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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Elephant Gathering - Minneriya National Park


The 'Gathering', the largest concentration of Elephants in Asia, happens when over 300 gather on the grassland that sprouts on the receding shores of Minneriya Lake. The Gathering at Minneriya is now ranked sixth amongst the world's greatest wildlife spectacles by Lonely Planet and occurs every year from around June to October, with numbers peaking from August onwards.



















Images by Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist guide Anura Bandara

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Disney film “Monkey Kingdom” filmed in Sri Lanka crosses US$14.3mn ticket sales


May 18, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka tourism promotion office says, the Island is expecting a US tourism boom following the recently produced Disney documentary movie “Monkey Kingdom’s ticket sales crossing 14.3 million US dollars as at day 28 in United States.

“This is a big win for Sri Lanka as in the documentary category for a demand chain to bring in this footfall is a good start as we attract only a 45,000 visitors from the US,” Rohantha Athukorala, Chairman of Sri Lanka Tourism said.
“We must see how the momentum picks up on the brand life cycle of “Monkey Kingdom” especially in our focused markets of Europe,”

“If it does, we can make it a social networking tool for Sri Lanka tourism by linking tour operators and their families when launched at the cinemas and do focused promotions,”
“We must use this vehicle to position Sri Lanka for its diversity and rich cultural heritage.”

“Monkey Kingdom” a feature-length wildlife documentary released in US cinemas on 17th April is due be rolled out to 12,000 cinemas across the US.

Filmed around Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka, the film documents the life of a troop of wild toque-macaque monkeys (rilaw). The movie talks about a gripping reality of a newborn monkey and its mother, struggling to survive within the competitive social hierarchy of the Temple Troop, a dynamic group of monkeys who live in ancient ruins found deep in the storied jungles of South Asia- in a beautiful island Sri Lanka

The movie is directed by Mark Linfield and Alastair Fothergill, who were responsible for other Disney blockbusters such as ‘Earth’, which grossed more than 100 million dollars at the box office, the promotion office said.

This is the eighth True Adventure film and the sixth released theatrically by Disney nature, an independent film label of Walt Disney Studio. The last such documentary fetched 35 million dollar ticket sales.

Haley P, a film critic has commented on the film saying,
“This is a great nature documentary, especially if you like monkeys and, contributions from ticket sales of this movie will help save the monkeys in south Asia.”
The statement had also quoted an American kid saying that, “My favourite part of this movie is when all the monkeys are playing with each other and swinging from their homemade “original” jungle gym. I also like the part when the lower class runs out of food and have to find a way to survive. They locate the humans’ house and raid their kitchen. They even confiscate all the eggs from the hen house!! It is hysterical to see a monkey running off with a sub sandwich.”

Disney predicts that ‘Monkey Kingdom’ will be a hit with families everywhere and has released a 74-page educators’ guide with school projects, games and quizzes for children.
Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals rose 18 per cent to 157,051 in March 2015 from a year earlier with a surge in tourist arrivals from China and cumulative as at end 1st quarter to 478,838 with a growth of 13.6 per cent, data from the state tourism promotion office showed.
Sri Lanka’s tourist arrivals were up 8.5 percent to 122,217 in April 2015, from a year earlier driven by growth in the Indian and Chinese markets, official data shows.
Arrivals from USA, the Island’s 9th biggest market rose 20.8 percent to 15,970 from Jan –Apr 2015 from 13,217 a year earlier.




Via Lbo.lk

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Sri Lanka first nation to protect all mangrove forests

By Mark Kinver

Sri Lanka has lost an estimated 76% of its mangrove forests over the past 100 years


