Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Collared Scops Owl

The collared scops owl (Otus lettia) is an owl which is a resident breeder in south Asia. The collared scops owl is a common breeding bird in forests and other well-wooded areas. It nests in a hole in a tree, laying 3-5 eggs.
The collared scops owl is a small (23–25 cm) owl, although it is the largest of the scops owls. Like other scops owls, it has small head tufts, or ears. The upperparts are grey or brown, depending on the subspecies, with faint buff spotting. The underparts are buff with fine darker streaking.
The facial disc is whitish or buff, and the eyes are orange or brown. There is a buff neckband. Sexes are similar. The flight is deeply undulating.

Images by Jetwing Vil Uyana naturalist Chaminda Jayasekara

Monday, May 26, 2014

What is a Fishing Cat?

The fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) is a medium-sized wild cat of South and Southeast Asia. The solitary living fishing cats are thought to be primarily nocturnal. They are very much at home in the water and can swim long distances, even under water.

Where do they live?
Fishing cats are broadly but discontinuously distributed in Asia, and are primarily found in India and Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Fishing cats are strongly associated with wetland, and are typically found in swamps and marshy areas, oxbow lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas and are more scarce around smaller, fast-moving watercourses. Most records are from lowland areas. Although fishing cats are widely distributed through a variety of habitat types including both evergreen and tropical dry forest, their occurrence tends to be highly localized.

What do they eat?
Fish is their main prey. They hunt along the edges of watercourses, grabbing prey from the water, and sometimes diving in to catch prey further from the banks

Are they endangered?
It is classified as endangered and have decreasing populations.

What threats do they face?
Fishing cat are endangered due to their dependence on wetlands, which are increasingly being settled and converted for agricultural use, and also due to human activities and habitat loss.

Images by Jetwing Vil Uyana Naturalist Chaminda Jayasekara

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Little elephant is the first scientific record of dwarfism in the wild

Biologists in Sri Lanka have published the first documented evidence of dwarfism in an adult wild animal. A male Asian elephant (Elephas maximus) measuring just over 1.5 meters (five feet) in height was seen in an aggressive encounter with another male of average size. The elephant's small stature was due to disproportionately short legs, according to the findings published in the IUCN/SSC Asian Elephant Specialist Group journal Gajah. "The 'dwarf' was by far the main aggressor in the altercation and appeared to be older than the other, a young adult," states the study. "Other than for the disproportionately short legs, morphologically and behaviorally the dwarf appeared normal." 

The dwarf adult male was in musth when researchers saw it, with visible temporal gland secretions. Also visible is a scar at the tip of the trunk, inflicted by a noose set to catch bushmeat. Photo by Brad Abbott.
Dwarf adult Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). Photo by Brad Abbott. 

Dwarfism is a condition in which either the limbs are disproportionately short relative to the body, or the whole body is in proportion but is smaller than usual. It can be caused by a number of genetic mutations, and is relatively common in humans. It has also been selectively bred in many domestic animals, such as dogs, cats and cattle. However, dwarfism in the wild is incredibly rare.

"If you think about it, most animals, especially mammals, are either predators or prey. If you are either and are born with short limbs you would be at a very big disadvantage," Prithiviraj Fernando of the Centre for Conservation and Research, and one of the authors of the paper, told mongabay.com. "A dwarf prey animal is very likely to be caught by a predator and similarly, a dwarf predator would find it very difficult to catch prey. So such individuals are very unlikely to survive in the wild. Elephants in Sri Lanka are unique (together with those in Borneo) in that they have no predators. So he was very lucky that he was born here!" 

Dwarf elephant in an encounter with another male. Photo by Brad Abbott.
Dwarf elephant in an encounter with another male. Photo by Brad Abbott. 

Although this individual appears to be doing well, it is likely to be an isolated incidence of dwarfism within the population. "There is no real advantage to the trait, so there will not be positive natural selection for it," Fernando explained. "Also there may be an issue in mating. However, since elephants show a high degree of sexual dimorphism with males being much bigger [than females], he may be able to manage." 

Dwarfism is heritable, but the outcome for potential offspring is unclear. "As we do not know which mutation is responsible in this case, we also do not know the pattern of inheritance," Fernando said. 

Dwarf adult Asian elephant (Elephas maximus). Photo by Brad Abbott.
The dwarf adult male was in musth when researchers saw it, with visible temporal gland secretions. Also visible is a scar at the tip of the trunk, inflicted by a noose set to catch bushmeat. Photo by Brad Abbott. 

The elephant has already overcome some of the biggest challenges associated with dwarfism, but does not necessarily face an easy life in the future. 

