Sinharaja: Preserving heritage for tomorrow
VISIT: Sri Lanka Telecom in partnership with the Field Ornithology
Group of Sri Lanka (FOGSL) initiated the âPreserving Heritage for
Tomorrowâ, programme in recognition of the importance of creating
awareness on conservation of the Sinharaja Forest Reserve.
It includes a trip to the forest reserve, scheduled for the third
week of each month, covering three days. Schools are selected by FOGSL
from across the island.
Twenty students and five teachers were selected to participate in the
âpreserving heritage for tomorrowâ programme.
The participants were from Gurukula Maha Vidyalaya, Kelaniya; Badulla
Central College, Badulla; Sacred Heart Convent College, Galle; Yasodara
Devi Balika Vidyalaya and Rathnawali Balika Vidyalaya of Gampaha. The
students who were awaiting this tour were given caps and leech socks
made of cotton.
The students were advised to wear outfits that were in muted and
camouflage shades of colour such as green and brown. This is to ensure
that the animals are not disturbed by the presence of humans in their
After lunch, they attended a lecture session conducted at the Forest
Information Centre in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve by a forest officer
who spoke about the history of the reserve as well as on what they
should and should not do during their stay.
These included making loud noises, breaking off branches or carving
their names on the bark of trees and bringing polythene bags to the
After tea, the students went for a nature walk to get better
acquainted with the environment, with Marten Wijeysinghe as the guide.
Prof. Sarath Kotagama of the University of Colombo explained the
magnetic fields at the reserve at a theoretical session.
This means that a compass would not work and those who do get lost
would not be able to depend on one, as the direction given would be
wrong. During this session, the groups were divided into four, and the
names were derived from nature.
Each student also adopted the name of a bird. After dinner, the
students ended a long yet exciting day with session on photography,
where Ragula Perera, a wildlife and nature photographer attached to
FOGSL taught them basic photographic skills and techniques.
On the second day, all students were expected to get ready for the
day ahead and assembled at the lecture hall at 6 a.m, where they
meditated until 6.15 a.m.
This helped the students to be one with nature, acquiring listening
skills that would have helped them to identify the sounds of different
animals and birds.
This was followed by tea and the bird watching session, where the
four groups were assigned one member of the FOGSL as a guide.
They were taken on tours to four different parts of the forest so
that each group came across different birds. The session ended at 7.30
a.m. where each of the groups made their way back to Martenâs Lodge for
a hearty breakfast.
Each group was given an experiment to conduct relating to the primary
forest, which is one that has never been logged or disturbed and the
secondary forest, which regenerates on native forest that has been
cleared, with the help of a member of FOGSL.
The session went on until lunch time. Each experiment was rotated so
that all teams got the opportunity to observe.
In the evening, they attended a session, which was conducted by
Chandima Ratnayake on blue magpies.
Afterwards they went for a night nature walk, which the students
looked forward to. Each group, which had been tirelessly working on
their assignments, modulated by FOGSl in the form of a hand written book
submitted it. Students were also awarded certificates from SLT along
Speaking on his experience, a student who took part in the programme
said: âThis was an amazing experience for us as we were given the
opportunity to see the level of biodiversity and endemic species of
flora and fauna at Sinharaja.
We also had the chance to meet people who were dedicated to the
conservation of nature and that has made an impact on myself, as I too
would like to grow up and work in this field. I am grateful to FOGSL and
SLT for organising such a programme, giving students from far-away
places the chance to experience first hand conservation efforts.â
Gothami students: tuned to music
MUSIC: Students of Gothami Balika Vidyalaya Colombo were happy, as
they performed before a large crowd
Junior Band of Gothami Balika Vidyalaya
showing off their talents at the annual band show.
Hard work made them glitter at the event.
Senior and junior students participated.
Sanjeevani Priyadarshini, a member in the junior band said she used
to dream about playing in the band when she was small.
âWhen the senior students perform in the band at school, I used to
look at them and hope I could perform one day. My dream has now come
Thimasha Weerakkody said she is fond of Western music and she can
play musical instruments as well.
âTeachers Premaratne and T. F. Greessy coached us. Our band teacher
is Diana Fonseka and she takes care of all our needs in the schoolâ, she
Buddhika Sammani and Tharushi Shivanka were also happy to perform in
Senior Band of Gothami Balika Vidyalaya
The senior bandleaders are Deepani Randima and Aushdi Kumari Werake,
18. They are studying bio science.
Deepani said she has been learning Western music for seven years and
enjoy Western music a lot.
âMusic relaxes us. Iâm not tired whenever I practice,â she said.
Lochana Welikala, 16, is an O/L student. âWe practice one hour before
school and after school till 5 pm. It is fun being in the band. It is
enjoyable and we learn a lot. We are very united and happy when
participating in our activitiesâ, she said.
W. A. Yashoda Poornima said she is very interested in music. Her
hobby is playing Western music instruments, mostly piano and guitar.
âI like to read music books a lot. Iâm 16 and I like to study science
in my A/Ls,â she said.
Pictures by Palitha Gunasena