Friday, October 30, 2015

Sri Lanka Army soldiers free beached whale in eight-hour operation

Oct 28, Mullaitivu: Soldiers of Sri Lanka Army came to the rescue of a whale entangled in fishermen's net and beached in the northern shores of the island.
In an eight-hour long rescue operation, actively launched by Army members at the Security Force Headquarters-Mullaittivu (SFHQ-MLT), supported by fishermen and villagers, freed the whale back to the sea.
The giant whale, having got entangled in a fishermen's net that had been laid in the mid seas, had been beached and was reportedly trying hard to escape back into the seas, but rough sea waves as well as inclement weather patterns, worsened its escape attempts despite different techniques applied by those who gathered there.
On hearing the incident, District Secretary for Mullaitivu, Divisional Secretary, officials of the Disaster Management Centre, Major General P.U.S. Vithanage, Commander, SFHQ-MLT, senior Police officers and a few other officials rushed to the whale's rescue.
Major General Vithanage had called out a large group of soldiers serving the SFHQ-MLT to the spot and dispatched them to help the release of the whale, struggling for life on the shores of Mullaitivu seas.
Using a backhoe machine, troops swiftly
but carefully dismantled threads and took away piece by piece of the entangled fishing net with the support of other fishing community present there and managed to set the whale free back to the seas after about 8 hours.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The tuskers of Kalawewa now have a sanctuary

View(s): 338

Adding another national park to Sri Lanka’s protected areas, the government declared the wilderness around Kalawewa and Balaluwewa a sanctuary.
Kalawewa is particularly famous for tuskers © Rajiv Welikala
Wildlife and Sustainable Development Minister Gamini Jayawickrema Perera declared open the national park yesterday. Environmentalists welcome the move saying the protection was long overdue.
The Kalawewa reservoir was built by King Dhatusena who ruled the country in the fifth century. He also built the Balaluwewa and linked them to make a very large tank to be used for ancient agriculture.
These tanks were renovated and now hold water all year around, attracting wildlife.
In the case of elephants, as happens at the Minneriya and Kaudulla tanks where the “Gathering” of elephants takes place as the water levels drop in the dry season, the tank bed becomes lush grassland, providing the animals with fodder.
As the Kalawewa-Balaluwewa complex is fairly shallow, the effect is more noticeable.
GPS radio-tracking of a female and male elephant by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Centre for Conservation and Research has shown that some of the herds remain in the vicinity throughout the year.
Elephant herds on the banks of the Kalawewa are particularly famous for the high number of tuskers. Many wildlife enthusiasts visit the area regularly.
Rajiv Welikala, a nature enthusiast and wildlife photographer who visits the area annually, says it is one of the most beautiful places in Sri Lanka.
“There could be 150-200 elephants at Kalawewa with dozens of tuskers, both young and mature.
“The birdlife in the tank is also fascinating, with a very large openbill stork flock that consists of thousands of birds. When they take wing the sound can be heard from a distance,” he said.
Sadly, the number of elephants at Kalawewa appears to be decreasing. Conservationists fear the electric fences constructed to minimise human-elephant conflict are preventing seasonal movement of the elephant herds, blocking their use of other areas.
In recent months, three other national parks in the northern region were declared: Delft Island, Chundikulam and the Adam’s Bridge sand islands. The Kalawewa National Park became the country’s 26th national park.
Although we have a considerable number of parks, most of them are experiencing problems from poaching, over-visiting, invasive species, herding of cattle etc.
In the case of Kalawewa, it is critical to ascertain the ranging patterns and habitat use of the elephants and design barriers based on that information.
If the entire park is surrounded by boundary electric fences, that will spell the end for the elephants, for whose benefit it was created.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

