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.