Grant Recipients Conference, Sri Lanka 2016

Grant Recipients Conference, Sri Lanka 2016

14 - 16 November 2016

Opening of conference was marked by the lighting of traditional oil lamp by some attendees representing different organizations. After that welcome speech was delivered by Dr. Lalith Ekanayake (BCSL), Chief organizer of the conference. In addition, he took a short while to spell out objectives of the conference and introduce biodiversity related various undertakings and achievements of Bio Conservation Society of Sri Lanka. Thereafter, key note speech was delivered by Prof. Siril Wijesundara, a prominent plant scientist attached to National Institute of Fundamental Studies, Kandy, Sri Lanka. He talked on the subject of Ex-situ conservation, an under utilized tool in conservation of biodiversity in Sri Lanka. The emphasis was on using national botanic garden network of Sri Lanka for sustaining plants at risk in line with climatic preference of respective plants.

The theme of the conference being 'let’s conserve biodiversity of Sri Lanka', the event focused on a variety of topics relevant to the main theme, including timely discussions on hot topics concerning selected species, ecosystems and human dimensions.

Technical highlights
Day One Session 1 (Tuesday 14th November 2016)
After tea break following inauguration formalities, first day technical session 1 started with Dr. Lakshman Peiris and Dr. Lalith Ekanayake as chairs. At the inception Anjali Watson discussed the population structure and movement pattern of Sri Lankan leopard in selected localities. She highlighted the role of leopard in maintaining the ecological balance of wild life areas in Sri Lanka. Hussein Zahir from Maldives presented observations on bleaching pattern of coral during their reef check expeditions. Death of coral under slight increase of sea temperature was a matter of high concern regarding the sensitivity of coral under changing global climate. Tharaka Kusuminda discussed his findings on insectivorous bats living in tea plantation areas. Bats are acting as natural pest control agents in tea lands, and they occupy lesser known habitat spaces of tea landscape. Caves, roof of buildings, tree holes and dilapidated masonry structures are sustaining their population in this mono-culture areas. Contrary to previous presentations on more visible biodiversity aspects, Prof. Rupika Rajakaruna discussed about the role of microscopic trematode pathogen in bringing about malformations in frogs and resultant mortality. Although, the session was dominated by animal related topics, the last speaker of the session N. C. S. Ruklani talked on the poorly understood plant group - bryophytes, and emphasized ecological threats on brayophytes due to pollution and habitat degradation.

Day One Session 2
Anjali Watson and Dr. Lalith Ekanayake chaired this session and the lineup of presentations were highly heterogeneous, talking about bee honey, wildlife research management, sea turtles and forests. But that mosaic of biodiversity grabbed the attention of all. Koushalya Mahagedara talked about current situation of Apis cerana based bee honey industry in Sri Lanka, especially about poor situation with regard to diverse aspects of bee honey industry. He stressed the need to enhance this biodiversity product having wider benefits in crop pollination, indigenous medicine and human nutrition. Dr. Lakshman Peiris (Deputy Director, research & training – Department of Wildlife Conservation) gave an overview of wildlife research including permission process, issues in management and decision making. The ensuing discussion was an opportunity to clarify concerns of researchers with regard to difficulties faced by them, especially applying for research permits. Next came the presentation by Zahirul Islam from Bangladesh, and his observations on tracking of sea turtle movements using satellite technology was an eye opening to researchers in paying attention to turtle habitat needs in Indian ocean region. The final presentation of session 2 was marked by a basic botanical exploration works in remote and lesser known forest ecosystem in Badulla district of Sri Lanka. Presentation was done by Sarath Ekanayake and stressed the uniqueness of the forest patch in account of domination of Dipterocarpaceae trees in eastern intermediate zone of Sri Lanka.

A general discussion was commenced after the last session and Dr. Anjali Watson recapped all presentations. Points were discussed with regard to the process of obtaining research permission from Department of Wild life Conservation (DWC). Dr. Cyril Wijesundara mentioned that there is a fundamental misunderstanding between scientific community and management authorities, especially in processing clearing letters for scientific investigations. DWC representative, Dr. Lakshman Peiris was of the view that wild life research collaborations by a foreign country institution with a Sri Lankan institution should look into benefits to Sri Lanka in doing the project. Mentioning of such detail in the research application will facilitate fast processing. The audience said that sending biological samples abroad is not at all for commercial purpose and often for taxonomic identification and other analysis. No monitory benefits but always knowledge benefits. Dr. Lakshman Peiris raised the point that now in Sri Lanka, analysis of wild life samples can be done to a large extent and we have pay attention to use such facilities to the maximum to avoid sending samples abroad. Anjali Watson said that University research community can do more to improve student research by correct understanding of DWC research permission formalities. In addition, she explained quantifying leopard population through camera trapping while further explanation of camera methodology. Moreover, the general discussion highlighted some thrust areas as better awareness on wildlife permission process in Sri Lanka by researchers, practical aspects of turtle tracking and the value of regional networking of like-minded researchers.

Day Two Session 1 (Wednesday 15th November 2016)
A significant slot of time of this session was occupied to discuss man mediated pressures on animal life, especially crocodiles, small cats, sharks and rays. The session was chaired by Prof. Rupika Rajakaruna and Sarath Ekanayake. The guest speaker, Anslem de Silva, discussed on reptile in general and crocodiles in particular. His life time experience with reptilian fauna, spanning over 50 years, enriched his presentation. Detail discussion on human-crocodile conflict and solutions are noteworthy information for a wider community. C. Kumar from South India presented his marine activities related to awareness raising, surveying and conservation of sharks and rays. His findings are particular importance for policy influence in fishery sector both in India and Sri Lanka. Lesser known urban ecological aspects of Sri Lanka were presented by Anya Ratnayaka through her interesting works on small cats living in Colombo. Use of her night vision visual techniques much contributed in convincing its hunting behavior. Dilan Chathuranga brought the matter of having diverse habitats for sustaining different spider species, based on his case study done in upper Hantana hills in central part of Sri Lanka. As the final presentation for the session Dr. Lalith Ekanayake briefed the occurrence of different sea turtle species in Kalpitiya peninsular and main threats they are facing in the sea. Further he gave detail works done by Bio conservation Society on its outreach activities conducted for the coastal communities related to coastal biodiversity conservation.