New guidelines for Yala visitors


The Wildlife Conservation Department has introduced several guidelines to visitors to Yala, Wildlife Conservation Department  Director General H. D. Rathnayake said.
He said wildlife officers face various issues with the increase in visitors to Yala and this prompted them to introduce the guidelines.
Among the guidelines are vehicles cannot travel over 25 km, tooting of horns is prohibited and a tour guide must accompany visitors. Rathnayake said tourists should also not carry guns and knives.
"We also urge the visitors not to bring matches, lighters, cigarettes and alcohol. In fact, visitors should not bring anything that can harm nature," he said.
The director general said feeding animals in the park is strictly prohibited.
"Snacks and soft drinks are allowed at the park but they must be consumed at designated rest areas," Rathnayake said.
"Cameras, video-cameras, mobile phones and other electronic devices  must be used with care. Mobile phones must be in the ‘silent’ mode while the volume of radios must be very low," he added.
Alcohol consumption is also strictly prohibited within the park, Rathnayake said adding that garbage must not be thrown out of vehicles.
He also requested visitors not to take anything from the park including soil, stones,  feathers, etc.
The Yala National Park is open for visitors from 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. Remaining in the park after it is closed is prohibited.
The Wildlife and Conservation Department requests the public to  inform them about any inappropriate behaviour or anything that is a  threat to the park.
Complaints can be sent to info@yalasrilanka.lk or 0770466794.
Legal action will be taken against visitors who do not follow the guidelines.

Via Daily News 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Yala Re-opens amidst tension

Yala National Park that was closed for drought for one month re-opened today as scheduled. Until yesterday, there was  doubt whether reopening of the park would be be postponed due to threats to the Wildlife Officers following Friday’s shooting that killed a poacher at Yala. 
Local sources claim the family and close allies of the dead man threatened  wildlife officers which subsequently led to deployment of  Police Special Task Force (STF) to protect the Wildlife Offices located in Yala and the vicinity. 
The incident has been an eye opener that poaching is carried out even in the protected areas. The recent incident occurred when Wildlife Officers engaged with a group of poachers at Kochchipathana which is located at the Yala National Park’s buffer zone. 
It is reported that the wildlife officers opened fire when the poacher tried to shoot at wildlife officers. Two other poachers were arrested. Read the print edition of SundayTimes this weekend for more about the incident and experts’ opinions on how to address the issue of poaching in Sri Lanka. 
To discover reasons behind  Yala’s closure  for drought read the following Sunday Times story ‘ ‘Yala Animals Get Drought Break’  -


Via Sunday Times

Nat Geo’s Steve Winter takes on Sri Lanka’s Leopards

Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife has been blowing up on the big screen recently. There was National Geographic’s Wild Sri Lanka series that captivated us all and then Disney’s Nature Documentary Monkey Kingdom, which melted a little piece of our hearts. It doesn’t end here.
Last month, Steve Winter, a National Geographic wildlife photojournalist, filmmaker and speaker visited Sri Lanka to shoot a story on the panthera pardus kotiya – the Sri Lankan leopards. Steve has been taking photos for National Geographic for the past 24 years and much of his time there has been dedicated to his passion of wildlife photography, particularly his pursuit of the world’s elusive big cats.
His most recent project has seen him spend the past year chasing and photographing leopards, from the wilds of South Africa to the heart of India and Sri Lanka. The project is part of the ‘Big Cats’ initiative launched by National Geographic that aims to raise awareness and implement change to the dire situation facing big cats.  You can visit www.CauseAnUproar.org for ways to become involved in saving big cats and get more information on this project.
In the meantime, enjoy these brilliant photos taken during Steve’s trip to Sri Lanka:










