Monday, December 22, 2008

Visit of Ramesh Kannan to ECO-V

Ramesh Kannan whom I met in Chattanooga, USA during the Society for Conservation Biology conference visited us last week. He is attached to the Ashoka Trust for Research Ecology and Education (ATREE) India and working on Lantana camera, one of the invasive plant species in the world. He was very keen on starting a collaborative project with ECO-V on managing this species in Sri Lanka. We had a meeting with the Department of Wildlife and further discussed this issue. ECO-V will be acting as the local focal point for the project. I took Ramesh to Udawalawa to show him our project area for Pelicans where Lantana is a problem for the natural habitat there. He also visited the paper making project using Eichornia crassipes (Water Hyacinth) which is another problematic invasive plant damaging the water bodies. This project is successfully conducted by our dear friends Mr. Sakith and Richrd Perera.

Incidentally Prof. Sarah Hawkins from University of Cambridge was also with us and she has been helping ECO-V in many ways since its inception.

Two new volunteers join ECO-V

Gayan Tharaka who has been a member of ECO-V for past 3 years, joined ECO-V as full time volunteer at our new office. Now he is helping us in organizing the news letter and member correspondence. He lives close to the ECO-V new office. He has already formed a group of youth who are enthusiastic about protecting nature and we started technical guidance for them recently.

Devaka Jayamanna was recruited as the field coordinator to newly started Kalu Wandura Conservation Project (Protection of Purple faced langur) under supervision of Dr. Rudy Rudran from Smithsonian Institute. Devaka has experience with Young Zoologists’ Association of Sri Lanka and has participated in several environmental researches conducted by different organization and individuals. He was also been a member of ECO-V and volunteered in few projects since 2001.

Now he is getting ready to go to the field at “Waga” (off Colombo) from 1st of January 2009 to start the research component of the project. Last Monday we visited the Waga-Kahahena to discuss the project with some stakeholders and to find a place for the research station we are going to establish. We also recruited Ramyanath as Devaka’s assistant to help the data collection. Jaliya whom we have already trained during the last visit of Dr. Rudran will be joining Devaka from the village at the study area.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

National Tree Planting Campaign

We are slowly getting settled down at our new home facing the Bellanwila-Atthidiya bird sanctuary. We feel it is one of gifts we got from the nature and our bird check list is going higher and higher day by day. Especially as this is the migratory season we are getting more birds in and around our garden. While enjoying the nature Kanchana had to spend time between Udawalawa and Anuradhpura delivering lectures and participating in the project activities.

We were invited for the National tree planting campaign organized by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka two weeks ago. The Minister of Environment Mr. Champika Ranawaka was the chief guest and it was held at Udawalawa National park.

Both “Friends of Pelicans” and “Friends of Langurs” participated in the campaign and a plot was given to us to maintain following tree planting. Mr. Champika Ranawaka also inquired about the progress of our langur project and the Pelican project as he was aware about both projects we are conducting in Udawalwa and in Western province. Dr. Suhada Jayawardana , the Veterinary surgeon to the Eth Athuru Sevana (Elephant transit home) at Udawalwa also shared his views and experience on langurs with us on the same day.

We held a joint workshop for both “Friends of Pelicans” and “Friends of langurs after the tree planting campaign. This was the first time some of our youth members from langur project visited Udawalwa . It was an exiting event for everybody as they exchanged ideas and experience of two different projects and also different climatic conditions.

During the last weekend we participated at another programme of Holistic approach to motherhood at Kalutara where 200 pregnant mothers with their spouses participated .Kanchana also delivered a lecture on Child and environment to 50 parents at Moratuwa on Sunday as a part of a programme conducted by Ministry of Labor to combat child abuse and child labor.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Dr. Rudy Rudran was back in Sri Lanka

October was a busy month for both of us and we moved in to our new home. We located ECO-V office also in the new premises and its more spacious and there is enough space for our volunteers. Still we are unpacking and getting the things in place.

