Friday, November 19, 2010

In to the wild..................

(by Yashoda Somarathne)
   Kitulgala, a small village full of friendly locals, little shops and a handful of food spots, is halfway to Hatton from Colombo, and en-route to the hill town of Nuwara Eliya. It is a fabulously peaceful, colourful and historic attraction that is a great place to either relax or take up some of the activities offered, such as white-water rafting, bird watching and cave exploration.

    It may already be familiar to many due to its starring role as the beautiful main location for the 1957 Oscar-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Though there is no bridge remaining, since it was blown up at the end of the film, it is still a popular place for film buffs to visit. But what better place to view the bridge location from than the river itself whilst doing what Kitulgala is now most famous for – white-water rafting? A handful of operators are now offering rafting trips from here on the Kelani River, which originates in the Adam’s Peak area, though one of the best is run from the natural luxury of The Rafter’s Retreat which is also a great place to stay. Rafting is great fun and best when the rapids are a grade three to four, and it is perfect for beginners as well as rafting experts!

(by Yashoda Somarathne)
 Away from the river, bird watching in Kitulgala is considered top class and can result in you seeing many of the country’s endemic bird species as well as reptiles. There are good treks offered into the Kelani Valley Forest Reserve, a rich lowland tropical rainforest, to see many butterflies and insects. You’ll go on a charming local ferry ride across the river in the early misty morning, walk up through rural villages to the wooded mountain above and to a waterfall. Another place to spot wildlife is at the Beli Lena Caves that are five kilometres up a little mountain road just outside Kitulgala. It is here that a head and many bones were found of Balangoda Man, including a child dating back over 30,000 years.

Nannophrys ceylonensis (by Yashoda Somarathne)

    Nannophrys ceylonensis (Ranidae) is a terrestrial breeding frog that is endemic to central, western and southern Sri Lanka.It is a largely aquatic species, found mostly in rocky cascades, on wet rock surfaces and under boulders, in lowland and sub-montane tropical moist forest. Non-breeding adult males and females take refuge in separate crevices in the rock surfaces during the day and emerge at night to forage.  Paternal care of this species is obligatory; hatching success decreases without it. Females do not contribute to parental care. Males show nest site fidelity and defend territories against conspecifics.


Common Mormon

Common Mormon

(by Yashoda Somarathne)

Common Mormon

(by Yashoda Somarathne)
This species is very common across the island. This is a bit larger species. It is typically found in Southeast Asia, especially in China, Japan, Sri Lanka and India. A deep black color, the male butterfly has a band of yellow across the back of its wings, with yellow spotting in the wings' edges. The female has three different patterns of color. While the male is a faster filter, the female protects itself with colors similar to another type of swallow-tail that is poisonous to predators. The Common Mormon is bred at the conservatory and reaches a size of 10 cm.

Fejervarya limnocharis (by Yashoda Somarathne)

          Snout pointed, projecting beyond mouth. Canthus obtuse, loreal oblique, more or less concave. Internarial space is longer than interorbital width, which is much less than width of the upper eyelid. Tympanum distinct, half to two third the diameter of eye. Fingers obtusely pointed, first longer than second, subarticular tubercles very prominent.Tibiotarsal articulation reaches tympanum or naris. Toes obtuse or with slightly swollen tips, half webbed, subarticular tubercles small and prominent. Body with small tubercles, sometimes small longitudinal folds are present, ventrum smooth except belly and thighs which are granular posteriorly. Male with loose gular region, with brown or blackish W-shaped mark, fore limbs stronger, with pad like subdigital tubercles under first finger. Snout-vent length 39-43 mm.( source: Amphibia web)

Fejervarya greenii   (by Yashoda Somarathne)

        A montane species, having been recorded at altitudes above 1700 m asl in the central hills. This frog can be found in margins of shallow, slow-flowing streams, and under grass tussocks in marshes and smal water holes. This frog is active during daytime. Endemic to Sri Lanka. Listed as Endangered, because its extent of occurrence of less than 5,000 km2 and its area of occupancy is less than 500 km2, its distribution is severely fragmented, and there is a continuing decline in the extent and quality of its habitat. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Human- Elephant conflict in Sri Lanka