By Tashiya De Mel via roar.lk

Going Behind the Scenes of Monkey Kingdom

Crawling out of bed to watch Monkey Kingdom, airing at Savoy at 9am, was absolutely worth the sleep deprivation. This docu-drama was special for more than one reason: it wasn’t just the right mix between entertainment and education about the social structures and hierarchies of our fellow primates – the cherry on the cake is that it was filmed in Sri Lanka, with sweeping scenes of the landscape and ruins at Polonnaruwa.
While it brought home important lessons, we couldn’t help but wonder about a few things related to the filming and the scripting – let’s face it, how on earth did they manage to film some of those scenes? Does nature truly engineer Disney-esque happy endings? Was it all scripted or sheer luck? Because we at Roar couldn’t rest until we found out – and we’re sure everyone who watched it had similar questions – we did a bit of digging and found the man behind the monkeys. Meet Dr. Wolfgang Dittus who has been studying macaques in Sri Lanka for over four decades. Incidentally, his study is also the longest-running monkey study of all time, with the findings of his study featuring in several documentaries and now, more recently, in Monkey Kingdom.
Dr. Jane Goodall, Disney Nature Ambassador and .Founder, The Jane Goodall Institute with Dr. Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant, in the Monkey Kingdom.
Dr. Jane Goodall, Disney Nature Ambassador and founder, The Jane Goodall Institute with Dr. Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant, in the Monkey Kingdom.
Although we could endlessly wax eloquent about the movie, we’ll just stick to treating our readership with an exclusive interview with Dr. Dittus about Monkey Kingdom and his research in Sri Lanka.
Where did the idea come from? How did Disney suddenly hit upon monkeys in Sri Lanka? Did you pitch the idea to them or was it the other way around?
It was a meeting of the minds: we had the science and knew how to film monkey behavior while Disney had the resources for a major production. Over the last 35 years our studies on the primates at Polonnaruwa have been the subject of over 20 TV documentaries that had been broadcast internationally on the BBC, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet and others (including  Rupahavini). But, I had always dreamed of showing our monkey studies on a big screen in a movie theater, preferably IMAX. The opportunity presented itself through Mark Linfield who, with our help, had 12 years earlier produced the award winning TV documentary “Temple Troop” at Polonnaruwa. Mark had since then directed other films for Disney Nature. We pitched the idea to Disney – and now we have our film.
Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant with Chameera Pathirathne, and Sunil Rathnayake, Scientific Assistants, observe some monkeys in the ruins.
Wolfgang Dittus, Scientific Consultant with Chameera Pathirathne, and Sunil Rathnayake, Scientific Assistants, observe some monkeys in the ruins.
The film is in keeping with our philosophy for conservation: namely, that people will only conserve what they love, will love only what they know and understand, and will understand only what we teach them. It is our duty as scientists, then, to raise peoples’ consciousness and enthusiasm for the rich tapestry of our primate heritage. TV and films offer the best medium for communication.  That is what Monkey Kingdom does for us.
How long did it take to film the movie? When did the shooting start?
The actual camera shooting time lasted nearly 3 years from mid-June 2012 to mid-March 2015. It involved over 1000 cameraman-days, and about twice as many monkey-naturalist-days in support of the camera crew. The monkey naturalists team included Sunil Gunathilake, Chameera Pathiranne, Sunil Rathnayaka, Dinesh Chandrasiri and Nimal Perera.
Was there a ready script or did the story evolve based on the footage?
The overall story arc was based on tried and tested themes that had been used by us in earlier TV productions with the Polonnaruwa monkeys, such as “Temple Troop” (BBC Natural World) or “Dark Days in Monkey City” (Animal Planet), but the details of the narration were adjusted to fit the best filmed images and the evolving story.  Story arcs had been developed over the years by myself in collaboration with various film producers.
What were the logistics of filming like? Any amusing stories of mishaps in the wilderness you would care to share?
The logistics of filming were a mix of daunting, frustrating and rewarding happenings.  For example, the filming of the feeding bonanza on the elate termites required delicate timing to coincide with three not-easily-predicted events: the onset of the rains, the decision by the termites to actually respond to the rain and, finally, good light for filming.  In 6 years of trying to capture this unique behavior on film (including for “Temple Troop”) we succeeded only once in 2014.  When the rains began our primate research staff scouted the forests daily for this elusive event that last only 1-3 hours. When alerted by them that “it’s starting” you can imagine three cameramen racing in a frenzy from one location to another where termites were swarming – the equipment is heavy – it’s like weightlifters having to jog shouldering their burden with swarms or termites landing on their faces and camera lenses.
