලබා දී ඇත.

වසරකට ලංකාවේ 400කට අධික පිරිසක්‌ සර්ප දෂ්ඨ කිරීම් නිසා මිය යන නමුත් මේ සියල්ල වළක්‌වාගත හැකි අනතුරු වේ. මේ සඳහා වෛද්‍යවරුන්, පර්යේෂකයන්, සෞඛ්‍ය බලධාරීන් මෙන් ම රටේ සියලු පුරවැසියන් තම යුතුකම් නිසි ලෙස ඉටු කළ යුතු වේ. මේ සඳහා ඉහත සියලු පාර්ශ්වයන්ට අවශ්‍ය දැනුම සහ වුවමනාව තිබිය යුතු ය. ලංකාවේ සර්ප දෂ්ඨන ගැන දැනුම, අවබෝධය සහ නිවැරැදි ආකල්ප වර්ධනය මෙහි පළමු පියවර වේ. මේ ලිපියේ ඇතුළත් මූලික දැනුම සහ සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීමේ වෙබ් අඩවිය (www.snakesidentification.org) සහ (Snake-bites ( The whole story) දේශන මාලාව මේ සඳහා තැබූ වැදගත් පියවරක්‌ වේ. සර්ප දෂ්ඨන ගැන දැනුම සහ ආකල්ප වර්ධනය මිනිස්‌ – සර්ප ගැටුමේ අවසානය ඉක්‌මන් වන අතිශයින් වැදගත් තීරණාත්මක පියවරක්‌ වනු ඇත.

සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී දිය යුතු ප්‍රථමාධාර

1. මූලික ජීවිතාරක්ෂක ප්‍රථමාධාරය කෘත්‍රිම ශ්වසනය ලබා දීම හෝ අර්ධ සම්බාහනය විය හැකි ය.

2. රෝගියාගේ බිය නැති කිරීම (මෙමඟින් රුධිර සංසරණ පද්ධතියේ වේගය සහ පීඩනය අඩු වී විෂ ශරීරගත වීම ප්‍රමාද වේ).

3. රෝගියා ශාරීරික වශයෙන් විවේකී ව තැබීම.

4. දෂ්ඨ කළ ස්‌ථානය සබන් යොදා හෝ නො යොදා ගලා යන ජලයෙන් සේදීම සහ පිටතින් සැරහුමක්‌ යෙදීම.

5. දෂ්ඨ කිරීමට ලක්‌ වූ බාහුව හැකි තරම් නො සොල්වා තැබීම.

6. වේදනාව සඳහා අවශ්‍ය නම් පැරසිටමෝල් ලබා දීම.

7. පැළඳ සිටින වළලු, මුදු සහ ඔරලෝසු ආදිය ඉවත් කිරීම.

8. හැකි ඉක්‌මනින් රෝගියා විඩාවට පත් නො කර ළඟ ම ඇති රෝහලට රැගෙන ඒම.


 සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී කළ යුතු දේ

සමහර රෝගීහු සර්ප දෂ්ඨ කිරීම බරපතළ නො වන සේ සලකා ප්‍රතිකාර ගැනීම ප්‍රමාද කරති. තවත් සමහර රෝගීහු අනුමත කළ නො හැකි, රෝග ලක්ෂණ සහ විෂ ශරීරගත වීම ඉක්‌මන් කෙරන ප්‍රථමාධාර ක්‍රම සඳහා යොමු වෙති. මෙනිසා සර්ප දෂ්ඨ කිරීමක දී කළ යුතු සහ නො කළ යුතු ප්‍රථමාධාර ක්‍රම ගැන සියලු ශ්‍රී ලාංකිකයන් දැන සිටීම වැදගත් වේ. එයට හේතුව ශ්‍රී ලාංකික සියලු දෙනාට ම කෙදිනක හෝ සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක්‌ සිදු වීමේ විශාල සම්භාවිතාවක්‌ පැවතීමයි. විශේෂයන් ම වියළි කලාපයේ ජීවත් වන, කෘෂිකාර්මික ජනතාව තුළ විෂ සහිත සර්පයන් හඳුනාගැනීම, ප්‍රතිකාර ක්‍රම සහ නිවැරැදි ප්‍රතිකාර ක්‍රම ගැන හොඳ දැනුමක්‌ තිබීම අත්‍යවශ්‍ය වේ. මේ ජීවිතාරක්ෂක දැනුම කෙනකුගේ ජීවිතය බේරා ගැනීමට කෙදිනක හෝ උපකාර වේ. එනිසා මේ දැනුම පාසල් පෙළපොත විෂය නිර්දේශයන්ට ඇතුළත් කිරීම කාලෝචිත වේ.

සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී නො කළ යුතු දේ ගැන වැඩි සැලකිල්ලක්‌ දැක්‌විය යුතු ය. මන්ද, වැරැදි ප්‍රථමාධාර නිසා විෂ ශරීරගත වීම ඉක්‌මන් වී රෝගියා මිය යා හැකි බැවිනි.

 සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී නො කළ යුතු දේ

1. රෝගියා බියට පත් කිරීම සහ කලබලයට පත් කිරීම.

2. රෝගියා ඇවිදවීම සහ වෙහෙසට පත් කිරීම.

3. දෂ්ඨ කළ ස්‌ථානයට ඉහළින් තදින් වෙළුම් පටියකින් ගැටගැසීම.

4. දෂ්ඨ කළ ස්‌ථානය කැපීම, විෂ ඉරීම සහ අනෙකුත් ඖෂධ ගැල්වීම.

5. වෛද්‍ය උපදෙස්‌ නොමැති ව වෙනත් ඖෂධ ලබා දීම.

6. මත්පැන් පානය කරවීම.

7. තැඹිලි වතුර සහ වෙනත් පලතුරු යුෂ පානය කරවීම.

8. දෂ්ඨ කළ ස්‌ථානයේ කොන්ඩිස්‌ ගැල්වීම.

9. ශ්වසන පද්ධතියට විවිධ ඖෂධ දමා නස්‌න කිරීම.

නිවැරැදි ප්‍රථමාධාර දීමේ අරමුණ වන්නේ ප්‍රථමාධාර මඟින් කිසිදු හානියක්‌ සිදු නො කිරීම, විෂ ශරීරගත වීම ප්‍රමාද කිරීම, රෝග ලක්ෂණ හටගැනීම ප්‍රමාද කිරීම සහ රෝහලකට රැගෙන යන තෙක්‌ රෝගියාගේ ජීවිතය රැකගැනීමයි. ඒ නිසා අවබෝධයෙන් තොර ව ප්‍රථමාධාර ලබා නො දීම සර්ප දෂ්ඨනයක දී ඉතා වැදගත් වේ.

මාලක රොඩ්‍රිගෝ


Expect thousands of ‘dual citizens’ at election time

November 3, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191020/news/expect-thousands-of-dual-citizens-at-election-time-374099.html published on 20.10.2019 on SundayTimes

While the dual citizenship of presidential election candidates has been a hotly-debated topic in the political arena, it is expected that thousands of other “dual citizens” will be in Sri Lanka by election day in November.

Exhausted Indian Pitta found fallen on 28.10.2018. Pix by Sarath N. Senanayake

Some of them are eligible for European passports while others come from Asian countries.

None, however, will come through immigration channels, and they do not care at all about the political drama in Sri Lanka.

These dual citizens are migratory birds that come here annually from northern countries at this time.

About 2,500 of the 10,000 world bird species engage in long-distance migration as a response to changing weather and the availability of food, spending their life in different countries.

Nearly half – 245 species – of the 508 bird species recorded in Sri Lanka are migratory and generally begin arriving in late August, staying on here until about March-April next year before returning to their country of origin to breed.

