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* Sri Lanka’s return to the wild
Sat, Oct 1, 2022, 07:50 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.

Oct 01 (Wunderlust) As early evening arrives in central Sri Lanka, I find myself searching a dark forest for a small animal. The idea is to sweep the beam of my headtorch across the foliage to catch its reflected eyeshine.

In truth, my focus is as much on avoiding the snaking roots along the trail. “There!” I hiss, spotting a twinkle in the dark tangle. “Fireflies,” says my more experienced companion. We move on.

Naturalist Chaminda Jayasekara has trodden this trail hundreds of times, so it’s hardly surprising that he’s seeing wildlife at every turn. First up: an Asian palm civet scuttling through the canopy; then a roosting Indian pitta on its perch, puffed up into an exquisite ball. Next, he spies a green vine snake suspended like a noose from – gratifyingly – a vine, its head mimicking a flower bud.

Chaminda soon spots what we’re looking for. I peer down his torch beam, its glare softened by a red filter, and see two saucer eyes staring back. Binoculars reveal a small, furry, squirrel-sized animal peering at us suspiciously from a tree fork. I make out skinny limbs, a tailless rear and dexterous little fingers, in which it clutches a struggling cicada. Bingo! A grey slender loris.

This appealing nocturnal primate is endemic to southern India and Sri Lanka, with its sister species, the red slender loris, found only on this island. Related to Africa’s bush babies, both are threatened by habitat loss. A close encounter is thus a serious privilege, and my eyes are glued to the animal as it takes one more bite from the unfortunate insect then clambers quickly away through the branches.

As we emerge from the trail onto a gravel path, I’m taken aback by the lights shimmering on the lake. Back in the forest, it was easy to imagine that we were exploring some remote wilderness rather than strolling the grounds of an upmarket hotel.

But Jetwing Vil Uyana is not any hotel. Located in the centre of Sri Lanka, just 15 minutes from the celebrated World Heritage Site of Sigiriya, this eco-resort has undertaken an ambitious rewilding project, converting abandoned paddy fields into a wetland mosaic fed by irrigation channels from the surrounding farmland, and planting thousands of indigenous trees. This suite of naturally regenerating habitats has produced prolific biodiversity across its modest 24 acres. A 2005 baseline survey revealed 12 species of mammal, three of reptile and amphibian, and 29 of bird. Since rewilding, these figures have now risen to an amazing 27, 44 and 157 respectively.

Read More:: Wl (Source)