Description: Two monkeys catch some termites during the monsoon
Two monkeys catch some termites during the monsoon
The frustration came in being stymied from filming some beautiful scenes owed to the absence of cooperation of a few local authorities. But we were compensated by the monkeys with their sometimes surprising antics – like the male macaque arrogantly striding between Maya and her grooming partner as though they did not even exist.  The images that we are able share with an audience are the result of hard work, persistence, know-how and luck.
We’re curious to know – how were the shots in the town and the underwater shots taken? Was it preplanned or did the crew just follow the monkeys?
We were aware of the daily habits of the monkeys, their travel routes and preferred foraging and raiding sites.  The camera crew simply followed the monkeys and recorded the images.  The underwater shots required some preparation in the sense of knowing where this occurs and waterproofing the camera equipment.  To our surprise the monkeys were not shy of the camera underwater. That was another unexpected reward from the monkeys.
Oliver Goetzl, Field Producer, setting a remote camera in a sloth bear cave.
Oliver Goetzl, Field Producer, setting a remote camera in a sloth bear cave.
Were there liberties taken with the narrative or did the story fall into place by pure luck?
Some poetic license must be expected, even in a nature docu-drama.  The Disney brand rests on a reputation of suitability for family audiences: therefore, explicit images of too much violence, blood and of sex were reduced and communicated only subtly.
Where exactly was Monkey Kingdom shot – was it in Polonnaruwa or Sigiriya?
The spectacular landscape images of the dry zone forests and hills included areas outside of Polonnaruwa, such as Sigiriya.
What has the response been after the movie? Have you received a lot of interest in your research since the movie from the general public and tourists?
Sadly, our contribution to the film as naturalists, with close to 50 years of study of these monkeys at Polonnaruwa, was not prominent in the film credits and was downplayed in the publicity given to the film production.  That is an unfair trade-off that scientists often are subject to when collaborating with film producers. The filming industry is very self-serving.  Even in Sri Lanka the Tourist Board uses the film to self-promote with no mention at all of who actually was at the core, inviting and supporting the production. At our research station at Polonnaruwa we do offer tourists educational tours of primates and other wildlife as advertised on our website www.primates.lk
How are the monkeys doing now? How old would Kip be now?
Female hierarchies in macaque society tend to be stable over long periods; Maya is still there as a subordinate and the Evil Sister are in control. The males, in contrast, rise and fall in rank depending on their physical condition and ability to form alliances with other males.  Kumar is no longer the alpha male and nor is Raja. A new male immigrant has taken over the male hierarchy.  Kip is keeping out of trouble as he matures and grows.
Character: Kip
Kip
Have you heard of any upcoming documentaries/films about Sri Lankan wildlife?
Yes, following our film with Disney Nature we have made another film with BBC Earth that will be shown in 2016.
Your bio says you have been researching about primates in Sri Lanka for several decades now. What made you come to Sri Lanka specifically?
I came to Sri Lanka serendipitously!  As a graduate student out of McGill University in Canada I was seeking a natural location anywhere in the tropics to study primate communication.  The Smithsonian Institution (USA) had a program in Sri Lanka from 1966-1970, and I was fortunate to have been invited to join to study the toque macaques.  My mentor, the late Professor John Eisenberg, along the late Professor Hilary Crusz (U. Peradeniya) lead a program of study and research of Sri Lankan wildlife that  launched the careers of many Sri Lankan and foreign nationals.
As amazing as Monkey Kingdom is at first glance, we do have a bone to pick with Disney, however. We thought the song What a Man was spot on but apart from that, it would seem as if Disney’s standards where music is concerned has slipped. What happened to those great tunes Disney familiarized us with while we were growing up? Disney’s 1959 Sleeping Beauty for instance featured musical scores by Tchaikovsky. That said, here are a few great links and videos you might want to check out if you want to know more about Dr. Dittus’ research. Or if you simply can’t get enough ofMonkey Kingdom check this and this and this and this.
By Gazala Anver via roar.lk