“As the main steps of the migratory routine are predictable and move in a rhythm, bird migration can be considered to be like a ballet dance – in fact, bird migration could be called the greatest dance in the world,” ornithology expert Dr. Sampath Seneviratne told the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society this week.

A helping hand for the Indian Pitta

“Birds that breed in European countries such as Russia, and in Asian countries such as China, Mongolia, Afghanistan and India, migrate to Sri Lanka.

“We need more research on migratory patterns as there is a lot to unravel,” said Dr. Seneviratne, President of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) and a senior lecturer at the University of Colombo.

Historically, migrating birds are believed to have arrived in Sri Lanka along three main routes to Sri Lanka, using designated pathways. This view was based on observations carried out in colonial times.

“It is time to have more advanced research to link the dots with the use of new technologies,” said Dr. Seneviratne.

The traditional method of researching migration is carried out with the use of rings fixed on birds’ legs.

If a bird with a ring fixed by ornithologists in one country is found in another country it acts as proof of presence of the bird at two locations.
Science has led to improvements in tracking. The new trend is “geo-tagging”, in which scientists place a satellite tag on a bird. The tag emits signals that pinpoint the bird’s location.

Dr. Seneviratne said satellite tracking by India has led to findings that contradict traditional knowledge of the main routes used by birds migrating to Sri Lanka.

“Geo-tagging is expensive, so we can’t do it in Sri Lanka at this point,” he added.

A national bird-ringing program carried out by FOGSL and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) under Professor Sarath Kotagama has revealed interesting patterns such as the same birds migrating annually to the same site – sometimes to the same plots – in a pattern used by their ancestors.

“Some people believe the ringing process puts birds in danger. But this is a myth and it is perfectly safe, and I’m bit disappointed when I hear such allegations,” the FOGSL President said.

“We need science, and without understanding birds, their behaviour and their migratory patterns it is not possible to conserve them.”

About an hour later the bird had revived












Experts assess Sri Lankan species for Global Red List

November 3, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190929/news/experts-assess-sri-lankan-species-for-global-red-list-370638.html published on SundayTimes on 29.09.2019

Sri Lanka’s reptile experts gathered last week to assess the latest threat levels facing the country’s lizards and snakes.

The group of experts that participated at the recent workshop

During a six-day workshop at the Simpson’s Forest Hotel, they used some of the modern techniques to assess the threat levels these species have been exposed to, says Dr. Anslem de Silva, one of the organisers of the workshop, which also drew several foreign experts.

Sri Lanka is one of the global biodiversity hotspots (along with India’s Western Ghats), particularly for its high endemism of having creatures and plants that cannot be found anywhere else in the world.

But many of these species are threatened with extinction due to different reasons and the first step to protect them lies on understanding the threat levels to prioritise conservation actions.

The experts used the criteria accepted by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to assess the threat levels and list them in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The list devised in 1964 is also known as the ‘Red List’.

The IUCN Red List classifies species into nine categories based on assessments such as the rate of decline, the population size and the area of distribution. On the IUCN Red List, the term “threatened” embraces the categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered, and Vulnerable. When no living trace can be found of a species, it is categorised as “extinct”.

While the global Red List explains the threat level on a global scale, most countries have their own Red Lists based on threat levels assessed nationally. Sri Lanka published its last National Red List on 2012, but the criteria used in assessing the threat levels were slightly different.

Technically, a standard assessment is required to go into the global red list.

Dr. Simon Stuart, the former Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC)

Dr. Anslem de Silva

However, during the workshop, the standard method was adopted to assess the threat levels Sri Lanka’s lizards and snakes faced, said Dr. de Silva, who was recently honored as ‘Father of modern herpetology’.

He organised the workshop with the assistance of Dr. Kanishka Ukuwela and Sameera Karunarathne. The assessment was driven by the Zoo Outreach Organisation and some of the world’s well-known scientists proficient in IUCN Red Listing. They included Dr. Sanjay Molur, Dr. Neil Ashley Cox, Marcelo Fabio Tognelli, Philip Michael Bowles and Claudine Gibson. The latter had specifically visited Sri Lanka for the assessment.

Almost all the Sri Lanka experts working on reptiles were present at this workshop. Speaking to the Sunday Times, herpetologist Mendis Wickremasinghe said this kind of assessment was important as there was an extinction crisis Sri Lanka’s reptiles faced. The checklist of reptiles consists of 155 species in 1993 but by 2012, it grew upto 211, with half of them endemic to Sri Lanka. It keeps on ticking. However, due to habitat loss and other key reasons, Sri Lanka’s reptiles are becoming rarer.

The final report being co-authored by all the resource persons will be an important document in conserving Sri Lanka’s reptiles, Dr. de Silva said.
The Sunday Times also learns that a similar red listing assessment had been completed for Sri Lanka’s freshwater fish. The freshwater fish study was conducted a few months ago by the IUCN country office.

IUCN Sri Lanka’s Senior programme officer (biodiversity) Sampath Goonatilake said the assessment would appear on the global red list web portal in December. “It is really important to update the threat levels of species as this is the global inventory for conservation actions,” he said.

Meanwhile, experts are also getting ready to conduct a similar assessment for Sri Lanka’s amphibians to update their status on the Global Red List of Threatened Species. This was revealed at a speech by Dr. Simon Stuart, the former Chair of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC).

The speech was organised by Dilmah Conservation that is assisting the assessment process. The Sunday Times learns that the Amphibian Workshop will be held towards end of this year.

“The world’s species extinction crisis is getting worse. There are 1.8 million described species live on Earth and about 100,000 of them are assessed for the Red List. Of them, about 27,000 are threatened – this is closer to one third of the species – so the picture is not seemingly good,” Dr.Stuart said, pointing out that 941 species were already ‘extinct’ or ‘extinct in the wild’ — surviving only in captivity. “While we need to do more, if we stop conservation, this extinction crisis would be 7-8 times worse, the expert warned.

There were some conservation problems that we could not easily fix, but not all were negative, he said, giving examples where some species started to bounce back from the edge of extinction. Giant Pandas, Californian condors, Indian rhinos and Humb-back whales are few of such examples.

Sri Lanka produced a number of country-specific national red lists, with the last red list being published in 2012. The next one is scheduled to be published after five years.

Sri Lanka’s Biodiversity Secretariat Chief Padma Abeykoon said they would be able to publish the flora section of the Red List assessing national threat levels of plants, herbs and trees. She said that due to a number of issues, the fauna section would not be able to completed this year.

Beautiful colouration: Ornate flying snake and green pit viper. Pic by Ruchira Somaweera

Study will help protect anteater targeted by smugglers

November 3, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191103/news/study-will-help-protect-anteater-targeted-by-smugglers-376253.html published on SUndayTimes on 03.11.2019

Dr. Priyan Perera

A new study has taken the first step in Sri Lanka to shed light on an elusive, solitary mammal that is the world’s most trafficked mammal.

Last year, a live pangolin was rescued from a freezer in Chinese restaurant in Colombo, and the year before that, attempts to smuggle 130kg of pangolin scales that could have come from some 150 animals were found in Kalpitiya.

Pangolins are in high demand in East Asia and there are fears that, particularly with the large Chinese workforce in Sri Lanka, local pangolins are being increasingly targeted for flesh and scales rather than for low-level consumption as bushmeat by local communities.

The pangolin is one of the least studied mammals: there is very little data about their distribution, population or threats. Until now, our information mainly came from a 40-year-old report by W. Phillips.

To fill this void, an islandwide survey by researchers of the University of Sri Jayawardenepura resulted in a paper published last week that shows where these animals live and what threats they face.