However Dr. Rudy was in Sri Lanka at the same time and he wanted to start the training for Western Purple-faced Langur project volunteers. Therefore we organized trainers of training (TOT) programme at Polonnaruwa at the very famous Primate Study Centre run by Dr. Wolf Dittus. This was mainly on identification of primates in Sri Lanka. At the same time we gave the initial training of bird watching, butterfly identification and field techniques. There were 10 participants at the training and we ran it for three days. We have already planned 4 more training programmes in future for the same batch.We will be starting more formal training with more new participants as we launched the Kate Stoke Memorial training course for our volunteers at Polonnaruwa with this TOT. There were 5 participants from the “Friends of Pelicans” team and they will act as trainers for the future trainees. Dr. Rudy is very much keen on training and has agreed to be the advisor for future ECO-V conservation training programmes. He had also given us more instructions and advices on establishing the proposed training centre and developing courses as he is having experience in similar projects during his career at Smithsonian Institute USA.

I traveled to Udawalawa again this month and formed the second group of “Friends of Pelicans” youth group as A/L exams are over and there are youth who are interested in joining us. Harsha is fully involved with the project and conducts weekly lessons on environmental conservation. He is using all his skills he acquired at CLP training and at Durrell where he was trained earlier. “Friends of Pelicans” group is now very popular at Udawalwa area and we are getting more volunteer feedback.

Meantime Kanchana continued to address the youth groups of National youth services council programme and busy with preparing the course module for their environmental conservation programme. She addressed the 3rd batch of youth (1500 youth) and two more batches to go.

As usual we are busy with the ECO-V as well as other work and we will update all of you on the progress of our projects.

Monday, September 15, 2008

A survey on distribution of Kalu Wandura (Western Purple Faced Langur) in the Western Province and SBP work in South

ECO-V team conducted a survey to find out the distribution of WPFL and level of conflict in the community with WPFL. People who have been interviewed revealed the problems faced by them because of WPFL. However we felt the tolerance level of the community in the surveyed population is very high though WPFL has been hindrance to their cultivation and the dwellings. We also approached some of the religious places on the survey route. There is a common agreement in the community that the human beings have encroached the habitats of the WPFL and other wild animals.Therefore they accepted the concept of coexistence animals and human beings in the urban settings in the Western Province. This may be mainly due to the Buddhist culture and believes of the people in the society.

Dr. Rudy Rudran who started this project will be visiting Sri Lanka next week to evaluate the progress of the project and to plan the future activities. In the meantime the youth team ,we formed following the Waga exhibition is constantly monitoring the WPFL activities in their villages.

Harsha, the coordinator to the Pelican Conservation project is presently fully involved in the survey of the distribution of Pelicans in 3 districts, Monaragala, Hambantota and Ratnapura. The water level of the man made tanks has been reduced leading to internal migration of Pelicans in the above mentioned districts. Therefore this would be a good opportunity to get the estimation of Pelican population in the southern part of Sri Lanka. The friends of Pelican teams we formed before are involved with this survey with Harsha and Department of Wildlife is helping us to get information from the parks in the area.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

National Youth Service Council (NYSC) youth camp in Anuradhapura.

Honorable Minister of Environment Mr. Champika Ranawaka directed ECO-V to meet Director General of the NYSC to discuss the youth activities on environment.When Kanchana met Chairman/Director General to NYSC, Mr. Bhashwara Gunaratne, he requested her to get involved with their ongoing youth training programme called “Rata Dinawana Wishishtayo” as a resources person as there was no one to handle the proposed environmental component of the programme. We happily accepted the invitation as we felt we could do more with the experience we have conducting the ECO-V youth camps at the village level.

NYSC also requested to develop an environmental training module for their youth training programmes based on our experience. Kanchana traveled to Anuradhapura on the 9th of September to deliver a lecture to the first batch of 500 youth selected under the theme of Archeology and Youth. It was held at the garden of the Abhayagiriya Maha Viharaya reconstruction site. The lecture and discussion was focused mainly on Heritage and Environmental friendly lifestyle of our ancestors. All the youth participated enthusiastically in the discussion after 2 hour lecture and appreciated the insight given to them on the environment conservation by our ancestors.

ECO-V also conducted a survey in major supermarket outlets on implementation of the National environmental guidelines given by the Central Environmental Authority on Polythene usage. This survey was conducted voluntarily by ECO-V on a request made by the Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority, Mr. Udaya Gammanpila. It was very satisfying to know the situation of Polythene usage by the customers as ECO-V has been trying to advocate the same policies for last 7 years.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Kaluwandura Exhibition at Waga, Hanwella.

The last planned activity of Kaluwandura Conservation Pilot project initiated by Dr. Rudy Rudran has come into end. The second exhibition for Kalu wandura Project was held on the 24th August 2008 at Sri Pemananda Dharma school in Waga,Hanwella.