African elephant’s misfortune is its tusks, which are carried by both sexes, and for which ivory poachers slaughter it in large numbers. Among Asian elephants, females do not have tusks and not all the males carry them either. In Sri Lanka, 93% of the bulls are tusk less and are referred to as maknas. Since, 7% of tuskers are present in Sri Lanka, ivory poaching is a minor conservation problem. Much more important for Asian elephant are habitat loss and fragmentation due to the high human population.  Changes in the land-use patterns are resulting in a continuous contraction of habitat available to the elephant. Over much if the island of Sri Lanka, given its small size (65,610 km2) and there is no longer room for elephants to move about and adjust their densities to changing vegetation pattern.

Except at lowest densities, large wild animals and humans are fundamentally incompatible. This incompatibility increases rapidly as both animal and human densities increase.  The conflict between man and elephant is the result of competition for land and its resources, and it has become one of the most serious conservation problems, for which general solution remains still elusive. Crop raiding by elephants is a chronic problem in areas where cultivators live in close proximity to elephants. In addition the conflict includes crop depredations, destruction of houses and properties by wild elephants, loss of human lives, and the death of elephants from land mines. Elephants also kill and injure livestock and disrupt the social and economic activities of the local communities. The traditional approach towards mitigating the conflict in Sri Lanka has mainly depended on legislative protection of the species and reservation of its habitat.

Elephants are not being killed in Sri Lanka mainly because they interfere with agriculture. The loss in elephant lives, if allowed to continue unchecked, would become unsustainable, given the relatively small size of the local elephant populations and their slow rate of reproduction. Disproportionate killing of one sex can alter the adult sex-ratio. In Sri Lanka, the adult male: female sex ratio is 1:3, which is not as skewed as what is seen in Periyar Tiger Reserve in South India, where the adult male: female sex ratio reached a peak of 1:122 in 1987-1989 through indiscriminate poaching of tuskers.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Beautiful Sri Lanka

   Sri Lanka is truly a wondrous place, a subcontinent's diversity packed into one tiny island. There aren't many placed in the world where one can be snorkeling in the morning in swarm seas with rich coral reefs and be in the mist draped coolness of a cloud forest by evening, listening to the alarm calls of sambar warning against a hunting leopard.

By Yashoda Somarathne
    In the lowlands on the south west, rain forests are a cathedral of bio-diversity. These are amongst the richest rain-forests of South Asia. In the dry lowlands, the largest terrestrial mammal, the elephant roams. the largest concentration of Asian Elephant in the world occurs seasonally in Sri Lanka during ' The Gathering'. The island is also the best chance in Asia for seeing leopard and sloth bear. No less than thirty three species of birds are found only in Sri Lanka. In Sinharaja, the 'Sinharaja Bird Waves' can be seen the mixed species feeding flocks, which are the largest of its kind in the world. 
    Sri Lanka is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. It has a phenomenally high number of species of plant and animals in terms of density of species and their endemicity. This together with the relative ease of access and the availability of good facilities for travellers make it an excellent destination for eco-tourists. 

    Sri Lanka is endowed with an abundance of tourism resources of considerable diversity, including beaches along its 1585 km coastline, natural/ ecological and wildlife attractions, indigenous culture, Buddhist heritage, and remnants left by Arabs, Portuguese, Dutch and British seafarers. Since its independence in 1948. Sri Lanka has enjoyed a growing number of visitors and sustained growth in the tourism industry. However, tourism activities declined dramatically in the mid-1980's due to ethnic unrest and violence between Tamil Hindu minority and the Sinhalese Bhuddhist majority. But now the war has finished and Sri Lanka having the largest tourists attraction with compared with its history.