Researcher Dr. Priyan Perera said the survey commenced in 2013 with a team conducting interviews with officers of Department of Wildlife Conservation villagers and even a few possible poachers.

The research team also reviewed records of rescued or dead pangolins stored in field offices of the wildlife department records of confiscations by the Department of Customs.

The pangolin is one of the least studied mammals

There are eight pangolin species in the world. The Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata), is the species found in Sri Lanka, where it is known as “kebellawa” or “eya” in Sinhala and “alangu” in Tamil.

Pangolins are known as “scaly anteaters” because of the keratinised plate-like protective scales covering much of their bodies, and their highly specialised diet, which predominantly consists of ants and termites.

They coil into a ball when threatened and their scaly body armour usually protects them from the teeth and claws of jungle predators – but not from humans.

Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese “medicines” and this demand has created an illegal wildlife trade around the world.

Because of this, of the four Asiatic species, two are “critically endangered” and the other two are “endangered” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

“The over-exploitation of Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) and Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) populations in Asia has led to an increase in the hunting of Indian pangolins in India and Pakistan,” Dr. Perera said. Smugglers now threaten Sri Lanka’s pangolin population, he warned.   There have been reported cases of pangolin meat offered for sale in restaurants, especially for Asian workers employed in megadevelopment projects in the country.

“Sri Lanka needs to be vigilant and stop the illegal international trade in pangolin parts before it is too late,” Dr. Perera said.

The study shows the highest number of wildlife crimes related to pangolins was recorded from the Anuradhapura District (13.54 per cent), followed by Polonnaruwa (12.50 per cent), Hambantota (10.42 per cent), Moneragala (9.38 per cent) and Kalutara (8.33 per cent).

The main exploitation threats facing Indian pangolins are hunting for subsistence (47.4 per cent), hunting for bushmeat (27.8 per cent), incidental capture in traps intended for pests (11.3 per cent), hunting for scales (6.2 per cent) and trading of live animals for meat (6.2 per cent).

The study shows pangolins can be found in all parts of the country, up to an elevation of 1850m, mainly in the north-west (Kurunegala and Puttalam districts), the Anuradhapura district and the south-west lowlands and south-east (Hambantota and Monaragala districts).

Pangolins are nocturnal animals and they sleep during the day in burrows, hollows or dens. They are solitary mammals, seldom seen in groups.

They usually give birth to one offspring, on rare occasions, two. The female carries its newborn on its tail. They are caring mothers that coil their bodies around their babies if a threat arises.

Researchers stress this study has important implications in national and global conservation planning of the species.

Call to protect native beauties: alarm over declining Orchid populations

October 13, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191013/news/alarm-over-decline-in-anuradhapura-orchid-population-call-to-protect-native-beauties-372890.html published on 13.10.2019

The Anuradhapura orchid – Vanda Tessellata — is Sri Lanka’s most heavily traded indigenous orchid species but over the past two decades its population has been on the decline, an expert has raised alarm.

A rare color variety of Anuradhapura Orchid (c) Samantha Gunasekera

Vanda Tessellata is an indigenous orchid species found in the dry and intermediate zones of Sri Lanka. As it has many colour variations, it is attractive and more prone to collection. Most of Sri Lanka’s orchids are spread in the wet and montane zones, but the Anuradhapura orchid grows in Sri Lanka’s dry zone and intermediate zone.“This orchid type is popular and their different colourations make them attractive. So, there is considerably a large demand for the flowers in the local and the export market. But the Vanda Tessellata population has heavily declined in the past 20 years due to the high demand and the lack of adequate conservation measures,” says the expert, Samantha Gunasekera, who was once the head of Sri Lanka Customs’ Biodiversity Protection Unit.

Like other orchids, the Anuradhapura orchid is also protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and included in the Vulnerable (VU) category on the National Red List. However, the law enforcement regarding the species is very poor, laments Mr. Gunasekera.

He revealed that although Customs had busted only attempts so far to smuggle the Vanda Tessellata plant out of the country, with one of the detections being made by the Forest Conservation Department. He said seven illegal local sale sites had been raided and two local suppliers of Vanda Tessellata had been identified through their surveys.

Mr. Gunasekera revealed these facts at an event organised by the Orchid Circle of Ceylon at the Sri Lanka Association for the Advancement of Science (SLAAS) auditorium last month to celebrate its 85th anniversary. Established in 1934, the Orchid Circle of Ceylon (OCC) is the oldest organisation of its kind in Sri Lanka and the second in the world after the American Orchid Society. The Circle has a prestigious past with the founder President of the Orchid Circle of Ceylon being none other than Sri Lanka’s first Prime Minister, D.S. Senanayake.

“Sri Lanka has lots of orchid lovers, so we revived the Orchid Circle of Ceylon to encourage more people to take the hobby right way. We are happy about the response we received for our society’s 85th Anniversary,” OCC secretary Dr. Uditha Herath said. The event was also associated with an orchid show that displayed some rare orchids.

The event’s Chief Guest, Prof. Surawit Wannakrairoj from Thailand, delivering a lecture on the fertilizer use in orchid cultivation, pointed out that in Sri Lanka the fertilizer usage was high. Orchid expert Ajantha Palihawadana delivered a speech on conservation of wild orchids.

Orchid Circle of Ceylon organized an orchid show last month

Sri Lanka is home to some 192 orchid species belonging to 78 categories and more than half of them are threatened according to the National Red List of Threatened Fauna and Flora of Sri Lanka 2012. Habitat loss remains the biggest issue for Orchid species with pollution, invasive species also contributing to their decline.

The direct exploitation where some of these orchids are fetched out from their habitat has been a bigger issue for a number of orchids, said Dr. Suranjan Fernando in the the 2012 National Red List publication. Those orchids commonly collected for their beautiful flowers include Phaius Wallichii (Star Orchid), Dendrobium Maccarthiae (Vesak Orchid), Rhynchostylis Retusa (Fox Tail), and Vanda Tessellata.

Habenaria Crinifera (Naarilatha), Ipsea Speciosa (Nagamaru Ala), Anoectochilus Spp (Wanaraja), Zeuxine spp (Iruraja) are removed from the wild for medicinal purposes and for various rituals associated with mythological beliefs, according to Dr.Fernando.

Many showy orchids like Vesak orchid (Dendrobium maccarthiae) are collected for their flowers (c) Bushana Kalhara


Young researchers explain sights and sounds of Lankan bats

October 13, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191013/news/young-researchers-explain-sights-and-sounds-of-lankan-bats-372898.html published on SundayTimes on 13.10.2019

As fans celebrated well-loved cartoon character Batman’s 80th birthday worldwide, two young Sri Lankan researchers say bats are master pathfinders and get at their prey by using echolocation which involves emitting sound and then analysing the reflected sonar signal captured through special sensors.

The Sunday Times met the two researchers at the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s Asia Pacific chapter (ATBC-AP) conference which was concluded recently in Thulhiriya.

“Different bat species emit signals with different frequencies in echolocation and these can be used to identify them in the field,” said Tharaka Kusuminda whose trailblazing research has led him to decipher the patterns of the Painted Bat’s call.

He said it was the first time that the Painted Bat’s eco-sounding had been deciphered and the second occasion that such a method had been used in the world. “Previously we needed to have visual evidence or need to catch the bat to find out conclusively whether a species is presence in one location. But we can now record the bat sounds in any area in Sri Lanka and can find out the presence of the Painted Bat in those locations by analysing bat sounds” said Mr. Kusuminda.

Gayan Mithra Edirisinghe

Explaining that this technique was increasingly being used to monitor distribution of bats around the world, Mr. Kusuminda said his team had also deciphered the patterns of echolocation of other Sri Lankan bats and was continuing to do so for other species.

