Sinharaja World Heritage Forest

Sinharaja World Heritage Forest

Sinharaja is a forest in south-west wet zone of Sri Lanka which contians a high Bio diversity. A large proportion of flora and fauna in this forest is endemic to the country and some endemic to the Singharaja Forest itself. This is a very good place to see many endemic birds such as Ceylon Lorikeet, Layard’s parakeet, Jungle and Spur Fowl, Ceylon Wood Pigeon, Grey Hombill, Spotted wing Thrush, Rufous and Brown- capped Babbler, Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush, Ceylon Blue Magpie, White Headed Starling, Ceylon Hill Mynha, Legge’s Flowerpecker. The clear cut roads in to the jungle provide easy access to the forest. This important forest is a Man and Biosphere Forest reserve and it is considered as a World Heritage Site.

Fauna

Blue MagpieFauna Endemism is high, particularly for birds with 19 (95%) of 20 species endemic to Sri Lanka present. Endemism among mammals and butterflies is also greater than 50%.
Threatened mammals are leopard Panthera pardus and Indian elephant Elephas maximus (E). The endemic purple-faced langur Presbytis senex is present. Birds considered to be endangered or rare (Hoffmann, 1984) are Sri Lanka wood pigeon Columba torringtoni, green-billed coucal Centropus chlororhynchus, Sri Lanka white-headed starling Sturnus senex, Sri Lanka blue magpie Cissa ornata, and ashy-headed babbler Garrulax cinereifrons, all of which are endemic, and red-faced malkoha Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus. Of interest is the presence of Sri Lanka broad-billed roller Eurystomus orientalis irisi (I), sightings of which have decreased markedly in the last five years (Zoysa and Raheem, 1987). Of the reptiles and amphibia, python Python molurus is vulnerable and a number of endemic species are likely to be threatened. Noteworthy species include Calotes liolepis, the rarest of all Agamids on the island, the rare rough-nose horned lizard Ceratophora aspera, restricted to part of Sri Lanka’s wet zone, and Ramella palmata, a rare endemic microhylid (Zoysa and Raheem, 1987). Threatened freshwater fish are combtail Belontia signata (R), smooth-breasted snakehead Channa orientalis (R), black ruby barb Barbus nigrofasciatus (V), cherry barb Barbus titeya (V) and red-tail goby Sicydium halei (V), the conservation status of which is considered in Evans (1981). Of the 21 species of endemic butterfly, Sri Lanka rose Atrophaneura jophon is vulnerable (Collins and Morris, 1985). Sri Lankan five-bar sword Graphium antiphates ceylonicus, which is considered to be very rare, is not uncommon in Sinharaja at certain times of the year (J.N. Banks, pers. comm., 1986). Zoysa and Raheem (1987) comprehensively summarise what is known about the fauna.

An early account of the fauna is given by Baker (1937). Preliminary lists of the fauna (viz. mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fishes and butterflies) have been compiled (March for Conservation, 1985) and are included in the draft conservation plan (ForestDepartment, 1985).

Vegetation

Sinharaja World Heritage ForestTwo main types of forest can be recognised. Remnants of Dipterocarpus forest occur in valleys and on their lower slopes, with hora D. zeylanicus and bu hora D. hispidus present in almost pure stands. Secondary forest and scrub occur where the original forest cover has been removed by shifting cultivation and in other places the forest has been replaced by rubber and tea plantations (Rosayro, 1954). Mesua-Doona (Shorea) forest, the climax vegetation over most of the reserve, covers the middle and upper slopes above 500m (Rosayro, 1942) or above 335m as suggested by Gunatilleke and Gunatilleke (1985). Garcinia hermonii followed by Xylopia championii invariably dominate the understorey tree stratum, a range of species dominate the subcanopy and na Mesua nagassarium usually predominates in the canopy layer (Gunatilleke and Gunatilleke, 1985). Details about the structure and composition of the vegetation are summarised by Zoysa and Raheem (1987).

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Importance and Management Constraints of Elephant Transit Home, Udawalawa, Sri Lanka

Isuru Jayasundara

Sri Lankan elephant (Elephas maximus maximus ) is considered as a major endangered species and their survival in the natural habitat is threatened due to expansion of various human informal activities. Therefore the human and elephant conflict is increasing and as a result of that elephants in natural forests are constantly being destroyed and baby elephants become orphaned or abandoned.

Elephant Transit Home (Eth Athuru Sevena) is an elephant orphanage maintained by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) for protecting the orphaned baby elephants in Sri Lanka. This has been established in 1995 in Udawalawa National Park. Main purpose of this ETH (Elephant Transit Home) is taking care of orphaned baby elephants until they become young and release them into their natural habitat.

When a small elephants become abandoned or orphaned, it is difficult them to survive in their natural habitats, because of some carnivorous animals. On the other hand they may face many problems such as falling into abandoned pits and malnutrition. But if the herd is with them, adults in the herd try to save calves from dangerous incidents. If smalls can not escape from these troubles even with the help of adults, they get orphaned. Sometimes the baby elephant can be orphaned after its mother’s death. (This mostly happens, because of human activities, such as killing elephants)

DWC has to pay attention to provide shelter to the orphaned baby elephants and maintain them in good health condition. After living about 4 1/2 years of time they are released to the forest. All released elephants are then monitored for three years. Therefore this makes further conserve of our elephants. Actually this is a kind of ex-situ conservation method to conserve several genotypes of elephants found in different places of the country. Through this the production of improved novel genetic combinations is also provoked. In addition to that regular awareness programmes on elephants are also conducted in these premises.

Government has to make sound allocations to improve the facilities of ETH and for its maintenance. Therefore DWC has decided to seek private sector assistance. Launching a Foster Parent Scheme for baby elephants is one of such efforts. DWC is facing some problems in releasing the elephants to forests. Udawalawa National Park is highly suitable as it is enriched with food and covered by an Electric fence. But nearly fifty elephants have been released to this park up to now. As Udawalawa National Park is not very large, DWC will have to search another area for future uses. But most of parks do not have the environmental conditions like in Udawalawa national Park. In addition, there are some problems in monitoring or released animals.

ETH is doing a great work to conserve our elephants. We too must promote greater awareness and pay a hefty price to conserve this priceless ecological jewel for the benefit of our future generation.