   Endowed with a unique mixture of golden beaches, abundant wildlife, and rich cultural heritage, Sri Lanka is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region. According to the World Tourism Organization, Sri Lanka has the advantage of having 49 sited classified as unique attractions, 91 as rare attractions, and 7 world  heritage sites, and 6 of the 300 ancient monument in the world.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Beauty of the Hill country

View of  ''Mahaweli maha seya'' 
from Kottmale dam( by Yashoda Somarathne)
The construction of the Mahaweli Maha Seya commenced on 20th March 1983, under patronage of the Late Hon. Gamini Dissanayake, then the Minister of Mahaweli Development, an idea of Venerable Elle GunawansaThero, to fill the void, created by the submersion of a number of Buddhist Shrines in the construction of Kotmale Reservoir and the accelerated Mahaweli Programme net work. This Mahaweli Maha Seya was meant to be a modern monument to the great Cultural Heritage of the country and the religious Icons lost in the process of some development activities of modern Sri Lanka.
Mahaweli Maha seya -Under-construction
 ( by Yashoda Somarathne)

 For the first time in 1700 years since the glorious ancient days in which Sri Lankan line of Kings flourished, a massive stupa named Kotmale Mahaweli Maha Seya Complex is now being built, utilizing the state-of-the-Art technology and techniques enabling this massive structure to symbolize the contribution of not only of the privileged but also the masses everywhere in the world.
This majestic Stupa is a landmark structure of epic scale, sited on an escarpment overlooking the Kotmale Reservoir. This Mahaweli Maha Seya will be the first Mega Stupa of Kandyan Kingdom and is associated with the Sri Dalada Maligawa of Kandy.
The structure of Mahaweli Maha Seya designed by the former Chairman of the Mahaweli Cultural Foundation Trust, late Vidya-Jyothi Dr. A.N.S. Kulasinghe; an eminent engineer of international repute is now nearing completion. The designed height of the Stupa is 2 feet lower than the great Ruwnweli Mahaseya at Anuradhapura.

View of  Ramboda and Kotmala oya from Kottmale dam
( by Yashoda Somarathne)
The Kotmale Oya has its beginning in the South Central massif at an elevation of 2134 m.(7000 ft.) and is about 70 km. (43.3 mls) in lengh draining a toatal area of 58,534 ha.(226 and dropping 1,585 m (5,200 ft) before meeting the Mahaweli ganga. Rainfall data from 1907 onwards are available for this region.The Kotmale Oya flows through the rural up-country of Sri Lanka passing ancient villages steeped in history and tea plantations of a more recent ara. The tranquility of this river valley has been changed recently with the construction work of the Kotmale Hydropower reservoir. Financial assistance for the project has been provided by the government of Sweden.

Kotmale Dam ( by Yashoda Somarathne)

  The dam site is at Kadadora located about 6.6 km (4.1 mls) upstream of the confluence of Kotmale Oya with Mahaweli ganga at a place where the river enters a narrow and deep valley with steep banks. It is close to the Pussellawa-Ulapane highway and is 12 miles from Gampola town and 88 miles from Colombo. The nearest railhead is Ulapone, 7 miles away.
The power house is underground and situated in the belly of the Atabage Mountains, about 6.4 km (4 mls) downstream of the Kotmale Oya – Mahaweli ganga confluence. the project headworks lie on the right bank of the mahaweli ganga and is partly in the Kandy district and partly in the Nuwara Eliya district. Access to the main project headworks can be thourgh two routes. One is from the new access road constructed from the Gampola – Nuwara Eliya road just outside Gampola town, which passes close to the underground power station and joins the Ulapane- Pussellawa road. The other is though the latter road from Ulapane which passes close by the right abutment of the dam.