Sri Lanka is home to 31 species of bats. Most bats being insectivorous feed on insects. There are also four species of fruit bats. A majority of bats – especially the insectivorous bats, use ecolocation techniques to navigate, said Mr. Kusuminda.

The painted bat (Kerivoula picta) — with an orange head and orange markings on its wings — is probably the most beautiful bat species in Sri Lanka. Painted bats prefer to make dried banana leaves their hideouts and come out in the evening. They seem to be having a good distribution in Sri Lanka. The lack of confirmed records had been a major drawback in establishing their distribution, but the new technique would be helpful to map their distribution, Mr. Kusuminda said.

It is only a few years ago that the 31st bat species in Sri Lanka was discovered by bat researcher Gayan Mithra Edirisinghe. It was a chance encounter.

The Painted Bat sometimes found in home gardens as well

“While studying bats in Maduru Oya area, we came across a roadkill. A bat had hit a speeding vehicle and had been crushed by its wheels. As its characters were different from other known bats, we carried out further studies. The research showed that it had features similar to an East Asian bat species called Phoniscus jagorii. So the new species was named as Phoniscus cf. jagorii. The ‘cf’ — meaning ‘closer to’ — was added to the name, since science needs more studies to distinguish them as a separate species.

The species has even been assessed for an inclusion in the upcoming Red List of threatened fauna. Mr. Edirisinghe said he was confident that this particular bat was a new species. But he said more research was required to establish this.

In an average home garden, a number of bat species can be observed. “Of the 31 bat species, only four feeds on fruits while the others are insectivorous. The insectivorous bats particularly feed on harmful insects. They consume a large number of mosquitoes in one night; so they are actually our friends’ Mr. Ediriweera said.


The Painted Bat – the most beautiful bat in Sri Lanka

Tharaka Kusuminda studying a bat speciman

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

October 8, 2019 by

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.

Sea level rising is real, Lanka urged to take urgent measures to avert disasters

October 6, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/191006/news/sea-level-rising-is-real-lanka-urged-to-take-urgent-measures-to-avert-disasters-371918.html published on SundayTimes on 06.10.2019

As new global reports issue fresh warning on the impact of global warming on our oceans, how vulnerable is Sri Lanka, especially in view of it being ranked second among countries facing extreme weather patterns due to climate change?

In 2004, the boxing day tsunami killed some 35,000 people in Sri Lanka and caused immense damage to property. It is said that in Batticaloa and other places in the east, the waves reached several meters high.

“If Sri Lanka were to be hit by a tsunami of a similar magnitude at a time when the sea level would have risen by half a meter, the calamity would be twice as bad as what we experienced in 2004,” warns Dr.D.P.C. Laknath, a coastal engineer, insisting that Sri Lanka should be mindful about changes impacting the oceans due to global warming.

With the sea level rising, the erosion of our beaches will become worse, while extreme weather events can bring devastating floods to low lying coastal areas. Large areas of coastal areas of Puttalam, Galle, Hambantota and Jaffna face the risk of being submerged by the end of the century with the predicted sea level rise, mainly due to the excess water from now rapidly melting glaciers.

The recently released “Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate” highlighted the impacts of global warming on oceans and cryosphere —or those parts of Earth’s surface where water is in solid form, including sea ice, snow cover, glaciers, ice caps, and frozen ground. Published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the report once again emphasises that the sea level rise and other risks related to global warming are real.

The IPCC is the UN’s scientific body evaluating the science behind climate change. Its special report assessed about 7,000 scientific studies by more than 100 authors from 36 countries. It says that while the sea level has risen globally by around 15 cm during the 20th century, it is currently rising more than twice as fast – 3.6 mm per year – and accelerating.

At the 10th International Conference on Asian and Pacific Coasts (APAC 2019) held at Hanoi, Vietnam from September 25 to 28, Dr. Laknath and his research team shared more findings, stressing the importance of getting ready to face climate change impacts, mainly due to the changes taking place in the oceans. Their research paper titled “Analysis of Cyclone Events in the Bay of Bengal and Simulation of Storm Surge in the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka” won the Best Paper Award at this conference, beating more than 300 entries from several countries.

The intensity of cyclones and other extreme whether events would get increased with climate change,the research paper points out, particularly in view of the impact of warming oceans. Sri Lanka, which has already been placed second on a list of countries that had been impacted by extreme weather events in 2017, should be prepared to avert or minimise the devastating consequences.

“When earth’s atmosphere gets warmed due to the global warming effect, the sea surface temperature will rise. Sea surface temperature is one of the main contributors to generation of a cyclone and many other weather events. Thus the change in sea level temperature will increase the intensity of the weather events that impact Sri Lanka,” says Dr. Laknath, a former postdoctoral researcher at Taisei Technology Centere in Japan.

For his research, he simulated storm surges on the Eastern Coast of Sri Lanka after studying the characteristics and behavior of the Bay of Bengal cyclones of last four decades. “The Eastern coastal area of Sri Lanka is more vulnerable to storm surges and coastal flooding due to cyclones; hence, a proper understanding of cyclones and the kind of damage they can cause are a prerequisite for saving lives and properties and the simulations can help to identify risks,” he points out.

In January this year, the Presidential Expert Committee published a report titled ‘Vision and Strategic Path for Sustainable Sri Lanka 2030’. The report whose chief editor was Prof Mohan Moonesinghe, a vice chair of the Nobel prize winning IPCC team in 2007, highlighted that climate projections and forecasts are very important for a sustainable economy and infrastructure planning.

The report said good prediction models, especially prepared for islands like Sri Lanka, will be necessary for climate forecasts. Most of all, developing a pool of scientists and researchers in fields such as meteorology, oceanography, geology and atmospheric physics is necessary to succeed in this task, it said.

The report also pointed out that about 5% of the land is located within a one-meter elevation from the mean sea level in the critical coastal zone that is exposed to sea level rise and the other forms of climate change effects. But of the total population of Sri Lanka, about 20% is settled within this zone. The on-going development patterns show that the populations in the coastal zone have been gradually increasing over last few decades making the residing populations as well as the properties are increasingly vulnerable to disaster situations.

Meanwhile, the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA)’s senior scientist Dr. W.N.C. Priyadarshani says some of their studies on sea level rise have also indicated the vulnerability of Sri Lanka’s coastal communities to the ocean-based disaster events is gradually increasing. The low-lying coastal area less than 1m of elevation is about 100 sq. km within the coastal belt of Sri Lanka including maximum area in Jaffna, according to the Shuttle Radar maps originally produced by NASA, the NARA studies show.

The Sea level rise around Sri Lankan waters was investigated by means of in-situ (Tide gauge) and satellite altimetry data over a period spanning two decades from 1993 to 2018. In-situ observation are made using automated permanent sea level monitoring stations which are established by NARA in Trincomalee, Kirinda, Colombo and Mirissa to cover the entire island. To study global sea level rise and ocean-based disasters and to take preventive and mitigation measures within the region, these stations are linked with a global sea level monitoring network established by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC).

Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate warns impacts to oceans by global warming would be real

Snake specialist charmed by the attention

October 1, 2019 by

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.


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. 


Climate change has struck a chord with Lankans although we haven’t taken to the streets: Activists

October 1, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190929/news/climate-change-has-struck-a-chord-with-lankans-although-we-havent-taken-to-the-streets-activists-370734.html Published on SundayTimes on 29.09.2019 

This week saw a global wave of protests in many parts of the world with hundreds and thousands of youth and adults taking to the streets holding placards and shouting slogans. They all had a common cause–demanding action to tackle climate change.