ECO-V and Kaluwandura Conservation team visited the temple the day before the exhibition and started making the exhibits with the help of the youth team whom we met during the first presentation. Initially we met only 4 boys but now there are around 15 youngsters who ended up volunteering to our activities. Jaliya, Srinath, Sampath and Pethum are some of them who never said “no” to any work. We all were so pleased about their enthusiasm and they gave us more energy to work in the future.

The high priest at the temple was the mentor of this youth group and always helped us by encouraging and supplying food and tea during work.

The chief guest at the exhibition was the Chairman of the Central Environmental Authority who appreciated our effort in conservation of this fast vanishing species and promised the state support and patronage for the future .

Kanchana also participated in a work shop organized by the South Asian Youth Environmental Network (SAYEN). SAYEN is a network among all the SARRC countries and trying to achieve a common goal in their respective countries. ECO-V also agreed to become a member of SAYEN as we also can contribute to achieve these goals through our environmental programmes for youth groups. During this workshop we all contributed to make the strategic plan for coming 5years to achieve the objectives of SAYEN.

Kanchana met Mr. Udaya Gammanpila, the Chairman to central Environmental Authority for the second time in the past week. She went to meet him with the invitation of Mrs. Shyamani Periapperuma the assistant Director to the Post consumer Polythene project of Sri Lanka. She requested ECO-V to conduct a survey to evaluate the situation of the recent policy on Polythene career bags at Supermarkets. This survey was a high priority for the Chairman of CEA and he personally thanked ECO-V for agreeing to do this survey voluntarily.

Kanchana and Thushara became fully involved with the strategic planning of ECO-V during the week end. After finishing the main activities for Kalu Wandura Pilot project we wanted to have some timn for us to plan the future work which we have been postponing for past few months. We are fully determined to organize all the work before we shift into the new office of ECO-V at the beginning of October.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Back to ECO-V from USA.

I returned from a very successful trip to USA. After the GIS training at the University of Tennessee (Sponsored by Conservation Leadership programme - CLP) I went to Orlando, Florida to meet Dr. Rudran. There I stayed with Dr. Rudran and his family and discussed the future plans on Western purple faced langur conservation programme. It was very successful meeting with him as I got many ideas and work plan for the future of this project. I also did able to visit the Disney Animal Kingdom in Orlando. It was very interesting to see how conservation awareness has combined with entertainment to spread the message of protecting threatened species of the world. It was full of fun but the hidden message of conservation is very much there and I loved the place and learnt many things which are useful for our country. However I believe we need more focused conservation education programmes especially for our kids with my new experience .

After Orlando I went to Philadelphia to meet Prof. Eduardo and his wife Claudia for another meeting and both of them are very active conservationists in Argentina and very friendly people. I had a great time with them and their 3 young sons who are having grasshoppers, and toads as pets. They reminded me Gerald Durrell and his books about all these unusual pets but the beauty of that is the attention they give for these tiny creatures. That is the most important conservation message they are passing to any adult in this world.

I’ll be traveling to Udawalwa on Monday to supervise the work Harsha and the team has done on Pelican conservation work during my absence.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

ECO-V in JULY - Kanchana and Harsha at SCB conference

Month of July has been very busy for everyone at ECO-V. Harsha went to USA at the end of June to participate in the training on Conservation issues as a part of the CLP award we won this year. Later, Kanchana joined him at 22nd Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) conference which was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee USA from 13th 17 th July. Kanchana will be back only in the beginning of August as she is participating in a training on GIS soon after the conference in the same venue. She will then visit Florida and Pennsylvania to discuss with Dr.Rudy about the Purple Faced Langur project and ECO-V training programmae for young rural conservationist with the support of Kate Stoke Memorial award.
Harsha returned home after a successful training yesterday with the equipments donated by Idea Wild to support the CLP. He has already left to Udawalawa to do the ground work with his new experience for the CLP before Kanchana returns.we will update everybody about our progress once kanchana returns from USA.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another presentation on Western Purple faced langurs

We started our campaign gain by delivering lecture on Western Purple faced langurs on the 9th of June at Rathanasara Maha Vidyalaya, Waga. Waga is an adjacent village to Labugama forest where there are many WPFL live in the natural forest conditions. This area is also identified as an area where human monkey conflict is intense. Nearly 100 students participated in the lecture and showed a great enthusiasm towards our programme. We conducted an art competition following the lecture for the students who participated.

