Our First Volunteers of the Year Gives The SLWCS a Thumbs Up!

 

 

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“For an experience of successful and real conservation work I would 100% recommend volunteering with the SLWCS.” Matthew Shattock, Australia

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The Tree Hut Elephant Corridor where people and elephants coexist.

 

Savannah Soizic
France

I spent three really nice weeks, all the staff was great, really friendly they make you feel well in the field house and during the activities. I have learned so many things about elephants but also about people and Sri lankan wildlife. The life in the field house wasn’t as hard as I thought, and it’s really interesting and fun to be with the local people, to really discover the culture. All the days were different from the others and each day was really interesting, I had an amazing experience in this program, and I will enjoy to come again!!

 

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Working on the Butterfly Sanctuary

 

Tessa Gai
Australia

I had great experience volunteering with the SLWCS. The staff were very friendly and helpful, they were able to answer any questions I had and I learnt a lot about Sri Lankan wildlife. I also enjoyed the beautiful location of the field house. Activities including painting the school and planting orange trees in the village were very satisfying and I enjoyed interacting with the local community. Overall, I had a fun and informative week and definitely hope to come back again!

 

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Yan (Josey) Zemin
Netherlands

The three weeks I’ve spent here were great. The field house’s location is gorgeous and the open vibe is really cool. The biggest thumbs up goes to all the staff. Very friendly and knowledgable. Even though not everyone speaks English, the language barrier doesn’t really matter. I’ve learned a lot about the wildlife here and the lives of locals. It’s an interesting way of seeing a foreign country, deep down in the countryside without tourists. Seeing an elephant (or even its presence) in the wild here is a magical experience. You can really kind of feel that they’re around.

I really like how this project helps the elephant, as well as the villagers at the same time. The staff really wants to bring the ‘natural balance’ back and the way they do it is great. The more physical activities like Project Orange Elephant are satisfying, because you can see who you’re helping and hear the stories why you’re helping. Not all activities are equally interesting, but I’ve enjoyed walking around in the small villages, paddy fields and wilderness nonetheless. I have had amazing weeks here and I’m curious to see the future projects of the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society!

 

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Matthew Shattock
Australia

I spent two weeks with the SLWCS and was super impressed with the organization. The field house is situated in a stunning location overlooking a lake on one side, with spectacular views of the Knuckles Mountain Ranges on the other side.

The staff were friendly, knowledgable and passionate and made every activity both enjoyable and educational. For an experience of successful and real conservation work I would 100% recommend volunteering with the SLWCS.

 

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Anne Redburn and Alexis Scott
USA

This is a great program that truly helps to preserve wildlife in an innovative and natural way. The staff work incredibly hard to collect their research and on the maintenance of different projects.

Staff are very kind and knowledgeable and also very willing to share their knowledge with you. They are well respected by the locals and carry out their projects on a large area of the land. They are always looking for new ideas to preserve the wildlife, and the projects they’re currently working on are interesting and new. Also, the food they serve is homemade and delicious.

 

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Caroline Mager and Brett Kerton
UK

It’s been a great experience – very satisfactory to be involved in research-focused activities. So we loved the bird monitoring, dung analysis, etc. Mahinda’s food is fantastic – great to have traditional/local cooking! Staff are all very friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. The trip to the national park was excellent and very good value!

We enjoyed very much the film and the talk by Chandima after supper.

 

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Jenna Monroe
Alberta, Canada

Honestly I think the organization is pretty darn fantastic. Really happy I was able to see and experience the culture through the daily projects just by travelling throughout the countryside, especially the first day when we did the POE fence monitoring and were right in peoples backyards, and to truly get to see a less travelled area of Sri Lanka.

The food is fantastic, I legit looked forward to every meal. The field house is in a great location and is super relaxed, which I enjoyed and it gave us great opportunity to get to know each other. I liked the downtime mid day because its so hot that I definitely think I’d have a hard time keeping up if we were busy with activities.