This global movement, Climate Strike, was initiated last year by a Swedish youngster, Greta Thunberg who skipped school to protest against the inaction on climate change in front of the Swedish parliament. Since then her actions have inspired schoolchildren and adults alike around the world to take up the fight, which peaked this week to coincide with the UN Climate Action summit.

Although strikes are not new to Sri Lanka with a wave of ongoing strikes almost crippling the public sector, there is little participation by Sri Lankans in this global action against climate change. The Sunday Times contacted a number of local environmental activists to find out why there seemed to be little interest when even neighbouring countries such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan have joined the global action.

Students strike for climate change awareness in Sydney, Australia

“Our House is on Fire” a climate strike at Berlin, Germany

“Youth engagement is vital in creating change and it is even more important and urgent, when addressing impacts of climate change. The action of Greta Thunberg and many other youth have brought attention to the critical issue of climate change globally and in Sri Lanka also there is a strong call for climate action. The fact that Sri Lankans haven’t taken their climate concerns to the streets as much as other countries does not necessarily mean that the general public is not concerned about climate change,” says Vositha Wijenayake, Executive Director of Sri Lankan Youth Climate Action Network (SLYCAN) Trust.

The SLYCAN Trust conducts several programmes to get Sri Lankan youth engaged in climate issues. MsWjenayake pointed out that there are multiple ways youth could contribute to addressing climate change including taking individual and collective action to create awareness among youth and the public on the need for urgent climate action.

“When we started working on climate change over a decade ago, many efforts were initiated to ensure that youth voices will be included in climate change processes, nationally and internationally. Today, I believe, we have come a long way, and the importance of youth’s role is accepted by almost all,” Ms.Wijenayake added. It is important that we create avenues for youth and engage them constructively in climate action, and to provide them with the technical capacity, and knowledge on climate change impacts which will help them in their efforts, she added.

A symbolic protest in Colombo – Sri Lanka is ranked the second-worst affected country in relation to extreme weather events in 2017. The intensity of rainfall has increased causing floods more frequently

Sri Lanka's global strike for Climate - threats to SL

“Raising awareness and communicating a topic like climate change is complex. There are many facets of climate change, so it is a time consuming, slow task to get people engaged. One off protests such as the Climate Strikes are only about 5% of this communication process” said Nalaka Gunawardene, a specialist on Climate Communications. Mr. Gunwardene pointed out the importance of having more scientific research to bring out the localised impact of climate change, so it would be easier to convince people here that climate change is at their doorstep too.

Prof. Mohan Munasinghe who was the former vice chair of UN Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was honoured with a Nobel Prize says it is heartening to see that youth are showing their concerns about the future through Climate Strikes. However, we face many problems, and different people may have differing priorities across the world and I believe that the youth in developing countries like Sri Lanka have a different and more balanced perspective than their counterparts in richer countries,” Prof.Munasinghe said.

The poor youth in developing countries where millions are dying of starvation may feel that poverty, inequality, hunger and disease etc. should be given equal or even greater priority than climate change. Global warming will certainly make their problems worse in the future, but they will not be alive in that future unless they deal with their immediate threats and needs. So it is important to look at the problems in more broader perspective and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is a way forward for countries like Sri Lanka to engage in these issues,” Prof.Munasinghe pointed out.

The Climate Strike actions That was launched on September 20 to coincide with world leaders coming together for a Climate Actions Summit held on September 23 in New York, This high level summit was convened by the UN Secretary General to accelerate actions to implement the Paris Agreement on Climate Change agreed during the 2015 climate summit held in Paris among other things.

Sri Lanka is ranked the second-worst affected country in relation to extreme weather events in 2017, only next to Puerto Rico, in the report, Global Climate Risk Index 2019, produced recently by the climate think-tank, Germanwatch. According to the report, storms and their direct implications – rainfall deluges, floods and landslides – were a major cause of damage in 2017. Of the 10 most affected countries in 2017, four were hit by tropical cyclones, with a clear link being found between climate change and record-breaking downpours and hurricanes.

“It is unfair that developing countries like Sri Lanka have to face the brunt of climate change though extreme weather events etc. even though the country has not contributed to the problem. We need more funds to bear the brunt of climate change. Despite many promises of global funding, it has not yet materialised to the expected level,” prof.Munasinghe pointed out.

Extreme weather events are getting increased

Greta Thunberg to lead youth climate strike in 150 countries

Can Sri Lanka drive conservation through its ‘Sexy Beasts’…?

September 27, 2019 by
  • Though a global biodiversity hotspot with high endemism, Sri Lanka’s wildlife tourism is driven by a select group of “charismatic” species, including the Asian elephant, leopard, sloth bear, blue whale and sperm whale, none of which are endemic to the island.
  • Sri Lanka still relies on conservation paradigms set decades ago, aimed at protecting these high-profile animals, but experts call for the adoption of new conservation strategies to protect the island’s biodiversity, moving beyond the charismatic species.
  • A group of tropical biologists have called for the establishment of ecological corridors linking fragmented biodiversity-rich habitats in Sri Lanka’s wet zone to ensure the protection of unique endemic species not included among the charismatic species.
  • Often lost in the shadow cast by the charismatic species are a wealth of amphibians and reptiles, found nowhere else on Earth, with new species continuing to be discovered on an almost regular basis.

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/sri-lanka-eyes-lucrative-charismatic-species-to-save-lesser-known-ones/ Published on Mongabay on 23 September 2019

Sri Lanka has the highest density of Asian elephants. Around 300 can be seen at the annual “gathering,” when they congregate at a manmade reservoir in Minneriya National Park. Banner image courtesy of Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne

COLOMBO — Wildlife conservation managers have long known that to protect a species, it helps if the animal is what’s known as charismatic: rare, endangered, beautiful, impressive, dangerous, or a combination of these traits.

This focus on charismatic species continues to drive conservation efforts and how they’re funded (think of Africa’s “Big Five”: elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo).

For a country like Sri Lanka, though, the spotlight being shone on flagship species such as elephants and leopards is leaving the myriad more obscure species, found nowhere else on the planet, out in the dark.

That was the conclusion of a recent meeting of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation’s Asia-Pacific chapter (ATBC-AP) in Sri Lanka: that there’s a high reliance on “marketing” the island’s “sexy beasts” to drive wildlife tourism, with little attention paid to the not-so-charismatic endemic species.

A leopard in Wilpattu National Park, courtesy of Rajiv Welikala.

“Charismatic animals often attract disproportionate amounts of research and conservation funding, commercial interest and public attention compared with other species,” said Ruchira Somaweera a Sri Lankan herpetologist and National Geographic Explorer. “As a result, they often play a significant role as surrogates for boarder biodiversity conservation aims We are all animals ourselves and follow these ‘sexiness’ traits. As it is an inherent, we should use it as an opportunity for conservation, using them as flagship species.”

Charismatics drive wildlife tourism

A glance at Sri Lanka’s wildlife tourism industry gives an idea of the island’s charismatic species. The country is often promoted as being the best for big game safaris outside Africa, and the Ministry of Tourism has come up with its own version of the big five: the Asian elephant (Elephas maximus maximus), leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) and sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus).

According to Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, a pioneer in branding and promoting Sri Lanka’s wildlife to the world, the island ranks first in the world in term of ease of viewing the first four of those species — an annual gathering of around 300 elephants in Minneriya National Park has been rated one of the greatest wildlife spectacles on Earth — and is among the top 10 global destinations for sperm whale watching.

A sloth bear at Yala National Park in southern Sri Lanka. The species is one of the largest bears in the tropics, and among the most elusive of the charismatic species. Image courtesy of Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne.