We also visited the Kahahena Buddhist temple on our way back to discuss about up coming exhibition on WPFL. We had to postpone it until August as I am not available during month of July. I will be attending SCB conference in Chattanooga, USA where I will meet some of my friends from Birdlife International, Fauna and Flora International and Conservation International. This would be another reunion of friends whom I met last year in London and Cambridge when I visited them to talk about Spot-billed Pelicans. I am so exited to meet some of other CLP award winners this year as we all can share our successful stories in the conservation field.

I am very much thankful to Rufford Small Grant programme in UK who is supporting my traveling to the conference. Indeed they are the people who helped and encouraged me 8 years back to establish ECO-V.

Idea Wild equipment programme in USA has supported ECO-V this year with the equipment request for project in Udawalawe for Pelicans by donating a laptop and a digital camera.

The World Environmental day - 2008

Like any other environmentalist in the world I also got involved with the world environmental day celebrations on June 5th. However, personally I believe all 365 days of the year should be the world environmental days. Especially we all should try to make others aware of that and should convince others to realize the importance of being concern about the mother earth. Unfortunately for most of the citizens in the world environmental day is just another day to celebrate, to talk or to write paper articles….But let us make a difference…

The recipients of UNDP/GEF small grants were invited to participate in the exhibition called “Sobha 2008” organized by the Ministry of Environment and Natural resources on the 4th and 5th June 2008 in Colombo. “Simple life towards a sustainable future” was the theme of the exhibition. We highlighted the importance of being environmental friendly person and also talked about the Pelicans and Purple faced langurs in Sri Lanka through our exhibits. We specially highlighted the importance of home gardening and educating children on its fauna and flora for a sustainable future with emerging food crisis which is a product of climate change. We focused on the fact that there is thousands of living creatures and it is the best living laboratory to learn many concepts and ethics of the life.

We did able to sell many of our eco friendly products and also met many environmental lovers who joined us as members.

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.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

ECO-V wins Kate Stokes Memorial Award for creating “Friends of Nature”

You may remember that ECO-V won the CLP follow up award last month. Again ECO-V was short listed for the Kate Stokes Memorial Award (KSMA). Only 4 CLP award winners in 2008 were nominated for this award. I was asked for another proposal which supports CLP award but with something long term and sustainable that benefits the local communities.

I considered this as a great opportunity to lay the foundation for our long term vision of establishing the ECO-V training centre. Winning this award was also something very close to my heart as I have known Kate since 2002 before she passed away due to tragic accident in 2006. Though I met Kate only few times in my life I think our friendship runs from many previous births as most of us believe as Buddhists. I still could remember how she was waiting for me in Sao Palo airport in Brazil in 2005 with a ticket to internal flight up to Brasilia. She was kind and caring as a friend and she did not even let me travel up to the hotel alone in Brasilia and she dropped me up to the hotel. I also could remember how she helped me to find a bag which I really loved, taking me around Cambridge. I have lot of good memories about her during those short visits to UK in the company of Marianne, Robin and rest of the friends at CLP. (One in the extreme right of the photograph is Kate).

I never forget this dear friend and I cried when I came to know that I won this. I will make sure that this award will have a great impact on ECO-V future. I am planning to discuss my ideas (which are dreams of course) with my friends at CLP in Chattanooga, USA in coming July.

We are very much determined to lay the foundation for training “Friends of Nature” teams. Young village members aged between 15 and 25 will be selected for a 6 day training session about environmental issues and we are hoping to direct them towards attitudinal change by inculcating them with a more holistic approach on environmental conservation.

I am very sorry for not writing the blog last week as we were busy with the work and did not find the time to do it. Week before, I gave a thematic lecture on Pelicans at Field Ornithology Group (FOGSL) for their monthly meeting and conducted the programme for pregnant mothers with Sarvodaya on Sunday. I spent the last Saturday morning with a local TV station where I discussed the colours of life in the eyes of an environmentalist. It was a refreshing experience for me as it was the first time I discussed about my personnel life as an environmentalist. Any way, it was not that easy as I had to spend whole morning under scorching sun in a lovely beach for recording the programme.