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Rare Leopard sighting at Horton Plains, Sri Lanka

A rare sighting of a young leopard trying to ambush a Sambar deer on the hill in front of the Mahaeliya Bungalow inside Horton Plains around 5PM on 2nd Oct 2015. 

We noticed the leopard 15 mins or so before this video started, but then it got completely misty and we couldn't see a thing. Video starts when the mist lifted and the leopard was positioning for the ambush.

Apologies for the camera shake and quality, shot handheld at 2400mm in low light.


By Chandika Jayasundara via YouTube

There’s A New Cat In Town

The wetlands in Sri Lanka are shrinking and the wildlife is rapidly losing their habitat. Except for one feisty cat; it is fighting back and it is fighting hard. The second largest cat in Sri Lanka – second to the leopard – is adapting to city life as they prowl in and around urban areas; even Colombo.

A fishing what?

Also known as the handun diviya, this feline can get to be four feet in length from nose to tail – slightly smaller than a female leopard (not taking into the account its tail length), which it’s often mistaken for. This and the spots on its fur lead to this hasty surmise, during those rare, fleeting sightings. But the fishing cat, on closer inspection, has lines on its back, webbed feet, short legs, is stocky, and has little ears that are pulled back into its head when it dives deep into water; far-flung from how you would describe a leopard.
fishingcat2
A Fishing Cat – Image Courtesy, Environmental Foundation Sri Lanka
Unlike the leopard, however, there is very little information about fishing cat available. Researchers have always been more interested in studying the impressive leopard that has stolen all the lime light. The smaller wild cats, such as the fishing cat and the rusty-spotted cat, among others, have largely been ignored.
Which is unfortunate because the smaller wild cats are fascinating in their own right. Apart from their curious anatomy (a cat with webbed feet?),  fishing cats are known to sit patiently by a body of water and tap the surface, mimicking insects hovering over, and as soon as a curious fish approaches, the cat scoops it up, and done – dinner is served!

Smarter than your average cat

We met up with young researcher and wildlife conservationist, Anya Ratnayaka, to find out more about the fishing cats and how they are taking to city life (or rather how we are taking to them).
According to Anya, limited research has been carried out even internationally about the fishing cats. “This research project started out in 2006 but was interrupted for security reasons during the war. Research included setting up cameras and this was a problem. Now almost ten years later it’s back in full swing”, says Anya, while explaining how she and her team are working from scratch, as there’s no previous research records they can use for reference. These include estimates of how many fishing cats there are in Sri Lanka, but it is agreed that on a global level the fishing cat is an endangered species.
“We know that fishing cats are in urban regions and there have been a few sightings in Colombo. The latest being on Elibank road. We know that they have moved into urban areas and they are adapting to suit their new environment. With our research we are trying to find how they are adapting. This, however, is difficult as they are nocturnal animals and very elusive”.
Anya explains how it took several months to finally catch a sighting of a fishing cat for which they had set a trap. “We knew it was there because we saw the pugmarks. We had set up a trap and every morning we could see that it had walked around the trap”. Disheartened, they had finally decided to give up on their search for the particular fishing cat. The hen in the trap and was allowed to wander in the safety of the compound of some residences nearby. Within an hour the sly fishing cat successfully caught its prized hen.
The fishing cat knew too well to enter the trap to get the hen. Instead it planned and waited patiently for the right time to strike. And that, Anya says makes it all the more difficult to study the creatures. They are extremely intelligent. “A few of the times we have come across fishing cat, it has been by accident. The one on Elibank road was caught only because it had its head stuck in a drain”. Even the most intelligent of animals make miscalculations.
It also doesn’t help that the fishing cat is nocturnal. According to Anya though, more recent sighting have been during the day-time and she believes this is part of the process of their adapting to the city surroundings.