When it named Sri Lanka its top destination for 2019, travel guide publisher Lonely Planet emphasized the island’s rich fauna and flora. Statistics from the Department of Wildlife Conservation for 2018 show that Yala National Park in the country’s deep south ranked first in leopard-watching possibilities, recording nearly 630,000 visitors, more than half of them from overseas. This was followed by Horton Plains National Park, also home to leopards and visited by more than 410,000 people (nearly 120,000 foreign), and Udawalawe National Park, considered the best spot for observing elephants through the year.

Those species have in turn generated significant revenue for the parks. Yala topped the list last year with $5.7 million in receipts, followed by Horton Plains ($4.1 million) and Udawalawe ($2.4 million). Nearly half of all foreign tourists to Sri Lanka engage in wildlife tourism and visit at least one national park, according to Srilal Miththapala, a tourism industry specialist and promoter of nature-based tourism.

Sri Lanka offers some of the best opportunities in the world to watch a superpod of sperm whales, consisting of about 50 individuals. Image courtesy of Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne.

Opportunity vs. burden

But this level of popularity gives rise to various problems both for the wildlife and the managers of these national parks, who have to grapple with too many visitors. The whale watching industry, created without proper regulations, also prompted concerns in the early stages when boats were allowed to get close to the whales to give paying visitors a “better view.”

But the appeal of charismatic species should be seen as an opportunity rather than a burden, said Sampath Seneviratne from the University of Colombo. “We do live in a world where bigger environmental crises such as deforestation and climate change are threatening life on Earth. People have their own concerns and the need to preserve our ecosystems does not attract the expected political bite,” he said, adding that charismatic species and the love for them helps mainstream the need for species conservation.

In the case of Sri Lanka, however, conservation efforts have focused on the protection of the larger charismatic game animals found only in the island’s dry zone. But the island’s wealth of biodiversity lies in rather small endemic creatures — amphibians and reptiles, of which new species are discovered on an almost regular basis — mostly restricted to the wet zone and the central massif, said Eric Wikramanayake a conservation biologist who leads the wildlife and wetlands program of WWF- Hong Kong.

Wikramanayake compared Sri Lanka’s biodiversity to the workings of an airplane. “This airplane’s engine could be elephants. The flight computer could be the leopards. But what about the ants, bees, butterflies, earthworms and birds? Where do they fit in? We should not overlook the significant behind-the-scene contributions of the smaller species. They really are the nuts and bolts of the airplane. When they fail, we see a plane crash.”

Besides wintering migratory birds, there are many native species that can be seen in their natural settings here, such as this juvenile Serendib scops owl from deep within Sinharaja, Sri Lanka’s only rainforest. Image courtesy of Rajiv Welikala.

Adapting to dynamic ecosystems

While there’s been great emphasis laid on species-specific protection activities, prioritizing wildlife habitats with high ecosystem value is the need of the hour, according to conservation biologist Manori Gunawardena. What the former approach has meant is the designation of a sizable share of protected areas to conserving mega fauna. This has led to the disparate distribution of protected sites, with more of the dry lowland habitats covered than the highly threatened and biodiversity-rich wet-zone ecosystems.

The ATBC-AP meeting called for the establishment of biodiversity corridors in Sri Lanka’s wet zone to link the fragmented rainforest patches in a bid to scale up the conservation of endemic species. The conservationists’ recommendations are included in the outcome document, the Thulhiriya Declaration.

Wikramanayake called for new strategies to conserve Sri Lanka’s biodiversity, looking beyond the charismatic species.

“Our conservation priorities, approaches and strategies belong to the 20th century,” he said. “We still rely on conservation paradigms, thought processes and ideas from the 1940s and ’50s. In the meantime, the world is changing and passing us by. Ecosystems are dynamic, and conservation has to adapt.”

Sri Lanka has the highest density of Asian elephants. Around 300 can be seen at the annual “gathering,” when they congregate at a manmade reservoir in Minneriya National Park. Banner image courtesy of Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne

Unusual coloured snake turned out to be common wolf snake

September 26, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190922/news/unusual-coloured-snake-turned-out-to-be-common-wolf-snake-369563.html Published on SundayTimes on 22.09.2019 

A snake found in the premises of a temple in Hikkaduwa earlier this week, had residents and even experts in a quandary initially, with news reports of the discovery of an unidentified snake.

Hikkaduwa Wildlife Department officials said when the snake was handed over to them, there was even speculation that it might have originated from a foreign country as this temple received packages from Australia on a regular basis.

Adding to the puzzle was also the fact that the snake turned darker the following day.

The initial photographs of the snake even puzzled experts, but after checking more photographs Prof. Kalana Maduwage of the University of Peradeniya identified it as the common wolf snake (Lycodon aulicus). Explaining the change in colour, Prof. Maduwage said the wolf snake looks paler just before it sheds it skin and this snake would have been spotted just before it shed its skin. However, since the Hikkaduwa wildlife officers said that the snake had not shed its skin, it is believed that it was found soon after it had shed its skin.

The Common wolf snake is a non-venomous snake and is known as ‘Alu radanakaya’ in Sinhala. The snake found in Hikkaduwa was about two and half feet long. Though wolf snakes are common, experts say it is rare to see a full grown specimen in human habitation as they are often killed before they become adult snakes. The wolf snake usually has bands around it, sometimes mimicking the venomous Krait, But this snake didn’t have such bands leading to further speculation. “This snake had a different colouration than that of a wolf snake. A wolf snake with this kind of colour morph is described as Lycodon aulicus unicolor, Prof. Maduwage said. “I have come across many of this colour morph specimens in the Southern Province,” he added.

Leading snake expert Dr. Anslem de Silva also confirmed that this was a wolf snake. “There are many colour variations of this snake species,” Dr.de Silva said. “It is not unusual to have different colour forms of the same species in the snake world. For example, a survey of more than 500 cobras revealed that their spectacle marks were different from one another. There were cobras without markings as well,” Dr.de Silva explained.

Help to identify snakes just a click away
The website www.snakesidentification.org set up by Prof. Maduwage and some of his colleagues completes two years this week. One can upload an image of any snake that one encounters and get expert opinion on identification and other information. The website also assists doctors who need to identify snakes when patients seek treatment for snake bites.

Need of using innovation in wildlife conservation stressed

September 19, 2019 by

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.


Environmentalists, conservationists gather for tropical biodiversity conference in Sri Lanka

September 19, 2019 by

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.

Sri Lanka scales up its domestic campaign to protect sharks with a global push

September 8, 2019 by

https://news.mongabay.com/2019/09/sri-lanka-scales-up-its-domestic-campaign-to-protect-sharks-with-a-global-pushpublished on MongayBay on 05.09.2019

  • With the killing of sharks and rays on the rise, Sri Lanka played a lead role in pushing three proposals to extend global protection to 18 species at the recently concluded CITES wildlife trade summit in Geneva.
  • Sixty-three sharks and 42 ray species are found in Sri Lankan waters, and are threatened by overexploitation driven by an ever-increasing demand for sharks fins, meat, and liver oil.
  • While five species of sharks currently enjoy legal protection against the species trade in Sri Lanka, conservationists see an urgent need to extend protection to all reef sharks and other endangered shark and ray species.

Decades ago along the beaches of Sri Lanka, fish sellers used bicycles to transport their catch, including sharks. It was said the sharks were often so big that, when tied down to the bicycle frame, their snouts and tail fins would touch the ground at either end.

“But not anymore,” says Hiran Jayawardene, the founder chairman of the National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA). He says this decline is evident at shark landing sites around the country, where fishermen are no longer pulling in the large sharks they did before.

Sri Lanka’s waters are home to 63 shark and 42 ray species, but many are threatened by overexploitation to feed the growing demand for shark fins, meat, and liver oil.