You can read more about KSMA award from

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New Year celebrations with “Friends of Pelicans” and awareness programmes in the weekend

Last week we celebrated Sinhala-Hindu New year which is the biggest cultural event in Sri Lanka. This is the time when people forget and forgive and get-together with every member in the society to start a New Year.

We all visited our parents with presents and kids enjoyed the school holiday as it is full of traditional sweets like “kevum, Udu Walalu, Kokis and Athirasa” All Sinhalese and Hindus cooked traditional milk rice, and eat them at a particular time Islanwide. They all go to temple during Avurudu period to get the blessings. For Thushara and me, New Year was a busy time again as we had to submit a proposal for a grant. But we all were with our parents where kids enjoyed playing with their in-laws and grand parents.

After the New Year celebrations I visited Udawalawa as the “Friends of Pelicans” also have arranged a small New Year celebration for everybody. They have arranged a reception with all kind of sweets and we had a very happy and quite celebration there. I came back on the same day as I had to attend a workshop on the following day. I was invited to deliver a lecture on “How youth can develop their lives by closely associating the nature”. This three day youth workshop was organized by Sarvodaya for 80 children of 13-16 age representing 4 districts of Sri Lanka.

I talked about how youth can sharpen their five senses by closely mingling with nature and how those senses could be used to develop themselves in their day to day lives by respecting, protecting other living beings around them.

Sunday was dedicated to the programme for pregnant mothers where 45 would be parents participated. All parents were very emotional at the end of the programme. They explained how great to know that their unborn baby can be directed to nature conservation and they all said that it was a great feeling and experience they had for the first time in their lives.

Please visit our website ( to read more about our work and we have updated the blog with new video clips of pelican conservation project.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

ECO-V completes its Tsunami work - 2

Last Sunday morning on my way back from opening "Green Monestry", I visited another family whom we helped during tsunami. Do you believe that this family has 11 members? It was only 10 when we found them in a small hut in Galle and now they have a new member added to their family. I just went their to hand over the deed for their land. We were really happy to note that how our contributions have changed their lives. All our friends who contributed to these worthy causes of helping the victims can be happy, that every cent of their money was spent to change the lives of many victims in Sri Lanka. But I should mention that this project was possible mainly due to the tireless and selfless efforts of Mrs. Thilaka Arambawela and Mrs. Vajira who has been our volunteers coordinating this project.

So this completes the Tsunami rehabilitation and you can visit our website at to read the full report on Tsunami rehabilitation activities.


ECO-V completes its Tsunami work - Haritha Asapuwa

Last Saturday was a very special day for ECO-V and its members. I participated in the green monastery (Haritha asapuwa) opening ceremony at Manawila, Walahanduwa in Galle. This was the last task we accomplished with the money donated by our well-wishers to Tsunami victims of Sri Lanka. Although it’s not completely finished, chief priest of the temple Ven.Keradawala Pungnarathana Thero wanted have an opening ceremony. Still we have to complete the third floor of the building and Thero wanted to use this ceremony to get the people to contribute for the next stage of the temple. ECO-V has also been looking for the funds for the rest of the project and has been unsuccessful so far but hope to help the Thero whenever we can to complete the monastery. It was a dream coming true though our organization still does not have a proper place for ECO-V office and I operate from my home. But the chief priest and the other people work with us for Tsunami victims were happy as this was a really a fulfilling moment in their lives especially as Buddhists. We have named this temple as “Haritha asapuwa” and we hope the devotees of the temple will carry our message on environmental conservation in to their lives. We also wish that the new temple will be a place that advocates environmental consciousness among its community in years to come. Some of beneficiaries during Tsunami and our members participated in the event and the Pirith chanting ceremony that followed in the Saturday night.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Society for Conservation Biology (SCB) Conference and Conservation Leadership Programme (CLP) award.

I have been selected to present a paper on ECO-V’s Pelican conservation work at the annual conference of SCB in July in Chattanooga, USA. This is the second time I am going to present our work at a SCB conference. Last time it was in Brazil in year 2005 where I got the opportunity meet some other researchers working on Great White Pelicans and shared many ideas with them.

This time I am going to talk about the challenges we faced during our pelican project during last 4 years and also how we created awareness and consciousness on this threatened species among different stakeholders who had zero knowledge (scientific and behavioral information) on pelicans and their habitats and how they became nature lovers and conservationists.