"One of the main issues he could have had is suckling, as elephants feed their babies standing up and the infant has to reach up to the mother's breasts. He has overcome this and has survived into adult hood," Fernando said, adding that, "however, he is still subject to all the threats that elephants have to overcome, in order to survive in the wild - especially human elephant conflict. If you look closely you can see a thin, light-colored mark close to the tip of his trunk where it got caught in a noose set to capture bushmeat. On his back and legs there are lumps that are indicative of gun-shot injuries." 

Wijesinha, R., Hapuarachchi, N., Abbott, B., Pastorini, J., and Fernando, P. 2013. Disproportionate dwarfism in a wild Asian elephant. Gajah. 38, 30-32. URL: http://www.asesg.org/gajah38.htm

By: Claire Salisbury

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Jetwing Lagoon victor at National Green Awards

Sri Lanka’s premier hospitality brand Jetwing Hotels once again was recognised for its efforts towards sustainable operations, with top-end resort Jetwing Lagoon walking away with the Gold Award in the Hotel Sector at the National Green Awards held on 12 May 2014 at the BMICH. In addition, Jetwing Vil Uyana was the recipient of a Merit award.

Organised by the Central Environmental Authority of Sri Lanka under the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy, the event was held under the patronage of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Awards were initiated in 2011, to recognise those in the business community who contribute towards eco-friendly activities and also services, local authorities, schools, and other organisations.
Agencies and individuals are nominated under different sectors, and are evaluated on subjects such as environmental pollution control, waste and resources management, clean production, etc.

Jetwing Lagoon holds the honour of being Sri Lanka’s first resort, and also architectural genius Geoffrey Bawa’s first resort design. Formerly known as the Blue Lagoon, the property was re-imagined and launched by Jetwing two years ago, retaining the classic open style favoured by the master and adding other features such as the 100m straight pool.
Now a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, the 55 room property is at the forefront of the Jetwing sustainability ethos with LED lighting, biomass boilers and solar panels for power generation, with the air conditioning being run by an absorption chiller which utilizes steam from the biomass boiler. The property was also the winner of the 2013 PATA Grand Award under the Environment category – the highest accolade in the category. 

Located in close proximity to the 8th wonder of the world, the Rock Fortress of Sigiriya, Jetwing Vil Uyana is the premier eco-luxury destination in Sri Lanka. Designed from ground up to be one with nature, the resort sits atop a man-made wetland and features 30 individual dwellings.
Jetwing Vil Uyana is also the only Sri Lankan property to be listed by National Geographic Traveler in their Best Eco-lodges of the World issue, another PATA Grand Award winner, and most recently the winner of the Environment Award at the 2014 Tourism for Tomorrow Awards organised by the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Jetwing Chairman Hiran Cooray congratulated the associates of Jetwing Lagoon and Jetwing Vil Uyana, praising their ‘dedication and commitment to the cause of environment friendly operations, and all their efforts to ensure that Jetwing remains on the green path’. He also thanked the Engineering team for their careful planning and constant outlook at the latest technologies and practices being used worldwide.

Family owned and in the tourism industry for the past 41 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 school children being a few tenets of the program.

Via DailyFT

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Tuesday Morning at Jetwing Vil Uyana - 20/05/14

Starting a new day, Tuesday Morning at Jetwing Vil Uyana

Images by Jetwing Vil Uyana naturalist Chaminda Jayasekera

'The Gathering’, which is the largest annual seasonal congregation of elephants in the world

Images by Jetwing Vil Uyana naturalist Chaminda Jayasekera

Each year, throughout the long and harsh dry season, which extends from May through to October, Asian elephants congregate in large numbers around the grassy plains exposed by the receding water of the tanks of Minneriya and Kaudulla National Parks. As the dry season intensifies from around August, anywhere up to 250 Asian elephants may be observed — in a single safari — on the open plains, as different herds join up with each other forming large, loose-knit associations. This phenomenon has been dubbed as ‘the Gathering’, which is the largest annual seasonal congregation of elephants in the world and was ranked by Lonely Planet sixth amongst the world’s top wildlife spectacles.

Elephants are the largest living land mammals and are charismatic giants. They live in close knit family groups, led by a matriarch. These family groups form larger herds in which there are young males. Adults males are generally solitary and associate with herds only for mating.

The Gathering offers excellent opportunities for the wildlife enthusiast to observe the social dynamics and natural behaviour of wild Asian elephants at close-range: large bulls competing amongst themselves and seeking out receptive females in the herd; elephant calves at play: or the bliss of an elephant when immersed in water.

During the wet season, the elephants disperse and head back to the surrounding forests, where water and fodder is readily available. From November through to April, Elephant Watching Safaris are run at the nearby Hurullu Eco Park where anywhere up to 50–75 elephants may be observed.