( by Yashoda Somarathne)

 The Kotmale project envisages the construction of a 87 m (285 ft.) high Rockfill dam with a concrete membrane across the Kotmale Oya, an important right bank tributary in the upper reaches of the Mahaweli ganga about 25 miles upstream of the Polgolla barrage constructed under Project I of the Master Plan. The Kotmale project was mainly for the development of hydro power and the regulated discharge from the reservoir to increase the flow diverted at the Polgolla barrage into the proposed Moragahakanda reservoir for augmenting the irrigation suppled in systems. The reservoir would reduce flood peaks and their frequency, thus alleviated the floods in the Gampola area below it.
The dam would create a reservoir having an effective storage capacity of about 174 m. cm. (141,000 acre feet) enabling regulation of a large proportion of the recorded mean annual flow of the Kotamale oya at the dam site. The water impounded by the reservoir would be conveyed through an underground water conductor system to an underground power station located at about 7.2 km. (4.5 miles) from the dam for generation of electric power. After power generation, this water will be discharged through the outfall into the mahaweli ganga at the Atabaghe Oya confluence.
In addition to the generation of power, the regulated waterwill improve the pattern of inflows of the Mahweli ganga at the existing Polgolla diversion dam. This will firm up the power benefits from Ukuwela power station and serve to increase the irrigation water supplies from the Bowatenne dam.

Main features :

- A rockfill dam 87.0 m high and 600 m long

- A chute spillway with a capacity of 5500m3/Sec. consisting of 3 radial gates 14x15m
- A hourse shoe shaped 6.4, diameter low pressure tunnel system nearly 7.0 Km. long with a capacity of 113.3m3/Sec (4000 cusecs)
- A high pressure shaft with diameter varying from 4.8 – 5.5 m
- An underground power station with an installed capacity of 3x67 MW.
- An access tunnel providing access to the power station and a tail-race tunnel to discharge the water after generation of power.

Flora and fauna species that I've found during the trip.....

Kirtisinghe's Frog (Fejervarya kirtisinghei)
(by Yashoda Somarathne)
This frog species is endemic to Sri Lanka. I found it near water stream in Nawalapitiya area.Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests, subtropical or tropical moist montanes, moist savanna, subtropical or tropical dry lowland grassland, subtropical or tropical seasonally wet or flooded lowland grassland, rivers, swamps, freshwater marshes, intermittent freshwater marches, plantations , and rural gardens.It has been recorded from many protected areas including Sinharaja World Heritage Site, Victoria-Randenigala-Rantambe Sanctuary, Udawattekele Forest Reserve, Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, Kelani Valley Forest Reserve, Kanneliya Forest Reserve, Knuckles Forest Reserve, Tangamalai Forest Reserve and the Wasgamuwa National Park.

Grasshopper(by Yashoda Somarathne)
Grasshoppers have a fairly simple body design. The rounded head capsule contains the compound eyes, chewing mouth parts, and the short thread-like antennae, which are always shorter than the body (hence the name “short-horned” grasshoppers, in contrast to another suborder, the katydids or “long-horned” grasshoppers). The middle thoracic segments and part of the abdomen are covered by a shield-like pronotum that extends from the first thoracic segment. The forewings are leathery and not used for flight. Instead they protect the delicate hind wings, which are folded accordion-like beneath the forewings until they are unfolded for flight. However, all immature stages and the adults of many species lack wings altogether and cannot fly.
The most noticeable feature of grasshoppers is their long, jumping hind legs, which enable them to leap well over 20 times their body length (imagine a 6-foot tall person jumping 120 feet!). However, while the powerful jumping muscles of the hind legs provide the force necessary for leaping, they cannot propel the grasshopper in these impressive leaps unaided. Most of the kinetic energy to do this comes not from the muscles, but from the semilunar crescent located in the knee of the hind leg. This crescent-shaped organ is made of elastic fibers that store energy in preparation for a jump; they release this energy explosively, propelling the grasshopper forward many times its body length.
Grasshoppers develop through incomplete metamorphosis. The nymphs appear similar to the adults except that they lack wings and have incomplete reproductive organs. The number of instars (larval stages between molts) through which a grasshopper develops before reaching adulthood is fixed in some species (typically 4 to 6). In others, it depends on growing conditions: the better the conditions, the fewer the immature stages.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sri Lanka Elephant

By Yashoda Somarathne

By Yashoda Somarathne
     These photos were taken by me during the Safari trip to Kaudulla and Minneriya National parks in Sri Lanka. In this post I will be talking little more about Asian elephant and the next post I will be talking about the '' Human- Elephant conflict in Sri Lanka''.