ECO-V received the continuation award for Pelican Project from Conservation Leadership programme (CLP) (Former BP awards) this year which is a great encouragement. The award ceremony and the training will be held in Chattanooga, USA in July. Harsha, our field coordinator to the Pelican Conservation Project has been nominated for the training and he will be attending the SCB conference too which would be an interesting experience for both of us to attend the conference together. I have already received this training in 2003 when I won the first award from CLP. Our team has also been selected to get a 5 days training course on GIS sponsored by CLP following the SCB conference which would be very useful for both our Pelican project and the Kalu Wandura (Leaf langur) Project.

Our “Friends of Pelicans” at Udawalwa were delighted about this news as they can continue their good work with additional funding to sharpen their skills through our association for another year.


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

First Exhibition on Western Purple-faced Langur

As I mentioned before, last weekend was very much important for the Friends of Pelicans team from Udawalawe. They made their first appearance as a team for environmental conservation at the exhibition ECO-V organized with the Dr. Rudy’s team on conservation of Western purple-faced langur (WPFL). I was happy and thrilled to see them working with the people and the enthusiasm they showed during the exhibition. Now I am sure ECO-V has achieved the objective of taking the conservation actions to the villages and empowering them with the knowledge for them to protect the Mother Nature around them. My next goal will be to fulfill my dream of starting the ECO-V conservation education programe for the village youth in other districts of Sri Lanka where we have worked before. This will be the next step for us and it is another step going beyond our more popular youth camps.

Exhibition on WPFL was a success at Pulinathalaramaya temple in Kalutara (North) and lot of kids who participated in the essay and art completions organized by Dr. Rudy’s team was present there to receive their prices. Hon. Patali Champika Ranwaka, Minister of Environment and Natural resources was there to open the exhibition for the public. He too explained the importance of conservation of WPFL and promised the government patronage to the project. We had a hard day of explaining the importance of WPFL and trying to get the message across to the people of the area on WPFL. Friends of Pelicans were very active and independent through out the exhibition. Head Priest of the temple Ven. Dodampahala Siri Suguna Thero was very happy about the exhibition and wanted to continue the work in the district. In fact he asked me to form a team called “Friends of Kalu Vandura” the Sinhala name for the WPFL. The next exhibition will be held at the temple in Waga after the New Year festival. Dr. Rudy’s team members were very pleased with the end of the exhibition as it has happened as they have planned.

Next weekend ECO-V members will be traveling to Galle for the weekend to open the Haritha Asapauwa (Green Monastery) to complete their Tsunami rehabilitation programme.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

“Friends of Pelicans” in action…again at Udawalawa

ECO-V and its Friends of Pelicans organized an environmental exhibition for the first time in Udawalwa area from 21st to 23rd March. This exhibition mainly focused on conservation of pelicans but with a broad message on environmental conservation to the Udawalwe community. It was held at the Udawalawa Buddhist centre (Temple) with the fullest support of Ven. Assaji thero. We had an unexpected crowd on all the days and the enthusiasm shown by the villagers was encouraging. There were around 800 visitors at the first day of the exhibition itself. 21st being full moon day we organized a sermon on environment conservation in the first day to the devotees who came to the temple. It was well received by the elderly crowd of the village. But I was very pleased with the ECO-V effort during past one year which paved the way for many village youth to join environmental conservation. Our mission of making an environmental conscious person leading to sustainable conservation efforts at village level was fulfilled through this project. Now we have a good team in Friends of Pelicans which will carry our message of conservation more deep into the village in the coming years.

Friends of Pelicans will be making their first appearance out of Udawalwa on coming Saturday when ECO-V starts exhibition on Purple Faced Leaf Langur with Dr. Rudy’s team in Kalutara Pulinathalaramaya.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Challenge!!!! Successfully accomplished ….