I also really appreciate that its pretty disconnected, I know lots of people might complain that they’re without technology but I really liked it. I think the dynamic is perfect just the way it is. Without a doubt, I learned a ton about the project, elephant behaviour, Sri Lankan farming, etc etc. Cannot thank you guys enough for how knowledgeable and friendly everyone here is. I’ve really had fun this week. Thanks a million. Xx

 

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Daniel Wellman
United Kingdom of Great Britain (The Best Country in the World)

I spent one week volunteering with SLWCS and was happy with the activities and setting. SLWCS is a great organization and showcases great innovation with limited means. The group I volunteered with was fantastic, which made the experience better! The staff are really passionate and really know their stuff. The field house is unique and very different from home, and was a little bit of a challenge adapting to – but after a couple days I could relish this unique living style!

The breadth of activities was good and the work was fulfilling, although I will always wish I could’ve done more!

 

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Juan Leandro Del Viejo Dominguez
France

Positive: decent facilities, great food, passionate people, wonderful scenery, very interesting projects (butterfly garden, elephant human conflict, EleFriendly school bus).

 

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Thank you for volunteering with the SLWCS!

 

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Chandima Fernando/SLWCS
Akila Weerakoon/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

 

 

Feeding and encouraging elephants to beg on the road in Sri Lanka is vandalism committed on our wildlife!

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"We need to take action now to stop this vandalizing of our wild." SLWCS

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Vehicles would stop and allow elephants to cross without any interference or hindrance

Decades ago in Sri Lanka to encounter wild elephants on the road was an exciting and exhilarating experience. Vehicles would park at a respectful distance and watch the elephants in silence until the elephants gradually moved away from the road. It would be a rare person who would be brave enough to drive past the elephants in a car that could barely reach 20 miles/hour on those roads at the time.

Fast forward to now and the elephants on the road have become mere caricatures and an insult to their long ago majestic and awe inspiring cousins. Until a few years ago the begging elephants were almost bulls. Now even female elephants and their young have taken to begging on the roads.

There is no doubt that eventually entire herds will get used to this demeaning and disgraceful habit. Herds are already getting habituated to face such a situation. Garbage dumps which were always visited by bull elephants are now attracting herds with young calves as well. Once they get used to eating garbage it is just a small step to wait by the roadside for hand outs from vehicles. And it has started to happen.

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An elephant herd crossing a road is an amazing sight to come across. As oppose to…

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…begging for food by the roadside. This is a cow and its' calf. Next it would be entire herds.

Unprincipled people who are indulging in this shameful activity are basically vandalizing the wild essence and spirit of the wilderness and the wildlife of Sri Lanka. The Department of Wildlife Conservation must come up with a concise management plan and with the help of the police and military forces implement disciplinary actions to stop these vandals from destroying the wilderness and the wildlife of our country. A strict set of huge fines and penalties on the drivers of these vehicles will soon put a stop to such vandalism.

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A magnificent animal is now a beggar.

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This bull is shamelessly…

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…begging for food.

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Let us act now to change this…

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…to this.

We need to take action now to stop this vandalizing of our wild. Please write to the government officials listed below asking them to take steps to immediately stop this disgracing of a majestic animal and turning it into a derelict symbol of our wildlife. Share this post and encourage as many people to campaign to get this feeding of wild animals by the roadside stopped immediately.

Let's request these officials to make feeding any wild animal that is not in need of succor legally categorized as vandalism and efforts made to punish severely the drivers of these vehicles. Otherwise, wild animals begging for food by the roadside could end up being the only wildlife experience and spectacle left in Sri Lanka for wildlife lovers traveling on our roads.