Sri Lanka has become the first nation in the world to comprehensively protect all of its mangrove forests.
A scheme backed by the government will include alternative job training, replanting projects and microloans.
Mangroves are considered to be one of the world's most at-risk habitats, with more than half being lost or destroyed in the past century.
Conservationists hope other mangrove-rich nations will follow suit and adopt a similar protection model.
Commenting on the agreement, Sri Lanka President Maithreepala Sirisena said: "It is the responsibility and the necessity of all government institutions, private institutions, non-government organisations, researchers, intelligentsia and civil community to be united to protect the mangrove ecosystem."
The Sri Lankan government is a joint partner overseeing the measures, alongside global NGO Seacology, and Sri Lanka-based Sudeesa, which was formerly known as the Small Fishers Federation of Lanka.
'Extreme importance'
Seacology executive director Duane Silverstein said the pioneering framework had "extreme importance as a model" that could be used throughout the world.
"No nation in history has ever protected all of its mangrove forests and Sri Lanka is going to be the first one to do so," he told BBC News.
"This is through a combination of laws, sustainable alternative incomes and mangrove nurseries.
It is also very significant considering the importance of mangroves as a means of sequestering carbon."
"It is not only that mangroves sequester an order of magnitude more carbon than other types of forest, but it is sequestered for so much longer.
"In the case of mangroves, it is forecast that this lasts millennia," he observed.
Mangroves are evergreen trees that are found in more than 120 tropical and sub-tropical nations.
They are able to grow in seawater, and their strong, stilt-like root systems allow them to thrive in swamps, deltas or coastal areas.
The trees sequester the carbon in the top few metres of soil, which is primarily an anaerobic environment - without oxygen.
As a result, the organisms that usually lead to the decomposition of organic material are not present, meaning the carbon remains locked in the environment for longer.
Because of their surrounding habitat and the lack of readily available fuel, mangrove forests are also not susceptible to forest fires.
But mangroves also offer coastal communities a more direct and immediate form of protection, explained Mr Silverstein.
"After the 2004 (Indian Ocean) tsunami, it became evident - particularly in Sri Lanka which was severely impacted - that those villages that had intact mangroves suffered significantly less damage than those that did not.
A report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) published 12 months after the devastating tsunami compared two coastal villages in Sri Lanka that were hit by the wall of water.
It showed that two people died in the settlement with dense mangrove and scrub forest, while up to 6,000 people died in the village without similar vegetation.
"Another advantage of a healthy mangrove ecosystem is that the stilted root systems serve as nurseries for many of the fish species that go on to populate coral reefs.
Healthy fish populations, sustained by healthy mangrove forests, have also provided livelihoods and nutrition for millions of small-scale fishermen and their families for generations, allowing coastal communities to sustain themselves.
Costing livelihoods
Anuradha Wickramasinghe, chairman of Sudeesa, said: "People live in these areas because they depend on the mangroves because a lot of the fish they catch come from mangroves.
But he added: "Shrimp farmers have been either legally or illegally cutting down mangroves.
Farmed shrimps, or prawns, account for more than half of the global demand for the crustaceans.
A UN report published in November 2012 warned that the growing demand for prawns meant that valuable mangrove forests were still being felled or were under threat of being felled.
Mr Wickramasinghe told BBC News: "Shrimp farming results in a significant fall in fish catch yields, so fishermen are losing income so it costs them their livelihoods.
"So they know about the importance of mangroves and they are keen to protect them.
Mr Silverstein hoped the Sri Lanka protection model would be adopted by other nations.
"We absolutely believe that Sri Lanka's mangrove model will serve as a model for other nations to follow."
The scheme, which will cost US $3.4m over five years, aims to protect all 8,800 hectares (21,800 acres) of existing mangrove forests by providing alternative job training, funding microloans to people in exchange for protecting local mangroves forests.
It also involves a replanting project, which aims to replace 3,900 hectares of mangroves that had been felled.
Via BBC.com

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Living Green and Firmly Committed

Eight Jetwing Properties Awarded Travelife Gold Awards
For the second time, Sri Lanka's premier hospitality brand Jetwing Hotels has been awarded the prestigious Travelife Gold Award for 08 of their properties.
Travelife (www.travelife.org), the international certification scheme developed by the travel industry for the travel industry announced recently that they have awarded Eight Travelife Gold Awards to hotels belonging to the Jetwing family of properties: Jetwing Blue, Jetwing Beach, Jetwing Vil Uyana, Jetwing Ayurveda Pavilions, Jetwing Sea, Jetwing Lighthouse, Jetwing St. Andrew's and Jetwing Yala. At present, Jetwing possesses the most properties located in Sri Lanka on the Travelife Collection - with nine properties being certified Gold, including Jetwing Lagoon which was certified in 2013.
Set up in 2007 by leaders in the travel and tourism industry including TUI Travel, Thomas Cook, Kuoni, Virgin Holidays and others, Travelife is an international sustainability certification scheme for hotels and accommodations. The Travelife Collection website was created to help holiday-makers find truly sustainable properties before booking their holiday, and the properties featured on the Travelife Collection have shown that they meet strict sustainability criteria and have achieved at least one award.
To gain Travelife Gold certification, hotels must meet 150 sustainability criteria. This includes environmental issues, such as minimising their waste and use of energy, water and chemicals, as well as taking positive action on social issues, such as employee welfare, working with the local community, child protection and human rights. They must also show how they are helping to support local businesses and protect local traditions and wildlife.
Achieving a Travelife award depends on an independent, third party auditor who will assess the property against the substantial and comprehensive requirements of the Travelife sustainability criteria. In short, a Bronze Award hotel will show an active environmental policy, as well as treating their staff fairly and with respect; a Silver Award hotel buys local produce for their restaurants and give their staff responsibility for green issues; a Gold Award hotel will do all of the above, as well as be an industry leader, improve the living standards of the local community, along with publishing regular reports on their sustainable actions.
Through the Jetwing Eternal Earth Programme, known as JEEP (www.jetwingeternalearthprogramme.com), Jetwing looks at four main areas of sustainable practice - Community Outreach (the Lighthouse Community Pool, the PATA Grand Award winning Jetwing Youth Development Project and the Tuk Tuk! Project), Sustainability (energy and water conservation and optimization, the usage of energy saving appliances and technology such as LED lighting, biomass boilers, etc), Eco Projects (the Whale & Dolphin Center at Jetwing Lighthouse, Primate Research) and Humanitarian Programmes (cataract surgeries for the less fortunate, etc).
"My father was fond of saying that tourism is an industry that cannot exist in isolation - it must help and uplift the communities around, and provide opportunities to prosper and develop" said Hiran Cooray, Chairman of Jetwing. "Our commitment to sustainability has always remained steadfast, as our future will depend on it. The efforts of our Engineering, Naturalist and hotel teams and associates have brought us this far, and so it shall continue" he went on to state. 
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Jetwing Vil Uyana
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Jetwing Lighthouse
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Jetwing Blue
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Jetwing Yala
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Via Daily News