The result of the voting at the CITES summit in Geneva in favor of the uplisting of mako sharks to Appendix II. Image courtesy of IISD Reporting Service.

But the country is looking to change that, rolling out a raft of regulations in the past two decades to protect various shark species domestically, and, more recently, spearheading a push for the global protection of highly exploited and endangered mako sharks.

Among the many proposals it supported at last month’s global summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Sri Lanka took a leading role in calling for the inclusion of the two species of mako sharks, shortfin (Isurus oxyrinchus) and longfin (I. paucus), in CITES Appendix II, which would subject their trade to strict rules. It also called for similar protections for six species of giant guitarfishes and 10 species of wedgefishes.

The IUCN Red List includes both species of mako sharks as endangered, all six species of giant guitarfishes as critically endangered, and nine of the 10 species of wedgefishes as critically endangered.

“All these species have seen very steep declines in their populations in recent decades and this is mostly due to overfishing, habitat destruction and degradation,” Rima Jabado, the IUCN Shark Specialist Group’s regional vice-chair for the Indian Ocean, told Mongabay.

Kim Friedman, senior fisheries resources officer at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said a mere listing would not protect the species. “It matters to change the management framework of fisheries to get implemented at ground level.”

More than 100 million sharks are killed every year, mainly for their fins. Image by Malaka Rodrigo.

Protecting the ocean’s predators

In Sri Lanka, five species of sharks enjoy legal protection: the pelagic thresher shark (Alopias pelagicus), bigeye thresher (A. superciliosus), common thresher (A. vulpinus), oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus), and whale shark (Rhincodon typus). Since 2001, local fishing regulations have required that any of these sharks that are caught must be brought to shore with their fins attached. The rule was enforced to curb shark finning, the practice of catching a shark, cutting off its fins mid-ocean, then dumping the live shark back into the water, where, unable to swim, it dies.

In 2013, Sri Lanka went further and introduced a five-year National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA), specifying measures for adoption and implementation of new shark conservation and management mechanisms.

Sisira Haputhantri, an ocean fisheries expert at NARA, told Mongabay that the shark action plan, since extended for another five years, should help monitor the implementation of the conservation initiatives.

Over the past 10 years, the country has official exported 59 metric tons of shark fins annually. But there’s evidence that greater volumes of shark fins are being smuggled out of the island.

There are recorded and unrecorded instances of fins being exported as dried fish, said Sevvandi Jayakody, Sri Lanka’s coordinator for the recent CITES summit.

By listing mako sharks in Appendix II, scientists can gather accurate figures of sharks killed as part of the international trade, which would help determine whether catches are reaching what’s known as the maximum sustainable yield (MSY), Jayakody said.

“We do not want to stop shark fishery but we do want sustainable fishery. CITES should help educate regulators and fisherfolk alike, on the new developments,” she said.

Both species of mako are oceanic, roam the high seas, and undertake long-distance migrations, making local protection mechanisms of somewhat limited value, according to Rex I. de Silva, author of Sharks of Sri Lanka. The CITES listing is therefore vital to protect the species in international seas.

A shark is finned at the Negombo shark landing site in western Sri Lanka. Image by Malaka Rodrigo.

John E. Scanlon, former secretary-general of CITES, told Mongabay that the convention had been used effectively since 2013 to regulate the international trade in commercially harvested sharks and rays. These include hammerheads (family Sphyrnidae), porbeagles (Lamna nasus) and oceanic whitetip sharks and manta rays, as well as silky (Carcharhinus falciformis) and thresher sharks together with devil rays (genus Mobula) since 2016. Mako sharks are the latest to join the list.

“Following the 2003 listing of sharks, there had been great progress in the conservation of white sharks, basking sharks and whale sharks,” Jabado said. “The other listings are much more recent, and it is unlikely we will see a difference in the population size of these species just yet.”

Conservation management

What countries need is better fisheries management to curb overexploitation, Jabado said.

“Many species in the Indian Ocean are considered migratory but many are endemic to this region,” she said. “This means, we need higher levels of species protection. To ensure protection of the migratory species, the best strategy is collaboration with other countries in the region, both on research and conservation.”

Daniel Fernando of Blue Resources Trust initiated a nine-day survey of fish markets and landing sites at 11 localities in Sri Lanka that led to the identification of 34 shark species. Five of them are sharks new to science. “If a short survey of nine days could help discover new species, it shows the need for greater research on Sri Lanka’s sharks,” Fernando told Mongabay.

Following the listing of sharks and rays to Appendix II during the 2013 CITES summit in Bangkok, Sri Lanka’s Department of Fisheries Resources and the FAO conducted a joint survey to identify the successes and challenges experienced in the implementation of CITES provisions.

The survey showed poor awareness about the CITES process among stakeholders. However, they had a satisfactory level of knowledge of other measures, with more than 69 percent of respondents having awareness of management measures.

Sharks caught for their fins. Finning often takes place at sea, with the live shark thrown back into the water, where it’s unable to swim and quickly dies. Image by Malaka Rodrigo.

“Shark conservation in Sri Lanka appears to be at the starting point: It has a long way to go in order to reach conservation efforts undertaken by neighbours such as the Maldives,” said  Howard Martenstyn, a marine biologist with the Centre of Research for Indian Ocean Marine Mammals (CRIOMM).

Promotion of ecotourism of sharks and manta rays as an alternative to fishing can offer a different revenue model for the local economy, Martenstyn said.


Banner image of a stuffed shark toy at the Sri Lankan delegation’s seat at last month’s CITES summit in Geneva. Sri Lanka played a leading role in pushing for greater protection for sharks and rays at the summit. Image courtesy of IISD Reporting Service.

The Elephant Count 2019 Postponed

September 8, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190908/news/elephant-count-method-triggers-debate-on-reliability-367479.html published on 08.09.2019 

The islandwide elephant survey planned for September 13-14 is likely to be postponed due to bad weather in some parts of Sri Lanka, the Sunday Times learns. The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) Director General Chandana Sooriyabandara, said the survey will “most probably’’ be postponed and an official announcement will be made tomorrow. The survey will be re-scheduled.

Mr. Sooriyabandara said that the water hole count method used in the 2011 elephant survey will be used, again. Usually done during the height of the dry season, teams will be at different points.But when there are heavy rains, water will be available elsewhere and animals will not necessarily visit watering holes and the results may not be accurate, said Dr Lakshman Peiris, who is the DWC coordinator of the elephant survey 2019.

Elephants in tank bed of Minneriya. Photo courtesy ‘Island wide Elephant Survey – 2018’ brochure ESCAMP website

According to the DWC, 2,256 observation points will be used for the survey with 7,500 observers, including about 2000 volunteers. The same counting points used in the 2011 survey will be used as it will provide data to compare population trends of elephants, said Mr Peiris.

Finding out the population trend and the distribution patterns of elephants inside national parks and elsewhere is another objective. “The department needs the data to take management decisions,” Mr Sooriyabandara said defending another elephant survey after eight years following the first one.

“It is a survey, not a census as some media reported,” Mr.Sooribandara said. In a census, every member of the population is counted – something similar to the census of the human population. In the wild, it is very difficult to count every elephant.  The survey will have an error component of plus and minus.

According to the 2011 elephant count, Sri Lanka has a population of 5,879 elephants. Out of them, 3,285 were adults of both sexes and 1,487 were sub-adults. This also includes 731 juveniles, and 376 calves. The 2011 survey also gathered data on tuskers, which made some activists to criticise the motives of the count.

About 6.5% of males are tuskers while sub-adult tuskers make up 7.7%. The juvenile tuskers represent 8.4%.  Most elephants, or 67.19%, were found within the protected areas under the DWC, while 29.78% roam among forests managed by the Forest Department. The remaining 3.03% range in and around patches of small forest pockets near remote villages.