His Excellency President Maithripala Sirisena
President of Sri Lanka
Minister for Environment
Presidential Secretariat
Galle Face
Colombo 01
Sri Lanka
Phone: +94 112 354 354
Email: ps@presidentsoffice.lk
Tweets by ‎@MaithripalaS

Honorable Ajith Mannapperuma
State Minister for Mahaweli Development & Environment
Ministry of Mahaweli Development & Environment
"Sobadam Piyasa"
416/C/1, Robert Gunawardana Mawatha
Battaramulla
Sri Lanka
Telephone: +94-33-223-6372, +94-11-268-8749-5
Email: ajith2200@gmail.com

Honorable Ranil Wickremasinghe
Prime Minister of Sri Lanka
Prime Minister's Office
No: 58, Sir Ernest De Silva Mawatha,
Colombo 07.
Sri Lanka.
+94 (112) 575317/18
+94 (112) 370737/38
Email: info@pmoffice.gov.lk

Fax: +94 (112) 575310
Fax: +94 (112) 574143

Honorable John Amaratunga
Minister for Wildlife
811/A Jayanthipura Main Rd
Battaramulla 10120
Sri Lanka
Contact Numbers:
Mobile: +94 777489999.
Phone: +94 11 234 1066, +94-11-204-5700.
Fax: +94 11 2382218
Email: info@msdw.gov.lk

Chandana Sooriyabandara
Director General
Department of Wildlife Conservation
811/A Jayanthipura Main Rd
Battaramulla 10120
Sri Lanka
Phone: +94-11-288-8585
Email: dg@dwc.gov.lk & csooriyabandara@gmail.com

Anura Dissanayake
Secretary
Ministry of Mahaweli Development & Environment
Sri Lanka
"Sobadam Piyasa"
416/C/1, Robert Gunawardana Mawatha
Battaramulla
Sri Lanka
Telephone – 0112676844
Email: sec@mahaweli.gov.lk

Anura Sathurusinghe
Conservator General
Forest Department
Sampath Paya
82 Rajamalwate Rd
Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte 10120
Sri Lanka
Phone: +94-11-286-6616
Email: cgfsoffice@gmail.com

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What we are in danger of loosing.

Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Chandima Fernando/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS
Internet Public Domain

The Butterfly Effect: The Sri Lanka Butterfly Conservation Project

 

 

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“Despite its small size, the island [of Sri Lanka] boasts 248 species of butterflies of which 31 species are endemic.” Dr. George Michael van der Poorten

 

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Tailed-Jay Butterfly

 

Forty years ago Dr. George Michael van der Poorten set out to create a butterfly haven in his property in Rambawewa, in the Northwestern Province of Sri Lanka. What Dr. van der Poorten has achieved since then cannot be described in a sentence or two…you need to write a whole set of volumes and produce a series of documentaries about it as well. But to give just a sense of it, when he started to create butterfly friendly habitats in his coconut estate there were about 20 species of butterflies present. Today there are more than 125 species!

The flutter Michael set in motion way back in time had now rippled across nearly 40 years of time and space and through a process of osmosis has resonated in two organizations, Spa Ceylon and the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS) to take up butterfly conservation. The amazing fact is, the SLWCS did not even exist at the time when through his efforts Dr. van der Poorten set a Butterfly Effect in motion.

 

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Dr. George Michael van der Poorten, the most eminent Lepidopterist of Sri Lanka

 

Unknowingly but probably in response to the subtle and sublime vibes set in motion by Dr. Poorten, in 2013 the SLWCS decided to create a butterfly garden at its Field Operations Center in Wasgamuwa. However this project never got off the ground and in 2017 the Society made renewed efforts to initiate the project.

Meanwhile in 2018 independent of the SLWCS' efforts Spa Ceylon the prestigious house of luxury Ayruvedic personal and body care products had decided to sponsor a butterfly conservation project. Forty years after Dr. van der Poorten’s inspired moment to set in motion a flutter of hope for butterflies at his estate – it seems synergistic events had brought the SLWCS, Spa Ceylon and Dr. van der Poorten into a collaborative effort to save the beautiful flying jewels, the butterflies of Sri Lanka.

 

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Narrow-banded Blue Bottle

 

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Crimson Rose

 

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An early effort in 2013 to establish a Butterfly Garden was not a success

 

January 18th 2019. Turning off from the main Puttalam Road we drove through the main gates of Dr. van der Poorten’s estate and headed down a long and dusty unpaved drive way. The entire area looked very dry and parched – so it was hard to believe that soon we will be in a butterfly haven when just finding a torpid grasshopper in these conditions would be a tough assignment. But we were definitely in for a huge surprise!