A rare encounter with the Gentle giants of Kalpitiya


Certain magnificent creatures have sought a safe haven in the seas off the North West of Sri Lanka, and made those waters, their home. In a bid to discover the wonders of these gentle giants the News1st team entered their territory only to witness something amazing.

Sri Lanka is known the world over for its Sun, Sand and Sea. Annually, hundreds of thousands of tourists, both local and foreign, flock to Sri Lanka’s coastline and beaches, which span nearly 1500 kilometers in length, to bask in the glory of these natural elements.

However, only a handful of people know of the Gentle Giants that exist a few feet under the surface of the ocean. Fewer still have been lucky to see them and interact with them.
The News1st team did get this golden opportunity to have a close encounter with these Gentle Giants, when we visited the North Western shores of Sri Lanka recently.
The whales and other marine mammals that swim the waters off Sri Lanka are a natural resource to us. They enrich our biodiversity while keeping the marine ecosystem in balance. Studies show that Sri Lankan waters are home to the largest concentration of Blue Whales in the world, these mammals also have the potential of becoming a major tourist attraction for Sri Lanka.

Wildlife Photographer and Filmmaker Patrick Dykstra notes that all around the world humans almost single-handedly caused the extinction of the biggest animal that inhabited the planet. He adds that at one time there were over 350 000 Blue Whales worldwide but following the whaling era, there may be as little as 3000.

Whales tend to migrate seasonally from one well-defined habitat to another. The location of marine mammal habitats is mainly defined by food availability. Areas such as Kalpitiya, Mirissa, Dondra and Trincomalee are known to be teeming with these Marine mammals.
However if we tend to be careless and exploit these creatures, by depleting their food sources through illegal fishing methods or engage in unethical tourism practices, such as steering boats too close to these animals, we could drive them away from our waters.
Unlike other animals such as the Elephant and Leopard who are confined to the boundaries of Sri Lanka, these mammals could swim away and never return, and nothing we do, could ever bring them back.

Research Director of the Center for Research on Indian Ocean Marine Mammals Howard Martenstyn says that the whales and dolphins that visit Sri Lanka are a critical resource to the country and it is an important to be more aware of these magnificent creatures.
Speaking to News 1st Founder Chairman of National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) Dr. Hiran W. Jayawardene emphasized on the need to enforce regulations in order to protect these marine mammals. Dr. Hiran W. Jayawardene says that the regulation of the Whale watching industry is poor, he notes that although regulations are in place there is dire need to properly enforce these regulations.
He adds that country could adopt systems from countries such as New Zealand and the United States of America that have have examples of a well regulated Whale watching industry.

Our plea to Sri Lanka and to the rest of the world is to remember that every time we take a boat and go out to sea, we are entering their domain and not vice versa. We need to protect and manage these Gentle Giants, study them, and learn about them, so that we can save them for our future generations.




Sunday, May 10, 2015

Collection of Tour Images - by Anura Bandara

A collection of wildlife images taken by Jetwing Eco Holidays naturalist guide Anura Bandara over the last few months