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    Protecting our Endemics

Protecting our Endemics

Having made it one of their key strategic initiatives, in early 2022, Hemas sponsored 25 mini projects to conserve both endemic flora and fauna across the country. Here are a few project updates. 

Black Ruby Barb (Pethia nigrofasciata

The project mainly focused on conserving the Black Ruby Barb, and to relocate some of the threatened freshwater endemic fish species due to the construction of the Ruwanpura Expressway, to a safer stream in Paravithota Ingiriya. It was finalized with the help of the Young Zoologists’ Association (YZA).


Bandula Barb (Pethia bandula), a freshwater fish conservation project in Galapitamada GN division in Kegalle district

 The project was conducted in Galapitamada Maha Vidyalaya in Kegalle district, to protect the Bandula barb (Pethia bandula), an endemic, critically endangered freshwater fish in Sri Lanka that is limited to an unnamed water stream in an estate in Galapitamada GN division in the Kegalle district. The area is far from the main town, and the residents are mostly farmers and labourers. The Bandula barb's habitat overlaps with rice fields, some of which are not currently cultivated. Mr. Thusantha Nissanka, our Kegalle District Representative from the area, explained the importance of these fish species to the students through a presentation with insightful content.

ROAR drives education and community engagement in Dhikhena
A few years ago, the WNPS engaged in a major reforestation initiative in Dhikhena, titled Reforestation of a Rainforest (ROAR). The ROAR Project which is currently supported by Mr. Ajita de Costa in memory of his Father Mr. Ray de Costa, is a unique scientific model of a restoration of a tropical rainforest. The continued assistance to the village school by those connected with the ROAR project further cements the bond between the School and the WNPS ROAR project, and solid community engagement is a core philosophy for all WNPS projects. This was elevated to the highest levels when the team responded to some dire needs of the local school which is nestled at the foothill of the project. 
The library building of the Dikhena Kanishta Vidyalaya, renovated at a cost of nearly Rs 3 million, by Mr. Ajita de Costa in loving memory of his mother Mrs. Iris Bertha de Costa, was handed over to the students at a simple ceremony held at the school on Sunday 20th November 2022 in the presence of Mr. Ajita de Costa, Prof Lakdas Fernando, Past President WNPS and former Chair of ROAR, Prof. Sampath Seneviratne, current Chair of ROAR and General Committee and ROAR subcommittee member Dr. Nirmali de Silva. The Dept of Education was represented by the Zonal Director and Deputy Director and the Divisional Director of Education, Matugama. There was also a large gathering of parents and students along with the principal and teaching staff of the school. An extension of the event was a tree planting activity at the site by the distinguished invitees. 


Extending the Community engagement even further through Art and knowledge sharing.

Creating a mural on endemic flora and fauna followed by a science workshop

Dikhena Kanishta Vidyalaya is one of the rural schools located near the Runakanda Forest of the Sinharaja Rainforest cluster and is also a focal school for the WNPS ROAR Program, as shared above. Although facilities are low, the school premises are designed to interact with nature. As a further step to increase awareness and reduce the destruction of some of the important endemic flora and fauna of the area, the WNPS team led by Prof. Sampath, facilitated the creation of a mural of endemic flora and fauna on one of the walls of the school library. 

Furthermore, students from the University of Colombo deliver a workshop on the importance of endemics species.

WNPS PLANT Properties help create nurseries for the enhancement of endangered endemic forest trees

A project was launched where the initiative was primarily concerned with the conservation of endemic plant species that have been identified as suitable for this project in the Belihuloya area. 

Some villagers were selectively chosen as beneficiaries, and they needed to collect the relevant endemic plant seeds and maintain a nursery of around 800 healthy saplings. Once plants grow to a height of about two feet, they will be replanted in deforested areas and along forest roads. From this project the beneficiary species indirectly include the Golden Palm Civet, the Legs Hawk Eagle, and the Montane Purple-face Langur, while the Haagala forest reserve will also be a reforesting location. This project was finalized with the help of Prof. Sampath Seneviratne. 

Protection of a critical habitat of Sri Lanka Mousedeer and Golden Palm civet in the Central highlands

The main objective of this project is to protect these endemic small mammals from poaching through protection of habitat and through public awareness. This project was implemented at the Isengard Biosphere Reserve at Belihuloya. When choosing a location, several factors were considered, including whether it is adjacent to human settlements, whether hunting pressure exists, and the fact that the Haagala hiking trail runs through the reserve. Importantly, the reserve is one of the WNPS PLANT (Preserving Land and Nature Trust) protected areas through an MOU. 

We have installed sign boards at important locations along the boundary of the forest and along the Haagala hiking trail. Those sign boards were errected along the boundary, primarily focusing on reducing hunting pressure on animals, by enhancing the public understanding of the endemic fauna. A set of guidelines was also introduced to the hikers, including prevention of forest fires, proper waste disposal practices etc.