 

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The closest you can to an earthly paradise…

 

Dr. George Michael van der Poorten is “The Butterfly Expert” or in the jargon of Zoology the most eminent Lepidopterist of Sri Lanka. While I have known about him for ages this was the first time I’m meeting him. Only yesterday I had managed to find Dr. van der Poorten’s contact information and had called him a bit hesitantly not knowing how my request for assistance would be received since it was coming out of the blue from an unknown person. I need not have worried—I was immediately invited to visit his estate the following day and provided with directions to get there. So here I am about to meet the doyen of Sri Lanka’s butterflies, Dr. George Michael van der Poorten and his equally knowledgeable and lovely wife, Nancy.

 

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Nancy and Michael

 

Spa Ceylon that had supported our Project Orange Elephant in 2017 contacted the SLWCS last year to inquire about a butterfly conservation project. As a result of the ensuing discussions, Spa Ceylon committed to support a butterfly conservation project and the reason for my visit to Dr. van der Poorten’s. It was a case of—if we are going to create a butterfly sanctuary, then this time let’s get it right from the very beginning!

 

02. Spa Ceylon Donation 2017

In 2017 Spa Ceylon donated to Project Orange Elephant. Shalin Balasuriya, Shiwantha Dias and Ravi Corea

 

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LOGO ORANGE Very Final

 

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Common Jezebel

 

Immediate we met it was hard to miss Michael’s deep passion for butterflies which radiates in every direction, and his energy and enthusiasm was boundless and infectious. Just keeping up with him was like running behind a weaving butterfly. He was the proverbial fount of knowledge, and this knowledge gushed out in torrents that I wished I had not paid attention to those long ago gender biases and learned Pittman’s shorthand. Not since my university days have I had to take down so many notes. When I look at the notes I had written – just the list of plants and trees alone was astonishing.

 

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Michael's love and passion for butterflies was hard to miss. It was as obvious as a butterfly

 

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Amidst all the running around, lessons and note taking there is still time for a refreshing Thambili

 

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So many notes…

 

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…it was like going back to university.

 

While I was with Michael learning and absorbing information on butterflies, Chandima, Akila, Nisali and a team of volunteers were working to prepare the land at our Wasgamuwa field center where we planned to establish the butterfly sanctuary. We couldn’t have selected a more auspicious day to initiate the project especially to have Michael provide advice and suggestions to the team over the phone as they worked.

 

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Akila…

 

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Nisali…

 

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Chandima impersonating a butterfly…

 

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and volunteers clearing weeds to create the future butterfly sanctuary

 

My first visit to Michael's and Nancy's would be some of my most cherished memories. The welcome and the warm and sincere hospitality that I enjoyed and the generous uninhibited sharing of knowledge, experience and even resources I received. Our Land Rover when we left looked like a veritable roving greenhouse—filled with plants, seeds, and cuttings of various species of plants and vines that provide food for caterpillars and nectar for adult butterflies. Michael’s and Nancy’s largesse was awe-inspiring and made one feel so very special. I went to get advice and maybe some suggestions and tips, but left with so much more it is hard to quantify, and most importantly knowing that our butterfly conservation project would have Michael’s and Nancy’s unstinting support and help.

 

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Gifts of plants for our Butterfly Sanctuary

 

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There were many avian friends as well

 

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It was an honor and a privilege to meet Michael and Nancy

 

Dr. George Michael van der Poorten and Nancy van der Poorten have two recent publications on the butterflies of Sri Lanka which we highly recommend:

The Butterfly Fauna of Sri Lanka (2016)
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Field Guide to the Butterflies of Sri Lanka_ (2018)

The books are available at all leading bookshops in Colombo and online at: http://lepodonbooks.com/

Please stay alert for further updates on the progress of our Sri Lanka Butterfly Conservation Project.

 

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Big, rumbling thanks to our Corporate Partners for their kind support and to everyone who has donated and supported our wildlife conservation efforts!
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Photo Credits:

Chandima Fernando/SLWCS
Indika Samapth/SLWCS
Ravi Corea/SLWCS

 

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