As I pen down a quick message on the train to Jaffna for the June 2022 Jungle Telegraph, I could not help but reflect on part of my message of the 2021 Annual Report.
While 2019 and 2020 were turbulent years in Sri Lanka, 2021 was infinitely worse. We experienced unprecedented environmental destruction in Sri Lanka last year that we have never seen. Deforestation and the targeted killings of Sri Lanka’s iconic species, the Leopard and the Elephant, were widespread. In the last decade, approximately 60 Tuskers across Sri Lanka have been killed and just in the last 12 years, since 2010, more than 3,300 elephants have been exterminated due to human actions. As the Human Elephant Conflict (HEC) report will illustrate, the rapid escalation of elephant deaths in the last 5 years, unless halted, will result in the extinction of this magnificent species, a species that plays a vital role in Sri Lanka’s astounding bio-diversity. The last two years have seen more than 20 leopard deaths, predominantly in the hill country, mostly by snares and human intervention. Again, the ecological impact of the deaths of this umbrella species to our bio-diversity is shattering.
Sri Lanka is one of the 34 biodiversity hotspots identified in the world and has the highest biodiversity per unit area of land amongst Asian countries (International Policy Studies). The wet zone rainforests are home to nearly all of the country’s woody endemic plants, and about 75% of its endemic animals.
In recent times, the Society has accomplished the following major achievements in the last year, achievements that will undoubtedly generate positive impacts on the conservation front in the future:
· Establishing Preserving Land and Nature Trust (PLANT) as a guarantee company under the Society to save our forests and high bio-diversity land areas; · Restoring Sri Lanka’s rainforest areas through substantive ecological research under the project (ROAR) · Commencing a national research project on the understanding of the behavior and the distribution of one of Sri Lanka’s iconic species, the Panthera Pardus Kotiya; · Deploying a light system called the Light Repel System (LRS) invented by a Brigadier-General in the Sri Lanka Army to mitigate Human Elephant Conflict; · Regenerating 40 hectares of a mangrove ecosystem at Anawilundawa, which had been destroyed by prawn farming and setting the stage to restore this severely depleted mangrove ecosystem. · Establishing the Sri Lanka “Leopard Day” of August 1st in collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Conservation
The above achievements only mean that as a Society, we have grown in the last 7 years and our office has grown exponentially from 5 full time employees to the present number of 17. This number reflects the work we are involved in to make a difference to our conservation in the country. The historic and landmark achievement of PLANT to preserve the forests we have and the single largest donor funding of USD 132,000 epitomizes the Committee’s passion and effort to make some of the wrongs – RIGHT.
As the President, I cannot be prouder to lead a team with great diversity, but with one thought in mind – save our environment and our wildlife. From scholars, to corporate leaders, to marketeers, administrative experts, to Conservationists, it does take such a diverse group of people to successfully run a conservation organization. Along with the plan of being more gender balanced and to provide the youth the opportunity to express themselves, this Committee will strive to consolidate our operations in 2022, whilst concentrating on key factors to enhance the conservation footprint in the country.
I WISH ALL OF US THE BEST OF LUCK IN OUR ENDEAVOR TO DO SO!!