Living among us? Are they dangerous?

Hide yo kids, hide yo wife… No, the fishing cat isn’t going to deliberately attack people. If approached and you make them feel threatened, they might, just as any untamed animal would. Anya says it’s quite alright for fishing cats to live among us in the city. So long as we let them be, a peaceful co-existence is possible.
A Fishing Cat - Image Courtesy, Environmental Foundation Sri Lanka
A Fishing Cat – Image Courtesy, Environmental Foundation Sri Lanka
They probably have more reason to be afraid of us though. Not only are we depriving them of their wetlands, forcing them into the city, but motorists are ensuring their rapid decline into extinction. There have been quite a few reports of fishing cat road kill. And it doesn’t end there; fishing cats are also hunted and eaten by villagers.
It’s about time we gave the fishing cats space to live; they are fighting hard against the odds, trying to adapt to city life since we are robbing them of their habitat. It would be a shame to see these highly intelligent, web-footed, nocturnal felines go extinct.
Featured Image Courtesy Tambako Photography
Via roar.lk

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Is Sustainable Comfort the Future of Ecotourism?

Discover the national park hotel that’s powered by cinnamon wood. Hiran Cooray, chairman of Jetwing Hotels, shares the initiatives that set standards for sustainable comfort and helped put Sri Lanka on a level playing field in the tourism industry.
WE HAVE TO PRESERVE THE GREAT GIFT WE HAVE IN SRI LANKA
Can you tell me a bit about your entry and what criteria they looked at to select Jetwing?
The entry we submitted was from Jetwing Yala, which went on to win the PATA Grand Award for Environment under the Corporate Environmental Programme category.
The entry was titled ‘The Success of Self-reliance’ and focused on the key environmental initiatives at the hotel: energy conservation, water management, waste management, use of environmentally friendly products, etc. It highlighted that the green concepts that had been incorporated in the planning stages of Jetwing Yala, which was designed to be self-sustaining as much as possible.

What are some of those sustainability initiatives that you consider to be standouts in the industry?
Over the years, we have introduced many such initiatives and, on the technology aspect, we are currently the benchmark for the industry.
The absorption chiller installed at Jetwing Lagoon in 2012 was a complete first in the Sri Lankan hotel industry. There was a considerable risk, as no other hotel had ever tried it before. We wanted a sustainable alternative to powering air-conditioning, because if you look at energy bills, approximately 50-60 percent would be because of the air-conditioning requirement.
The chiller has now been operating for more than 3.5 years and been a massive success. We didn’t hesitate to introduce the same technology for Jetwing Yala, and the installation cost was included in the project cost itself.
Another feature of the resort is the solar park, which covers an area of over an acre — at present the largest privately owned solar power facility in the country.
I’m very happy to say that the installation of the system has reduced the hotel’s cost of electricity by 40 percent and offers a payback period of 6-7 years.
At the moment, we are the only hotel group to have biomass boilers. The boilers are used to generate steam mainly as the heat source for the vapor absorption chillers and to generate hot water during the night.

And those boilers rely on cinnamon wood? Why is that?
The only fuel wood used for the boiler at Jetwing Hotels is cinnamon wood. The choice of cinnamon wood over other firewood was based on several factors: in addition to several technical advantages it offers, it is considered as a sustainable type of fuel wood due to its fast cropping cycle. It also serves to benefit the community as cinnamon wood is purchased from local suppliers and provides an additional income to the farmers and the local supply chain.
Are there any sustainability features that Jetwing has pioneered that are now becoming more commonplace?
After we introduced the central solar-thermal driven hot water system for Jetwing Beach in 2008 (another first!), it has now become common in the Sri Lankan hotel industry.
Another common feature today is LED illumination — I believe we were the first in the country to implement 100 percent LED lighting in our properties.
Having an absorption chiller for the cooling system was considered a risk at the time we implemented it, but now is becoming more popular among industries having a considerable cooling demand as well as those having an existing heat source from biomass.