Last Wednesday ECO-V team and I had a big challenge to face. It was a school workshop for Advance Level students of Udawalawa Maha Vidyalaya. This is the main school we have been conducting our school awareness programme for the Pelican Conservation Project since last year. When we started our project at Udawalawa last May no body knew us , as it was the first time we visited the area with the new project funded by UNDP/GEF and WFN. The challenge was to complete the proposed activities to achieve the goals within one year. Fortunately we met two youngsters Nalinda and Bandara along with Harsha from ECO-V who was a real leader for the youngsters. Slowly we were able to win the hearts of community and with our awareness programmes we created a new passion for conservation education which was happily accepted by the community members and school children. Our method was highly appreciated by the principle and the teachers of Udawalwa school and last week they requested us to complete the full syllabus of Bio Diversity Conservation for the Advanced Level students. We explained that we are not qualified teachers for students to cover the syllabus but we can create awareness. We were glad that the teachers and the principle understood it but asked us to follow our methods of teaching then it would be easy for them to direct the students to learn the lessons of Bio-Diversity Conservation. Therefore we faced the challenge and successfully completed the lessons during a full day workshop plus with some more lectures separately. Only 12 biology students were there at Udawalawa school and 4 teachers along with them participated in the work shop conducted at our field office premises. It included games, Power Point presentations, discussions, an exhibition with panels, and video clips.

The evaluation forms revealed that we were successful in the mission and some children have commented that they want to join us and study biodiversity in future to protect mother earth which would be a very positive approach for our dream in creating future conservationists at village level. All this was thanks to UNDP/GEF small grant programme and WFN for funding us to have this project on the ground. This is another example that creating consciousness will help to preserve vanishing biodiversity from earth.

Work on Western Purple Faced Langur(WPFL) conservation continues………..

This weekend was a busy one again. I traveled to Kandy on Saturday to conduct the last workshop with British council on environment proposal development. This was the last workshop which started from Monaragala then Anuradhapura and Hambantota. These workshops were conducted for the kids of age 14-16 years of Sarvodaya societies who participated in the “Kids in touch programme funded by British Council. I really enjoyed working with these kids and I always hope they will have the same ideas and values they shared with me during workshops when they become adults too. If so, our country and environment will be in better hands in the future.

Sunday was for the WPFL project and I traveled to Waga in kalutara district with Dr. Rudy’s team for another awareness campaign. It was organized at Sri Pemananda Dharma school at Sri Susiriwardanarama temple by the chief priest of the temple Ven. Kahahene Sri Medhananda Thero. There were 108 young girls and boys who patiently listen to my lecture at the Sunday school of the temple and I felt that all the children enjoyed my lecture and I made an impact on their lives. It was very obvious at the end of the lecture where two young kids came to me and showed me a photograph of killed WPFL due to electrocution. They discussed different issues with me and they were sad about it and wanted to do something to protect the monkey. I was thrilled to learn that they were willing to work with me on the project. I think I have recruited the first volunteers for the project on WPFL.

Monday I met Dr Karen Litfin of University of Washington and shared my vision and ideas on conservation and the work that ECO-V has done so far. Again and again the topic was around my “dream training centre for village youth” on environment where they will be trained on basic skills on conservation and living with nature peacefully.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Thiresi Charika (Field trip to Dombagaskanda)

“Thiresi Charika” (Tour of Thrush) is the environmental field trip that ECO-V conducts for its members every other month.
ECO-V team took their members on 1st “Thiresi Charika” for year 2008 on March Dombagaskanda forest reserve situated in Colombo District. This forest reserve is a well known place for many forest birds. Starting at 5 a clock in the morning ECO-V members had a very relaxing field trip with more than 30 bird species recorded within half a day. We also observed a group of Western Purple-faced langur in the same locality and I followed them with Harsha for about half an hour to observe their behaviour. There was a migratory Chestnut-winged cuckoo (Red-winged Crested Cuckoo) on our track and it was the first sighting of this species for many ECO-V members. Many endemic birds like Grey Horn bill, Yellow fronted Barbet, Spot-winged Thrush, Lorikeet, Jungle fowl, Spur fowl and migratory species like Brown-breasted fly catcher, Paradise Fly catcher, Chestnut-winged cuckoo, brown Shrike were among the recorded bird species during this tour. I could show my members behaviour of Lesser Yellownape woodpecker and a pair of Malabar Trogon for a long period which gave them a satisfaction of being in the wild. A display of a Giant squirrel on our way gave us an opportunity to think and discuss about our role in conservation.
We all were offered a herbal drink for the breakfast and were invited for lunch by the group of Buddhists who were there to offer arms for the Monastery situated in the reserve. It was a great offer for all of us as we did not take the lunch with us. After enjoying birds and peaceful forest habitat and a delicious lunch prepared for the Buddhist forestry monks we all returned to Colombo in the afternoon.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Awareness campaign launched with Dr. Rudy and the team