Day Two Session 2
This session was chaired by Dr. Anslem de Silva and Dr. Lalith Ekanayake and the presenters in their session talked on extremely diverse topics on biodiversity; Mangroves, Dugong, Sea grasses, Elephants and sting less bees. Manoj Prasanna as the first speaker of the session talked on Mangrove flora of Madampa lake, in south west coast of Sri Lanka. He highlighted rare and endangered mangrove flora species. Restoration of sea grasses is a difficult task the world over and Chathurika Munasinghe presented her attempt in planting sea grasses in Mannar sea of Sri Lanka. Her objective was to enhance feeding areas for Dugong, an endangered sea animal feeding on seagrass. Human- elephant conflict of Sri Lanka is a long time burning issue and the next presentation done by Ashoka D. G. Ranjeewa on his research on behavior pattern of problematic elephants of Udawalawe shed much light on action areas for win-win solutions. His collection of night vision videos guided his explanations in convincing manner. Focus from elephants to bees was made by T. H. S. E. Silva with her discussion on sting-less bees. Knowledge on bee fauna is poor in Sri Lanka due to lack of taxonomic studies. Identification of bee species using nest characteristics and medicinal honey products of sting-less bees took a central position in her presentation. As the last item of the session, Gajaba Ellepola, talked on coral reef conservation, research avenues and current situation of corrals in Passikudah, north eastern Sri Lanka. He presented a number of very convincing aerial photographs on status of corrals and surrounding areas that influence the sustainability of corral environment.

Day Two Session 3
The last session of the conference was chaired by Dr. Inoka Karunarathna & Dr. Lalith Ekanayake. The first speaker of the last session was N. B. Karunarathna and talked on observations on above average incidence of malformations of amphibians in paddy lands under the influence of agrochemicals. Then, A.N.Thudugala presented research findings on wild cats (fishing cat) of Sri Lanka highlighting their limited distribution and threats faced due to expanding anthropogenic landscape. Voicing of concerns on wild cats of Sri Lanka by several speakers of the two day conference is indicative of extra needs of conservation agencies to work on the issues. The final presentation of the session as well as the end of technical sessions was marked by the presentation done by Dr. Lalith Ekanayake on behalf of Duminda Balasuriya, the lead author. Emphasis was on salient features on environmental journalism, and sharing of experience gained through green media network of Sri Lanka. The presenters of the last two abstracts in the proceedings were not present at the conference, and they apologized for their unexpected urgent visit to another country.

As the last item of the technical sessions of the two day event, a general discussuion was commenced moderated by Prof. Rupika Rajakaruna and Dr. Inoka Karunarathna. Mr. Sanjeewa raised a question about the current coverage of mangroves ecosystem in Sri Lanka and Mr. Manoj responded by giving coverage of Sri Lanka and relative occurrence in different coastal provinces of Sri Lanka. There was a question about the level of success of sea grass replanting. Ms. Chathurika explained that her work need more time for proper assessment, and only three months monitoring is not adequate. However, it was discussed that most projects around world attempting replanting of sea grasses were not successful. As a further note, Mr. Ashoka conclusively said that leading element of human-elephant conflict is crop raiding, though audience expressed different views. Mr. Gajaba Ellepola, stressed the serious pressures from local level anthropogenic actions as causative agent of coral degradation in Passikuda in Trincomalee, his study site. It is wrong to put the full blame on climate change as the culprit behind coral death. Answering the query on population size of fishing cat population in Sri Lanka, Mr. Thudugala answered that no reliable estimates are available due to difficulty of sighting fishing cats.

Finally the audience commented their ideas about the conference and almost all the participants suggested to have this kind of annual conference to give a chance to share the findings in a little difference platform rather than usual academic conferences held in university.

At the end of last session vote of thanks was given by Dr. Lalith Ekanayake.

Day 3 (Wednesday 16th November 2016)
Field trip to Royal Botanic Garden, Peradeniya.
Earlier the field trip was planned to visit Udawattakele forest, some 6km away from the venue. However, considering the request by some participants, and better opportunities for learning about plant life as well as opportunistic animal life, the management decided to visit Royal Botanic Garden at Peradeniya. The garden is located only some 2 km away from the conference venue.

The trip was guided by Mr. S.D. Abeywardena, Mr. Sarath Ekanayake and Mr. Koushalya Mahagedera. Objectives of the field visit were to expose the delegates for the largest ex-situ plant conservation center in Sri Lanka and familiarize themselves with native and introduced species available in the garden. The visit to the garden enable them to see all the key elements of the botanic garden; arboretum, medicinal plant garden, great lawn, national herbarium, orchid house, spice garden, rare plant collections and some animal life. Also, free discussion during the visit made it possible establishing a small network for further sharing research experience and potentially future collaborations among themselves. The field visit to the garden was concluded at about 1pm and all returned to hotel for lunch as the concluding event.

Please visit below link to download the pdf of conference proceedings


Oak Ray Regency, Kandy
Sri Lanka
7° 25' 40.2132" N, 80° 38' 12.8472" E
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