Friday, March 7, 2014

A RARE SIGHT INDEED – THE LORIS OF SRI LANKA

There is a proverb used generally amongst village communities; “For the Loris its offspring is a gem.” This proverb refers to the loving nature of one of the country’s rarest animals – the Loris. Now, you may not have used such a statement, or seen a Loris let alone heard one due to its extremely elusive nature. In the case of villagers, asking them “have you seen a loris?” would usually be met with the question: “is it the animal that sounds like a cobra?”. When the same question is posed to one of the indigenous people of Sri Lanka however, they say that the loris makes no sound; that they are dumb and mute creatures.

They also believe that the loris does not emit sounds, as they prefer to stay hidden. Living in the jungles of Sri Lanka, this animal is considered to be a threatened species and faces extinction. Within Sri Lanka four sub species have been identified, and among them the Grey Loris could be found in the dry zone. Being a nocturnal animal and a slow mover, the grey loris can however move away quickly when danger is sensed. Mainly they feed on insects, but have been observed at times eating fruit found in the forest.
Generally the body size/length is about 08 inches and is a small mammal weighing about 230 grams. Most of the time, it lives in solitude though occasionally in pairs. The major threat to their survival is the fast destruction of the forest cover where they live. An interesting find is that the diversity of flora and fauna in Sri Lanka is a major tourist attraction to both local and foreign visitors.

This gives rise to an interesting opportunity -introducing Loris watching tours which would be a novel attraction. To the tourist who likes night safaris / tours, Loris watching would be a perfect excursion. Of course, it goes without saying that we should take care in every respect not to disturb the animal during such excursions. To spice things up, folklore about the Loris would be discussed, to provide an overall experience to a visitor.

I was fortunate to visit the indigenous people of Sri Lanka that live in Dambana. The chieftain Uruwarige Wanila Aththo’s younger brother, one Gunabandila Aththo provided us with lot of information enthusiastically and in a cordial manner. My two companions, naturalists Sunil and Buddhika who accompanied me gave me immense support in gathering information. They also said that the Loris prefers certain trees to live in, and especially the “Kenda” (Helapeniya othaniya) tree which they take cover in, and also move slowly through them. This is where things became very interesting, as we learnt that the Loris is such a careful animal that when climbing a tree if a piece of bark gets chipped off, it will not allow it to fall but bring it down and placing it calmly without making any sound and climb up pursuing their prey. In this manner they capture fledglings and other creatures efficiently and also capture peacocks and eat their heads!

This animal species faces habitat loss today. When I first started the loris watching excursions from Jetwing Vil Uyana, guests had to be taken quite far to the forest. About two years ago, we made an astonishing discovery: the loris had made its home in the forest area of Jetwing Vil Uyana!

Jetwing Vil Uyana, Sigiriya is fast becoming the easiest location to see this rare and wonderful animal, and the management has taken steps to preserve and conserve their habitats to ensure their survival. Tourists who have taken this night walk to see the Loris have commented very appreciatively and been thankful for the opportunity. They have even stated that this excursion had been the best and the most exciting wildlife event they have experienced during their visit!

For more information about the loris and loris watch excursions, please contact Chaminda at Jetwing Vil Uyana on 066 4923585.

Family owned and in the tourism industry for the past 40 years, Jetwing Hotels has surpassed expectation at every aspect. Building on their foundation of being passionate, as well as the experience of true, traditional Sri Lankan hospitality, constantly pioneering discoveries captures the essence of the brand. Such a strong statement and direction have enabled Jetwing Hotels to imagine, create and manage marvels and masterpieces, where distinctive design and elegant comfort complement each other and the environment. Considered a priority, sustainable and responsible practice is implemented through the award winning Jetwing Eternal Earth Programme; with energy efficiency, community upliftment, and education of earth saving measures to schoolchildren being a few tenets of the Programme.

by Chaminda Jayasekera, Resident Naturalist of Jetwing Vil Uyana