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Preserving Heritage for Tomorrow...

In recognition of the importance of creating awareness on conservation of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka Telecom in partnership with the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) has initiated the ‘Preserving Heritage for Tomorrow,’ a programme for schools.
It includes a trip to the forest reserve, scheduled for the third week of each month, covering three days. Schools are selected by FOGSL from across the island, regardless of language, community and stream of education.
Twenty students and five teachers have the opportunity of being selected through their respective school principal’s approval to participate in this programme. So far, Gurukula Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya; Badulla Central College, Badulla; Sacred Heart Convent College, Galle; Yasodara Devi Balika Vidyalaya and Rathnawali Balika Vidyalaya, of Gampaha have had the opportunity to take part.
The FOGSL is an independent group based in the University of Colombo. Professor Sarath Kotagama, a renowned ornithologist expert in the country, leads the FOGSL team.
The students arrived at their destination at 2 pm where they were welcomed with a traditional, healthy vegetarian lunch, comprising of red rice, mallung and dhal. Accommodation for the group was at Martens Lodge, named after Marten Wijeysinghe who has lived in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve for nearly two decades. He knows the forest like the back of his hand, and is invaluable in terms of knowledge.
The group of students who were excitedly awaiting this tour were given SLT caps, leech socks made of cotton. The students, too, were advised to wear outfits that were in muted and camouflage shades of colour such as green and brown. This is to ensure that the animals are not disturbed by the presence of humans in their natural habitat. The group was also asked to bring salt water and Siddhalepa in the event that leeches afflict them.
After lunch, they attended a lecture session conducted at the Forest Information Centre in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve by a forest officer who spoke about the history of the reserve as well as on what they should and should not do during their stay. These included making loud noises, breaking off branches or carve their names on the bark of trees and bringing polythene bags to the reserve. After having tea, the students went for a nature walk to get better acquainted with the environment, with Marten Wijeysinghe as the guide. Prof. Kotagama explained the magnetic fields at the reserve at a theoretical session.
Each student also adopted the name of a bird. After eating dinner, the students end a long yet exciting day with session on photography, where Ragula Perera, a wildlife and nature photographer attached to FOGSL taught them basic photographic skills and techniques.
On the second day, all of the students were expected to get ready for the day ahead and assembled at the lecture hall at 6.00 a.m., where they meditated until 6.15 a.m. They were taken on tours to four different parts of the forest so that each group came across different birds. The session ended at 7.30 a.m. where each of the groups make their way back to Marten’s Lodge for a hearty breakfast.
Each group were given an experiment to conduct relating to the primary forest, which is one that has never been logged or disturbed and the secondary forest, which regenerates on native forest that has been cleared, with the help of a member of FOGSL. The session went on until lunch time, where the students did testing of the Bandhar and other such experiments. Each experiment was rotated so that all teams got the opportunity to observe.
In the evening, they attended a session, which was conducted by Chandima Ratnayake on Blue magpies. Afterwards they went for a nature night walk, which the students looked forward to. Each group, which had been tirelessly working on their assignments, modulated by FOGSL in the form of a hand written book submitted it. Students were also awarded certificates from SLT along with FOGSL.

For further details contact: The Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL), Department of Zoology, University of Colombo.
Telephone: 5342609

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