Wednesday, May 14, 2008

“Creating Homes for Spot-billed Pelicans” – The tree planting campaign

The last activity of the GEF/UNDP and WFN supported pilot project on conservation of Spot-billed Pelicans in Undawalawa area was accomplished last Friday. It was a tree planting campaign at one of the selected fresh water tanks in Udawalawa. The tank was suggested to us by the local government as they were very pleased with our idea of planting 150 Kumbuk trees (Ternimalia arjuna) which is one of the best tree species to be planted at fresh water tank catchments areas. It was full of fun at the campaign and we planted 150 one year old saplings. When we started the nursery it was a challenge for us to maintain it as it was severe drought period but thanks to a local community members and one of our team members Nalinda, who took care of the plants we were successful. At the time we planted them yesterday they were about 3 feet tall saplings.

15 school children from Udawalwa Maha Vidyalaya participated in the campaign with two very enthusiastic teachers along with 15 friends of pelicans. Children who were with white school uniform did not have any hesitation to walk in the flooded freshwater habitat and even they dig the holes and carried the plants in the muddy habitat. Soon after finishing digging the ground we had a short tea break where the tea was provided by a member of farmer’s society in the area who admired our effort in rehabilitating the Pelican habitats. According to him only 2, 3 pelicans were observed in the recent past but there were a lot more before. So we hope to plant native trees like Kumbuk, Mee (Madhuca longifolia), Temarine (Tamarindus indica)which are best trees for nesting and perching habitats for Pelicans and other water birds. Since this would be looking ahead for another 30 years only next generation will see the impact of our effort. We started the campaign after meditating for few minutes where I asked school children to pay their respect to the sapling and plant it with extra care and to generate positive energy from the surrounding to the sapling. They loved that idea as no one had done a tree planting campaign like that before. I also talked about Climate change and effect of planting trees as an individual to help in combating climate change.

The next step would be cleaning these fresh water tanks and its surrounding as those habitats are full of invasive plant species (both aquatic and terrestrial). By cleaning the tanks and improving the quality of the habitats we hope to increase the number of bird species around tank habitats and eventually it will encourage pelicans too. This area is full of free roaming Buffalos. Therefore we had to take extra care in protecting the saplings and we used wooden sticks to make strong fences around the plants. So the first step is over and continuous monitoring and replacing plants if needed (some may die and some may be damaged by Buffalos) will be future activities to make this campaign a success. We all worked very hard and completed the task with a great satisfaction at the end of the day.

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