Best of wildlife captured on reel
Changing course from being an anthropologist and an
archaeologist to take up photography, Rukshan Jayawardene has
come a long way in the field of wildlife photography.
Jayawardene is ready to exhibit his photographs again. “This is
going to be my second exhibition which has been named ‘wild
space’. I held my first exhibition in the year 2003 in Colombo,”
According to Jayawardene, he had been involved in photography
since childhood. He is a self-taught photographer and had at one
time taken photographs of natural subjects, using a plastic
“In the year 1999, I decided to focus my attention on wildlife
photography,” recalled Jayawardene.
He further stated that during that period, the need to take
better photographs of leopards in particular, was strongly felt
by a small group of people. These people had come together to
produce a book on the Sri Lankan leopard.
“This was purely to further the conservation of this little
understood and sometimes much misunderstood carnivore,” said
Jayawardene further emphasised that his method was to totally
immerse himself in tracking, learn about the leopard and
photograph the animal in his endeavor to progress as a
“Fortunately the fact that I was not employed on a regular basis
freed me to spend as much time as I could in Yala. In the year
2000, I got acquainted with a Yala game guard, the late Kumara
Banda, who had an extraordinary knowledge of animals,” said
According to Jayawardene he had first seen a leopard in Wilpattu
though he didn’t photograph it. That moment had provided him
with an exiting experience.
“Looking at leopards and understanding them is great. It demands
a lot from a photographer,” said Jayawardene.
The exhibition ‘Wild space’ features 70 photographs. Around 75%
to 80% of the photographs are from Sri Lanka and the rest are
from Africa and India,” said Jayawardene.
“The pictures offer views of leopards from various positions.
There are pictures of leopards at a kill and so on,” said
He further stated that this year marked his 10th year as a
Jayawardene had his primary education at Royal College, Colombo
where he was an active member of the wildlife conservation
“During my school years, I was a bird watcher and I loved to see
wildlife movies and documentaries,” said Jayawardene.
Jayawardene spent most of his school vacations at national
parks. This experience had a great influence on him.
“I subsequently went to the University of New Brunswick, Canada
to study forestry and conservation. Unavoidable circumstances
made me change my university and my course of study. In 1988, I
graduated with a degree in Anthropology from the University of
Maryland, United States of America (USA),” said Jayawardene.
Jayawardene obtained a masters degree in South Asian Archaeology
from the University of Cambridge in United Kingdom, in 1992. He
counts approximately 14 years field experience in eight
districts and six years of teaching Archaeology as a part time
lecturer at the University of Kelaniya.
“In 2002, my photograph of a hawk grappling with a land monitor
taken in Yala won a prize at the British Broadcasting
Cooperation (BBC) wildlife magazine’s wildlife photographer of
the year, competition,” said Jayawardene.
He further stated that this was an international competition
which was open to amateurs and professionals alike. According to
him that year the competition had attracted approximately 20,000
“The photograph also appeared in the book, ‘Wildlife
photographer of the Year’, portfolio 12,”said Jayawardene.
Jayawardene further stated that he still believed that cameras
and lenses were merely tools of the trade that enabled a person
to capture the picture in mind, just as much a vehicle was a
means of transport or the conveyance that enabled you to get to
where you wanted.
“All the photographs in this exhibition are printed from colour
slides or transparencies. However, I have been using a digital
camera as a back up since 2004,”said Jayawardene.
He further stated that all the photographs exhibited belong to a
period between 2002 to 2007 with the exception of three that
were taken earlier.
“None of them have been exhibited before. They reflect my
personal selection and do not in anyway constitute a
representative collection of this island’s substantial bio
diversity. Neither are they restricted to Sri Lankan subjects,”
Jayawardene further emphasised that he was primarily a long lens
photographer and this collection also reflected that bias. It
also focuses on many of his special interests which are birds
“To be a successful wildlife photographer, one requires
concentration, patience and discipline,” said Jayawardene.
He concluded his conversation by saying that he had succeeded in
inspiring others and making them appreciate and safe guard the
island’s irreplaceable natural heritage through his photographs.
The exhibition will be held at Barefoot Gallery, Colombo from
November 26 to December 7.
Weeping Forest - A response
By P. N. Dayawansa, Senior Lecturer, Dept. of Zoology,
University of Colombo
I am writing this letter with reference to the articles
published in The Nation ‘Weeping Forest’ by Nimashi Amaleeta
Fernando, on November 23, 2008 , and ‘Responses to the Weeping
Forest’ by J. Amarasinghe and Dilan Peiris, on November 30,
First I would like to state that the so called interview
(‘Corrupt Official’: The Nation-Soaring Raptor 23.11.2008)
Nimashi Fernando has published never took place, it has to be
mentioned emphatically that this interview she claims that she
had with me is just a piece of her creative imagination. Thus,
her imaginations could lead the place to a ‘Hotel and a Pub’ and
these terms used by her are of her own. I have to display my
extreme displeasure for naming this wonderful place as a Hotel
and a Pub by Nimashi Fernando. It is a disgrace that she has
tarnished the image of this valuable place by accusing the
current condition and by naming the arboretum as a hostile place
for visitors. Ironically, she has invited general public to
visit the arboretum and given instructions on how to reserve the
place, after tarnishing the image of it, which is
Nimashi Amaleeta Fernando is a former student of mine; I was
much aggrieved when I read the above mentioned article because
she has misused my name to write inaccurate and erroneous
information about the management of the Popham Arboretum. On
26.11.2008 I personally informed her to correct her mistake in
the next edition of The Nation. It is doubly disgraceful to see
her trying to absolve herself by passing the blame, as we were
to see in her note on the last issue of The Nation, rather than
regretting for the errors that caused much damage and disgrace
to many people and institutions. Thus, I consider it as my duty
towards the public and considered parties to inform them about
I have no personal grudges against the manager that has been
mentioned in the article or any of the labourers. In fact the
manager and the staff have been helpful towards me during many
visits and workshops, that were carried out by me at the
arboretum for undergraduate students. The writer of the article
Weeping Forest has mentioned that I have said that the manager
was, “perfectly intoxicated” which is untrue and is mere
fantasising on her part. Furthermore, she has stated that I
consider the Arboretum as an unsafe place especially for girls,
I would like to recall her memory that I have taken her and
other third year Zoology special students to the Arboretum for a
workshop in 2006, during which the above mentioned manager was
also present. Since then I have taken my students to the
Arboretum for various workshops, which as a lecturer, I would
have never done if the place was considered as unsafe.