What are travelers most surprised about when they enter a Jetwing property?
I’ve spoken to many of our guests over the years, and they always speak of the warmth in our properties. To us, a visitor has to experience traditional Sri Lankan hospitality, which we are known for throughout the world and since ancient times. The ayubowan, which you hear when you first enter, is symbolic of our commitment to a guest, translating to “may you live long” — immediately setting the tone for a stay truly like no other.
In addition, we believe in creating the perfect space for any guest, because Sri Lanka herself is a marvelous jigsaw of diverse experiences. If you come looking for wellness, we provide a haven of healing through ayurveda. If you come searching for wildlife, our properties with resident naturalists ensure unforgettable experiences. If it’s beaches, culture, cuisine, we have them all.

Do you find that travelers choose Jetwing primarily because of sustainability or because it’s a luxury property?
We have to preserve the great gift we have in Sri Lanka, but at the same time not at the expense of a visitor’s comfort. That balance is necessary, and Jetwing has struck the perfect mix of sustainable comfort. After all, the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are staying with a local family brand and helping to develop communities, sustain nature and save resources is invaluable.

How do you balance aesthetics, function and sustainability in a property?
When developing a new project these features are considered and given the same importance as the aesthetics and functionality of the hotel at the planning stages. We discuss with the consultants, in-house engineering team and financiers, in order to balance these components.
When we are introducing sustainability related initiatives to the projects, for example the solar PV system — we have to make sure that it is installed in such a way that will not distract from the concept of the hotel, or a guest’s view.

At what point in your career did you realize that sustainability is an important part of what you do?
From the very beginning, in fact. My father, Herbert Cooray, always used to say that “tourism cannot exist in isolation; it has to help the communities in the area.” That was back in the 1970s, and has remained true ever since. Being sustainable is not just about saving the environment, in our eyes — while the technology and practices we use currently are a necessity to preserve and protect, the human element needs to be looked after as well. Through programs such as the PATA Grand Award-winning Jetwing Youth Development Project, we aim to provide opportunities for talented youth to join the hospitality industry (completely free of charge), and to reap benefits for themselves and their families through hard work and commitment.

Coming from a family with a long legacy in the hospitality industry, did you ever consider working in any other industry?
Not really! You could say hospitality is in my blood, and I can’t imagine doing anything else — although when I was in the U.S. pursuing my higher studies, I did have second thoughts about coming back to Sri Lanka especially during the height of the war.
Coming back was the best decision I’ve ever made. I fell in love with my country all over again, and despite the chaos that was present, we put in place plans to expand and develop the Jetwing brand to prepare ourselves for the future. We always looked to the future, and we knew that one day the war would end and then Sri Lanka would truly rise to her potential as one of the foremost destinations in the world.

What is it about Sri Lanka that surprises first-time visitors?
The smile! We’re a very hospitable people, and we love nothing better than to welcome visitors to Sri Lanka which we are quite proud of. It also helps that in a compact destination, you have so many experiences. After all, in how many countries can you go from beaches to mountains, or from seeing whales to leopards in a day?

What are your hopes for tourism development in Sri Lanka in the coming years?
Today, we are on a level playing field. We’re no longer behind other rival destinations, except in perhaps of infrastructure which I’m confident will develop in the next few years. We have the potential, and the product, and all we need now is to aggressively pursue creative marketing strategies to push Sri Lanka to the rest of the world.
As interest in Sri Lanka continues to grow, how can the industry make sure that tourism grows in a sustainable way?
Through a joint, concentrated effort with other stakeholders and government entities in the industry. A certain set of regulatory practices is necessary, and can help new investments to start off the right way as well.
Photo credit: Yala National Park

Via PATA Conversations