ECO-V started its activities on Western Purple Faced Leaf Langur (WPFLL) conservation project with Dr. Rudy’s team in Kalutara yesterday. I had the opportunity of delivering a lecture on conservation of WPFLL to A/L students of Gurulugomi Maha Vidayalaya in Kalutara. There were 96 A/L students in the school and all of them participated in the programme with very much of enthusiasm. My lecture was followed by an art competition we have planned for the programme.. Ven. Dodampahala Siri Suguna thero coordinated the workshop for us .We are planning to kick start the project with an exhibition to be held in the Kalutara Pulinathalaramya on March 29th with the patronage of Hon. Patali Champika Ranwake, Minister of Environment and Natural Resources. ECO-V is the partner organization for the awareness campaign. My next lecture will be on 9th March again at Kalutara for another set of children from a Dhamma school.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pelican Conservation Project (PCP)

I made another visit to Udawalawa PCP today to donate library books to Sri Gunaratana Pirivena (Damma School) as a part of its project activity. We selected this Dhamma school library for the donation as the temple has been very supportive for project activities from the inception. The temple has been house for the “Friends of Pelicans” activities and we are planning to hold the final exhibition of the project in March at the same temple. This will be the final event of PCP activities of the area and it intends to educate the community members in the area and exhibit the findings we have on pelicans of the area. We believe that conservation action should begin with the support of the local community and they should be empowered with correct and accurate knowledge on their environment. All the activities done so far will contribute to achieve this objective and we hope that the community will contribute in a big way in conservation of Spot Billed Pelican in the area.

We also erected the billboard on the bank of the Udawalawe reservoir beside the main road depicting the importance of the conservation of Pelicans. I hope whoever travels on this road will learn its importance and will not pollute the adjoining tank which is a main habitat of the Pelicans in the area. Our local team (Friends of Pelicans) will be the sole representative of the ECO-V PCP in the area at the end of the project and we intend to empower them with necessary support to initiate local conservation actions in the future.
We have already initiated the preliminary activities of conservation of Purple faced leaf langur with Dr. Rudy Rudran from USA and the team and I am looking forward to this new project as it also involves another endemic species which has been threatened due to human action.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dr. Rudy and ECO-V

It was an exciting week for me. I met Dr. Rudy Rudran a well known scientist from Smithsonian Institute USA. I met him at a meeting at Sarvodaya ,where he and his group was looking for the possibilities of conducting a joint project on threatened Western Purple-faced leaf langur an endemic monkey of Sri Lanka with Sarvodaya. I was delighted to be a part of the project especially on the education programme on the invitation of Dr. Rudy as it too serves the vision and mission of ECO-V. He too wanted to develop awareness programme on Buddhist concepts.
With my experience for past 16 years in the conservation field I have experienced that Sri Lankan Buddhist culture helps in creating awareness easily. People pay respect to the nature and living organisms but they lack awareness and consciousness leading to environmental destruction in village level. Thus we at ECO-V decided to be a partner organisation in conservation of Western purple-faced langur in Sri Lanka.
ECO-V celebrated its 7th anniversary on the 7th of February. We organised a small gathering on the 10th of February to celebrate the successful 7th year of ECO-V. It was recollection of past few years and development and planning for the years ahead. We kept the celebrations to a very low key due to the prevailing situation in the country. Hope our tomorrow will be a better one and we will able to celebrate our 8th anniversary in a peaceful Sri Lanka.

Friday, February 8, 2008

With Udawalawa community members!

I made another visit to Udawalwa Pelican Conservation project after my visit last week. My team had organised a training workshop on making paper bags for 20 selected people (13 women and 7 men). It was a very warm gathering as all the participants were so friendly teasing each other while learning how to make the paper bags from old newspapers as an environmental friendly activity. This was the challenge we had at the beginning of our project as many NGO’s had established negative relationships with the community members at Udawalawa and they didn’t believe us too. But all the credit goes to my team members as they worked very hard to establish a good relationship with the community members.

Our young “Friends of Pelicans” are always there. Though officially, they were supposed to come once a week but now they come everyday and spend time reading, discussing, learning and also working with our permanent staff members at the office. This is very encouraging as these young boys are getting their first hand experience in the conservation field. This may help us to achieve the goal of ECO-V “making an environmental friendly society by creating environmental consciousness among the younger generation”.