Monday, May 19, 2014

ANOTHER BABY LORIS !!! 03rd Baby for 2014! - At Jetwing Vil Uyana

ANOTHER BABY LORIS !!! 03rd Baby for 2014!
Spotted 02 Lorises + 01 Newly Born Baby Loris and 01 Collared Scops Owl at Jetwing Vil Uyana Loris Conservation Site... (19.05.2014, 07.00pm-09.00 pm)

Collared Scops Owl

Collared Scops Owl

Collared Scops Owl

Collared Scops Owl

Images by Jetwing Vil Uyana naturalist Chaminda Jayasekara

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Wildlife Sighting - 10/05/14

Blue-tailed Bee-eater who stayed with us at Jetwing Lagoon during migratory season and above to go back.

Image by Jetwing Lagoon naturalist Hasantha Lokugamage

Friday, May 9, 2014

Frog Watching Tours at Jetwing St. Andrews

Experience Jetwing St. Andrew’s wetland at night, where colorful tree frogs are most active and easily observed. Walk, past the frog pond and through the forest along the stony path and explore the habitat of the beautiful frog species. The night tours are perfect for both frog enthusiasts and novice explorers! The tours are conducted by the hotels in-house Naturalist, who will take you around the trails to explain how to spot frogs and will point out animals hiding from you. The tours start from 19.00 onwards and last for approx. 1.5hrs starting at the hotel wetland area, where up to 10 species of frogs along with many more night creatures can be observed:

1. Taruga eques - Montane hour-glass Tree Frog
2. Duttaphrynus melanostictus - Common House Toad
3. Hylarana temporalis - Common woo frog
4. Ramanella palmate - Half-webbed pug snout frog
5. Fejervarya greenii - Montane frog
6. Pseudophilautus alto
7. Pseudophilautus asankai
8. Pseudophilautus femoralis
9. Pseudophilautus microtympanum
10. Pseudophilotes schmarda

Nuwara Eliya, situated in the central hills of Sri Lanka is situated 1862 m above sea level and has an average annual rainfall of 2150 mm. Although it is one of the major cities in the central hills, wet lands and many montane forest patches still exist in it. Many vertebrate species including the above mentioned amphibian species are recorded in this area. Amphibians are considered as environmental indicator species since they are very susceptible to slight changes.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Sri Lanka shows its wild side as country aims to increase tourism

Sri Lanka has a huge and diversified eco system, with a larger part of the island nation still green and unexplored. 
Many foreign investors have already pumped in money to develop Sri Lanka as a tourist destination. 

“You can see how serious we are to promote tourism in the country.

The island has more than eight national parks and many wildlife sanctuaries. Water tourism is another specialised and unexplored segment of the island nation
The island has more than eight national parks and many wildlife sanctuaries. Water tourism is another specialised and unexplored segment of the island nation

"We have built a second international airport even though we have Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport. 
"This is only to ensure that tourists get access to Yala National Park, which has the highest number of leopards in Asia and boasts of other wildlife in its diversified ecosystem,” said a Sri Lankan tourism department official. 
The island has over eight national parks and many wildlife sanctuaries. 
Water tourism is another specialized and unexplored segment of the island nation which is picking up in a big way with all those who visit here. 
Tourism currently contributes to over 5 per cent of its GDP and the government expects the figure to go up to 7.5 per cent next year. 
“We have many unexplored areas in the country which tourists would love to visit. 
"We do not have any major industries in our country and also being an island state we have clean pollution-free beaches,” said another official.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Bamboo Paradise along the Dedduwa River

The river is an ever changing orchestra weaving through endless trajectory and swampy tributary, the vast drama, whose environment is populated by man and nature evolve, together, as friend and foe, symbiotic in their intercourse. The barge-like bamboo boat, moving sluggishly with its silhouette in gentle sway, undulates, its wooden body, a pinnacle of human craftsmanship, carrying its lot, commanded by the fates’ of the furies of the elan vital, anchored ostensibly in the seasons at the legendary Dedduwa Boat House.

Aboard the Bamboo Palace
Anchors away as we push out from the river bank, two turns left, one click right of the Yathra steering wheel, the boat engine starts to hum and our bamboo palace sets adrift on a river that is the source of life for the area’s ancient fishing community. Green catamaran wooden boats speckle the Dedduwa River, which is named after the local village.

The wizened old Dedduwa men can be found hunched up catching Modha, a river fish for the day’s rice and curry, with a Huckleberry Finn style rod, turbaned in red to stop them overheating in the harsh tropical sun. Amzar, my youngest son at the helm and Samad at the starboard taking pictures, get all excited as a monitor lizard pops its head out from the bushy undergrowth, and they scream ‘it’s a crocodile’ as this is what we have told them to stop them getting too close to the edge of the boat and falling into the river.