By Yashoda Somarathne

      The elephant is one of the last few mega herbivores mammals that reach an adult body weight in excess of 1000 kg still extant on earth.The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) is one of the most seriously endangered species of large mammals in the world today. Among asian elephants, femals do not have tusks and not all the males carry them either. In Sri Lanka, 93% of the bulls are tusk less and are referred to as maknas. In Sri Lanka, given that only about 7% of the bulls are tuskers.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hanthana Field visit

Ahaetulla nasutus - The Green Wine Snake

(by Yashoda Somarathne)
   A slender green coloured tree snake with a triangular head. Its eyes are large and give it near stereoscopic vision which would clearly assist it in its hunting techniques. Its colouration may vary from bright green with brownish stripes to emerald green with pink or buff coloured stripes. Not an endemic species.Arboreal and diurnal in nature. It has a very nasty disposition and does not like to be handled. Its habit of darting at its adversary's face is the basis of the myth that it deliberately plucks eyes hence its earning native Singhalese, Tamil and other Indian names. It does not hesitate to strike if provoked but is very easy to handle once its head and eyes are covered up in rags rendering its jaws ineffective. Strongly dislikes captivity and often strikes the glass walls of the vivarium often injuring and disfiguring itself in the process. Unlike many other snakes the Green Vine Snake lets go once bitten often leaving teeth gouged in its enemy's flesh.

Pseudophilautus zorro  (by Yashoda Somarathne)

     Size of male: 19-23 mm, female: 22-30 mm.
 Snout sharply pointed. Dosally chestnut brown to pale brown, belly with dark brown pigments. Endangered rare species according to IUCN red list. This species is endemic to  Sri Lanka and it is known only from central Sri Lanka at 500-800 asl where it has been recorded from Gannoruwa forest, Hanthana and Udawattakelle forest reserve.Similar to Pseudophilautus temporalis, but easily distinguished by the presence of a small calcar on its heel (absent in Pseudophilautus temporalis ). It inhabits closed-canopy rainforest habitats with little understorey, and also occurs in residential gardens with plenty of leaf-litter. It is active by both day and night. 
Boiga ceylonensis-Sri Lanka Cat Snake
(Nidi- Mapila) (by Yashoda Somarathne)

          This snake has 19 rows of Costals two head lengths behind its head, 19 rows at its midbody and 13 to 15 rows two head lengths before its vent. Its entire Preocular shields will distinguish it from B.barnesi which has a divided PreocularsA widely distributed, common, non-endemic snake. Distributed in Southern India and central hills in Sri Lanka. Arboreal and nocturnal snake feeds mainly on lizards and frogs. The prey is pursed and first confused with a blitz style attack. Then the prey is immobilized by its venom and killed by crushing its neck by its jaws or by constrictions. Mildly venomous causing local swelling.

  Hylarana temporalis- The Bronzed frog
(by Yashoda Somarathne)  

   Listed as Near Threatened because its Extent of Occurrence is probably not much greater than 20,000 km2, and the extent and quality of its habitat are probably declining, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable. Its native to India and Sri Lanka. It is a largely terrestrial species (although males can be seen in low vegetation) associated with shaded hill streams and riparian vegetation in semi-evergreen moist tropical forest. It is not found in modified (agricultural) habitats. Adults are often encountered on wet boulders in streams, and breeding takes place in these streams.

Calotus calotus- Green Forest Lizard
(by Yashoda Somarathne)
 I found this common lizard on the road side when we were heading back to  the University.  They are active at day time and inactive at night time due to low ambient temperature. ''Seems like its sleeping...!''