The Wildlife & Nature Protection Society (WNPS) is Sri Lanka’s oldest conservation organization and the third oldest nature protection society in the world. Established in 1894, WNPS has worked tirelessly to conserve Sri Lanka’s natural world over the last 127 years and its milestones are closely intertwined with the country’s conservation milestones.
These milestones include the establishment of the Yala and Wilpattu National Parks in 1900s as well as the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (FFPO) in 1937 and the establishment of Sri Lanka’s Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) in 1949. WNPS also played an instrumental role in setting up the Uda Walawe National Park and saving Sinharaja from exploitation in 1972 – long before it was named a World Heritage by UNESCO.
The WNPS Youth Wing invested a lot of time and effort into the “Stop Ecocide” mural which was presented as a statement by Sri Lanka’s youth for the Global Climate Action. The 70 x 20 work of art was the result of over a week of creative endeavor, by over 100 volunteers who were mostly the youth of Sri Lanka. Some people, perhaps with their own agendas, have tried to discredit the activity by claiming that it was done with political intention and have referred to the participation of Prof. Chandragupta Thenuwara as evidence. It is important to note that an open invitation was sent out for everyone to participate in the painting and Prof. Thenuwara’s participation was a result of that and nothing more. Furthermore, WNPS has followed all due processes during the planning of this event and as legal advisors have confirmed, the approval received by WNPS should have been adequate for the successful completion of the peaceful event.
WNPS is an apolitical organization and our commitment is only to preserve Sri Lanka’s nature and all its riches for our future generations. The goal of the Stop Ecocide mural was to raise awareness of the deforestation going on in Sri Lanka and to plead for a halt to the rampant Ecocide that is taking place in the country.
As John F Kennedy once said, “Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future”. However sadly, events which took place in Sri Lanka in relation to the Stop Ecocide mural, are in stark contrast to that statement.
The removal of the mural brought about much of the media attention which the event received and resulted in many people coming to see the mural. It must also be mentioned that no political invitations were made to the event, only the open invitation made to the public and the presence of any political personalities at the event were due to the media attention given, as a result of the removal of the mural. WNPS cannot prevent anyone from attending a public event and certainly, no one can be stopped from standing on public ground.
Even in the face of adversity, the Stop Ecocide mural drawn by the youth of Sri Lanka has done what it hoped to – it has raised awareness of the Ecocide going on in Sri Lanka and what the country’s youth have to say about it. This was its intention and the WNPS believes it has been successful in doing so, despite the many obstacles that came up along the way. We wish to now put this behind us and focus on the matters of the future. Sri Lanka’s forests and wildlife have never before been under this much pressure and it requires all our collective efforts to protect whatever remains of Sri Lanka’s once rich biodiversity. As Sri Lanka’s oldest and largest conservation organization, WNPS will continue to lead the way in the fight to protect Sri Lanka’s natural heritage. We humbly request all State and Non State organisations in Sri Lanka to unite and contribute positively towards this cause.