Preserving Heritage for
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
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
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.