Monthly Lectures

The monthly lecture series of the WNPS is now a monthly gathering looked forward to by both the membership and the general public. The depth of knowledge shared in the 60 minute lecture by an excellent line up of speakers has not only enriched the audience but has enabled the society to initiate measures in various conservation fronts.

Upcoming Lectures

THE GUARDIAN OF SRI LANKA’S WILDLIFE: The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) 

By Ranjan Marasinghe, Director Operations, DWC

6.00 pm, September 17, 2020. Jasmine Hall, BMICH 

For over 70 years, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) has been the statutory guardian of the wildlife and wilderness areas of Sri Lanka.  Currently under its jurisdiction are 61 Sanctuaries, three (3) Strict Natural Reserves, one (1) Elephant Corridor, seven (7) Nature Reserves and 26 National Parks, in total covering an area of approximately 14% of the land mass of this island.  This constitutes a vast expanse of land, forest, grassland, mangrove and wetland, not an easy task to manage especially as the faunal inhabitants of this wide variety of habitat are no respecters of human demarcated boundaries and wander in and out of these protected areas, on ranges their species have travelled for thousands of years.  For the DWC are not only responsible for wild animals within the protected areas, but for any wild animal found anywhere on the island. 
 
For much of the time, this herculean task is managed daily, and goes unnoticed by most, even wildlife lovers, who take these functions for granted.  It is, however, when things go wrong that matters come to a head, and even make headlines.  That is when a department whose daily routines are largely ignored suddenly comes under the Nation’s spotlight and questions are asked of its management and functions. 
 
In a country where the Civil Service has been largely politicized, and decisions are made on political whim, sometimes with little regard to the Law, championing the cause of wildlife cannot be easy especially when the wild inhabitants the department represents do  not have a franchise in the election of Government.  Nevertheless the sticks and stones of righteous indignation hurl down on the department when things go wrong, as the sole perpetrators of wrong, with scarce thought to the root causes. 
 
There is one other function of the DWC, however, that receives scant regard, but is probably its most important.  That is the fact that all of the major water catchment areas of the country are protected by the DWC. 
 
Ranjan Marasinghe, Director Operations, Department of Wildlife Conservation 
 
Innovative, result oriented Scientific Service officer with demonstrated success in introducing innovative technologies, process reengineering, planning, monitoring and evaluation, increase earnings, and improving citizen satisfaction. Adept at analyzing the challenging environments, conducting research and scientific decision making. Exemplary change agent with the ability to analyze issues, devise continuous process improvements and incorporate business process initiatives to increase efficiency, streamline operations and improved transparency. 
 
It takes confidence and courage to work for the DWC in the field; dealing with wild animals while traversing wild places.  It also takes considerable bravery to face an audience of conservationists and wildlife lovers, especially when the usual interaction is when one, the majority, become the others detractor. Ranjan Marasinghe is the Director Operations at the DWC responsible for Planning & Information Communication Technology.  Ranjan has taken on this challenge as he believes that everyone should know of the wide spectrum of work that the DWC has to undertake, so that the public learn of the pressures and challenges that the department faces daily to protect the wildlife of Sri Lanka.  He accepts that they are not infallible and that there are areas where they have failed, but because conservation is the common goal of all, that the understanding of the work of the department, the realities that they are faced with, and the pressures they have to endure should be widely known and understood.  It is then that the DWC and conservationists can work together to better serve the cause of conservation and preempt catastrophe from happening. 
 
The WNPS was responsible for the setting up of the DWC and it only seems right that it gives this voice to its protégé; to hear both the good and the bad.  This is a lecture that should attract every genuine wildlife lover who wishes to hear of the experiences of those who work on the ‘other side’, the official side, of the conservation track, and through this understanding, work together with the DWC to protect the last remaining wild creatures and wild places of this country. 
 
The WNPS Lecture is open all, Entrance Free. 

WNPS Monthly Lecture

Wildlife conservation, the world over, is in crisis, and not just in the developing world. The United Kingdom has just announced that 25% of its native mammals are in imminent danger of extinction. In Sri Lanka, a global biodiversity hotspot, we see alarming increases in human – wildlife conflicts, widespread illegal encroachment into protected areas, and policy proposals to reduce the remaining forest cover even further. The picture is grim but not irreversible, with committed action and widespread education these can yet be stopped, but there is no time to waste.

Conservation photography is a powerful tool in bringing about this action and learning. It is much more than the taking of a pretty picture of a wild animal or a landscape to cater to the aesthetic pleasure of the viewer. Conservation photographers take pictures that not only have technical excellence and perfect composition, but also give a message, sometimes stark and shocking, of the current reality in the jungles and forests and oceans, away from the tourist posters and the public eye. They will show the beauty of nature and the threat to its destruction, all in one frame i.e. a human guardian placing his head against the last remaining male Northern White Rhino, alas now no more.

To be able to compose such evocative pictures, the photographer not only requires the artistic and technical skills necessary for producing such images, but also a deep empathy and understanding of the subject; motivated by the desperate need to protect the world’s wild places and the creatures that call them home, and with whom we share this planet.

Ami Vitale
There is none better in portraying this message than Ami Vitale. Ami is an American photojournalist and documentary film maker, currently based in Montana, USA, and has visited Sri Lanka on an assignment.

Some of her achievements are listed below:

  • A Nikon Ambassador and National Geographic magazine photographer, she has traveled to more than 100 countries, bearing witness not only to violence and conflict, but also to surreal beauty and the enduring power of the human spirit. 
  • Throughout the years, she has lived in mud huts and war zones, contracted malaria, and donned a panda suit— keeping true to her belief in the importance of "living the story".
  • In 2009, after shooting a powerful story on the transport and release of one the world’s last white rhinos, Ami shifted her focus to today's most compelling wildlife and environmental stories 
  • She was recently named by Instyle Magazine as one of 50 women changing the world, along with Jane Goodall and Ruth Bader Ginsberg, among others
  • She is a founding member of Ripple Effect Images, a collective of scientists, writers, photographers, and filmmakers with a mission of creating powerful stories that illustrate how women in developing countries are affected by climate change
  • She has garnered prestigious awards including multiple prizes from World Press Photos, the first Magnum Inge Morath Grant, and the Daniel Pearl Award for Outstanding Reporting
  • Her first book, Panda Love: The Secret Lives of Pandas, was published in 2018
  • She lectures for the National Geographic LIVE series, and frequently gives workshops throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia.
  • 5 time winner of the World Press Photo Awards

A picture does tell a story.  Ami's amazing skill brings these messages alive, that of the desperate need for action, but also of hope that something can yet be done.

Register online

Past Lectures

  • Tribal Tigers

    Tribal Tigers
    by Dr.Sahil Nijhawan

    January 2020

  • Biodiversity Conservation

    Are we really engaging in Biodiversity Conservation?
    by Dr.Sriyanie Miththapala

    September 2019
  • Climate Change

    Climate Change and Our Responsibility
    by Dr.Erandathie Lokupitiya

    June 2019
  • Unwinding the secrets of the elusive Indian Pangolin

    Unwinding the secrets of the elusive Indian Pangolin
    By Dr.Priyan Perera

    May 2020
  • Biodiversity, Climate Change and Land Degradation

    Biodiversity, Climate Change and Land Degradation
    by Sir Robert Watson

    June 2020

  • Mangroves and their future

    Do or do not, there is no try:
    Mangroves and their future
    by Dr. Sevvandi Jayakody

    July 2020