The monitor lizard ignores them as he crawls through the gnarled undergrowth of woven mangroves looking for something to eat. Life does not come more idyllic than this with the thatched boat roof rustling in the breeze, listening to the sound of Kingfishers mating in the cool of the undergrowth, whistling happily as we pass by. All the while an eagle circles overhead eyeing our journey’s progress along a river teaming with life, that was also once a major waterway for transferring wooden logs and cinnamon during the colonial period.

Parawa fish jump through the air so they can dive on the little fish and eat them as we head towards the Dedduwa River island, a bird sanctuary and a place where technology ceases to work and where one’s mind becomes clear of all the junk that makes today’s lifestyle so hectic and trying. Here the importance is living in harmony with nature and the changing tides, avoiding sand banking yourself as you catch fish to cook for your family. Life does not get any more simple and fun. –

Uber cool houseboat
Jetwing Yathra is a stunning 76 foot uber cool designer houseboat, similar in style to an old rice barge with two stunning double bedrooms with splashes of colourful cushions, stripy window curtains, complete with all modern facilities such as air conditioning. The handmade colonial style boat boxes bring a vintage feel to this charmingly designed boat. The boxes have been used in a variety of ways from side tables to cupboards for your clothes and the highlight of the room is one’s very own private river view balcony. In a separate room there is a sunken bathtub where you can soak in luxury while watching the sun set, turning the bamboo, mangrove paradise into a shimmering river of gold. Sipping fresh juices made in the boat’s kitchen is the ideal way to fully enjoy the warm bubble bath while washing the dust of the day from your body, with windows on all sides to take in the ever changing views or a vigorous shower for those who do not want to miss any of the action on the main deck. Between the two rooms is a sitting room where you can lounge around on blue and green cushions and read books as the boat gently rocks you to sleep or go onto the second deck to experience the full panoramic roof terrace views of the river or for the sun worshipper it is the ideal spot to take a deck chair and catch a tan.

z_p15-Bamboo04.jpgAll the while the team are cutting up fresh village vegetables for our dinner and marinating fish from the river if you have been lucky enough to catch some. They love mixing dhal with spinach or potato with tempered onions and many other exciting concoctions.

Boat life is simple with three and a half hour water safaris taking place daily in-between anchoring up to explore the village area or to just stop and have a meal on the front deck. The soothing green of the vegetation, and the lapping waters cool the mind, along with the river winds that make one sit in the same spot for hours, just taking in the ever changing views of the river as the light dances from tree to tree. As I clamber over the bamboo railings and climb up to the upper deck, I am amazed just how differently one sees things from one side of the boat to the other, barefoot so one does not damage the wonderful wooden floorboards that hark back to the old style boat building era, but with all the touches of modern living like hot coffee or tea on tap.

Meals under the canopy
Dinner like breakfast is served on a lovely wooden table with green deck chairs on the starboard and a simple woven canopy roof cover keeps the tropical sun from turning us all the into the color of lobsters. Nothing beats eating freshly prepared rice and curry with all the accompaniments of sweet mango chutney, dishes lit by only the full moon and the stars. This place bear’s witness to the saying early to bed, early to rise makes you healthy, wealthy and wise.
To really appreciate the beauty of river living one must rise as the sun comes up and the dawn chorus of birds act as a wake-up call for the villagers to meet the day, along with the chanting monks and their calls to prayer. One feels re-born as the colours of sunrise rip across the river like splashes of paint from an artist’s messy palette, kissing the clouds as one enjoys a freshly brewed cup of milk tea and hand baked bread with homemade marmalade jams. I feel like I am home again at my grandmother’s house in England, when conversation was key to the day’s entertainment instead of pointless computer games and TV and being plugged into all world changing events. For intelligent thoughtful people this has been the single most destructive force of the 21st century. Chatting with the boat crew making fresh dhal with a range of amazing Sri Lankan spices, is just that - the spice of life. So don’t miss the boat, live a little Yathra style.
For more details on Yathra House Boat by Jetwing and Boat House villa one can contact Manager Janaka Rodrigo janaka@jetwinghotels.com or www.jetwinghotels.com/yathra

To get to the Dedduwa Boat House take the highway from Colombo to Aluthgama and take the Welipanna exit or travel along the old Galle Road to 449/1 Haburugala, Dedduwa, Benthota. If coming from Galle turn after Amal Restaurant on your left at Benthota Junction and follow the Elpitiya road to the Dedduwa river and look for the Jetwing Yathra sign.