However, the water hole counting method is being criticised as unreliable. At a reservoir, the same elephant herd may enter into a tank from different locations, causing a double-count. A high density of animals also makes it difficult to count. Also, elephants sometimes visit watering holes at night making counting difficult.

Experts are needed to estimate the age, so identification by volunteers may be unreliable. For example, a survey usually puts a plus or minus error factor to the results and in the case of the 2011 survey, this had been high as 2,000.

Elephant expert Dr Prithviraj Fernando said there are many flaws in the water hole method where the number of elephants counted will be directly proportional to the number of observer points. “If the 2019 survey uses the same number of points as last time, the result would probably be similar numbers. If the number of points are fewer, then the final total will be less.’’

However, Mr Sooriyabandara defended the water hole count method saying it is internationally accepted. “Any ecological assessment method will have an error factor,” he said.“The count aims to compare the data with the 2011 survey to check trends in elephant populations and distribution.’’

Inorder to make the planned survey with the methodology more useful, Dr.Fernando suggest to find out the error factor of such methodology more accurately. “do repeated counts on different dates in an area where the population is known through a scientific method, such as Yala and Uda Walawe using the same methodology. That will give an indication of the error for the island-wide survey as well” elephant expert suggests.

The results of 2011 elephant count

Dr Fernando said there is no easy method. Estimating by identifying individual animals from photos, or genetics and mark-recapture would give more reliable data, but is time consuming, expensive and cannot be done at a countrywide scale.

Elephant experts say that a much more useful survey would be to assess where the animals are and whether there are herds or only males and whether they are seasonal or resident.

Earlier this year, Dr Fernando published ‘the first evidence-based distribution map of Asian elephants in Sri Lanka’.

The study shows elephants are mostly found outside protected areas sharing the areas where humans live. In this study, from 2011 to 2015, the researchers divided Sri Lanka into 2,750 cells, each extending 25 square kilometres, which is the smallest known home range for wild elephants in Sri Lanka. Researchers visited people in a grid cell and asked if they have seen elephants in the area.

“Such surveys based on questionnaires could be done at a finer scale with a smaller grid in areas where there are conservation concerns such as edges of distribution, where development projects are planned. And conservation and management decisions can be made on such data,” Dr Fernando said.  ’

The cost of the elephant count is estimated Rs 88 million and to be funded under the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project, through a loan by the World Bank.

Sri Lankan lizards, tortoises get greater protection from wildlife trade

September 7, 2019 by

http://www.sundaytimes.lk/190901/news/sri-lankan-lizards-tortoises-get-greater-protection-from-wildlife-trade-366240.html published on 01.09.2019

The World Wildlife Conference, known formerly as the 18th Conference of the Parties (COP18) of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), ended on August 28.

The Sri Lankan delegation at the summit

Most of proposals that Sri Lanka submitted along with other countries seeking trade protection for local species got adopted while some other proposals were adopted with changes. Sri Lanka withdrew one proposal, but plans to resubmit it soon.

Since coming into force in 1975, the CITES convention remains the world’s most powerful tool for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade with 183 signatories, including Sri Lanka. The countries can propose protection of species or request to downgrade protection at its Conference of Parties once in three years. This COP18 was initially planned to be held in May earlier this year in Sri Lanka, but later shifted to Geneva, Switzerland after the Easter Sunday attack by Muslim extremists on Catholic worshippers.

At the summit, Sri Lanka submitted a number of proposals seeking protection to some of the local species that can be over-exploited by the international trade. The three proposals were aimed at listing 10 lizards in the Appendix I of the CITES, preventing any form of international trade.

These proposals urge five species of Horned Lizards (Ceratophora spp.), two species of Pygmi Lizards (Cophotis ceylanica and Cophotis dumbara), Hump-nosed lizards (Lyriocephalus scutatus) and two species of garden (Calotes nigrilabris and Calotes pethiyagodai) to be included in CITES Appendix I.

The Sunday Times learnt there was opposition to these proposals mainly from the European Union, the main buyer of these species as pets.
However, Sri Lankan delegates defended the proposal to list Pygmy Lizards and three Horned Lizards to be included to Appendix I with majority voting in favor of.

Hump-nosed lizard, Rough-nosed horn lizard (Ceratophora aspera) and Rhino-horn lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii) could only be included into the CITES Appendix II on the basis of insufficient data to push for inclusion to Appendix I.

Sri Lanka withdrew the third lizard proposal that aimed at listing Garden lizards (Calotes nigrilabris and Calotes pethiyagodai) on Appendix I.
Exclusively speaking to the Sunday Times from Geneva, the Sri Lankan coordinator of CITES CoP18 Sri Lankan Secretariat, Dr.Sevvandi Jayakody said the reason for withdrawal was technical. “The species in the withdrawn proposal were scientifically split recently describing new species in the group, so EU and other experts questioned why not include the new species to the listing, so we decided to review the proposal and resubmit if after updating,” Dr.Jayakody said.

The Director General of DWC, Chandana Sooriyabandara

Meanwhile, the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network TRAFFIC’s recent report titled ‘The presence of protected reptiles from Sri Lanka in international commercial trade’ shows that the trade in Sri Lankan reptiles is booming. The report authored by Jordi Janssen and Dr.Anslem de Silva says that more species may have been introduced into the trade in recent years. The study shows that Germany is at the center of the illegal trade in Sri Lankan reptiles, with 17 species observed during the study. Many of these are micro-endemics, living in a very restricted area and extremely vulnerable to overexploitation — so international trade can quickly become a significant threat to these species as they also face other challenges like habitat loss and degradation.

Sri Lanka along with other countries Bangladesh, India and Senegal also proposed Star Tortoise to be included in the Appendix I. This attracted controversy before the COP18 event as the CITES secretariat issued a recommendation against the proposal indicating that adding the Star Tortoise to Appendix I would not provide much benefit.

But in recent years, large volumes of Star Tortoises that has been seized from smugglers in countries including Sri Lanka, was cited as evidence of the need to protect them from the pet trade. This was approved at the conference.

Continuing the trend of using CITES trade quotas and permits to promote sustainable commercial fisheries, the conference decided to add 18 more shark species to Appendix II. They included Blacknose and Sharpnose guitarfishes, highly valued for their fins and considered endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

Shortfin and Longfin Mako sharks, together with species of Wedgefishes are found in Sri Lankan waters. So Sri Lanka’s decision to become co-proponents of these proposals are important, said fisheries expert Daniel Fernando who was one of the delegates.

Taking the lead in shark conservation proposals, Sri Lanka also hosted a side event. The secretary of Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife Siri Hettiarachchi, who led the Sri Lankan delegation, said it was successful.

Sri Lanka along with the United States proposed to enlist ornamental Tiger Spiders (tarantulla) and songbirds on Index II. Another proposal submitted with the US was to list Boswellia (frankincense) on Appendix III. Boswellia is a resin extracted from a tree with considerable anti-inflammatory properties.

The CoP18 was attended by 169 member governments (plus the EU) and some 1,700 delegates, observers and journalists. The Sri Lankan team was led by Siri Hettiarachchi, secretary of ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, and also included the Director General of Wildlife Department, Chandana Sooriyabandara, deputy director Ranjan Marasinghe and Dr.Sevvandi Jayakody, Daniel Fernando and Manori Gunawardane.

Representing the minister of wildlife, the lawmaker, Sandith Samarasinghe participated with additional secretary Dayawan Rathnayake, and ambassador Abdul Azeez.

CITES COP18 is successful in terms of species protection initiatives and attention Sri Lanka got, Dr.Sevvandi said.

A Sri Lankan lizard on one of the CITES report