Pint-sized eco warrior | Daily News

Pint-sized eco warrior

Wandering amid nature at Horagolla National Park
Wandering amid nature at Horagolla National Park

Environmental challenges are plentiful today. With issues relating to climate change, deforestation and other misuses of natural resources, loss of biodiversity, pollution, or contaminated water supplies, being consistently brought out into the light youth who are considered as the crucial stakeholders in the sustainability debate need to raise their voices in environmental politics.

Raising awareness is one way a person can contribute to this project and this pint-sized youngster is doing his bit to save Mother Nature. Dubbed as the ‘Youngest Environmental Writer’ in the world in a competition held by Google, Isuru Arunoda Nakandala was chosen to be given the title when his book ‘Horagolla National Park and the Beauty of the Animals We Meet There’ was chosen for the contest.

The eight year old, a grade four student of St Mary’s College, Veyangoda, had penned the book in Sinhala based on his finding at Horagolla National Park which he likes to infest during his spare time. The book had later been translated to English by his father, Harsha Udaya Kumara Nakandala, who is a visiting lecturer on Business Management and English. The book had been featured on the Internet before it was ranked as the best exploration book on environment by a youngster.

A nine year old American student had held the title of the ‘Youngest Environmental Writer’ before Isuru. She had written a chapter book of around 1,500 words. Isuru’s ‘Horagolla National Park and the Beauty of the Animals We Meet There’ consists of six chapters and more than 6, 500 words. Nearly 30 species of animals, reptiles, fish, insects and plants have been included in the work. It was published in December, 2018. The young lad had engaged in research at the Horagolla National Park for two years before producing the book.

A true nature lover at heart Isuru had always been mesmerized by the beauty of the flora and fauna which thrived on this blue planet. The Horagolla National Park has become his favourite place to hangout whenever he has any free time to spare.

“My mother would take me outdoors and show me various aspects related to nature whenever she fed me. Therefore I was familiar with many of nature’s happenings when I was a toddler,” Isuru recalled how his love for nature was nurtured by his parents.

Such actions prompted the tiny tot to relate to nature. He would bring frogs and keep them hidden under his bed and inspect their behaviour or bring various species of wild plants for his father to identify for him.

“He was curious about many things and did not hesitate to question about any new or puzzling aspect related to nature from us. He had a collection of over 100 birds’ feathers when he was around three and a half years old. He also wanted me to bring two clay pots so that he can keep food to feed animals. If he was given anything to eat like a biscuit packet, then half of it was reserved for animals. Once he heard about the Dehiwala Zoo and wanted to visit it. My wife’s work was based in Mullaitivu then and we were both busy with work but since he would not stop crying we got on the bus at dawn and reached the zoo at around 8.15 am. We left only around 6.30 pm. Even then he carried a book around with him in which he penned details about the animals he saw there. He would sketch the animals he saw at the zoo in a book back at home. We visited the zoo many times after that. He had over 200 animal sketches then. Even if he saw an animal on a lamp post on the way home, he would observe it for a span, come home and make a sketch of it,” Harsha Nakandala explained.

Isuru’s mother, Disna Samanthi, an Ayurvedic practitioner, said that he had also been an avid reader from childhood.

“He would be content even if he was given the opportunity to read all day. We were a bit worried about his obsession with books because we wanted him to enjoy other things that children engaged in. We did things to disturb him to draw him away from his books at times but then he began to creep under his bed with a book or hide books in his pillowcases. He mostly grew up under his father’s care,” she said adding that she had to leave the six month infant in his father’s arms when she got on the Veyangoda train from Anuradhapura to attend to her duties.

Isuru began developing an interest in dinosaurs once he attended school. He even drew pictures of them on the walls in the ground floor of his parents’ house. Even if he had to engage in studies in other subjects, he would bring conversations about dinosaurs, animals and birds into it as well.

“This made us realize that is where his main interest lies. Though he wanted to visit the Dehiwala zoo often, it was not practical because of the distance. The Horagolla National Park which is considered to be the smallest national parks in Sri Lanka is near our home. So I began taking him there,” Nakandala said.

The 34 hectare land of greenery was a paradise for the young lad who forgot the presence of his father once they stepped in. Armed with observation, experience and the knowledge he gleaned by reading books and from the Internet, this young naturalist in the making once got into a debate over a picture of a bird featured on one of the billboards in the park. The picture was of the Sri Lanka blue magpie but it had been captioned as a kingfisher. He began arguing his points by relating the exact features of the two birds to the officers in charge.

“He has the knowledge to identify each of the diverse species which visits the area and he is not bashful to prove is points in public,” Nakandala said.

Isuru’s second book ‘Mihithale Himikaruwo’ too had been translated into English as ‘The Owners of the Planet’. It gives more details on the flora and fauna of Sri Lanka. He is also vying to write a book on dinosaurs in the future.

One of the main barriers that the youth faced was the claims by publishers that they would not publish a book of an author who is below 18 years.

Isuru’s wish is to help many more people who have talents in various fields but lack funds to see their work brought before the public. He wishes set a fund to give scholarships for such individuals by selling his books.

Isuru’s ambition is to become a scientist. He relates that he wishes to create a new animal species via hormones.

“The new species will be similar to the crocodile. They play an important role in the ecosystem. They eat carcasses of other species and balance its population in the habitat. These had been seen as a major role to ensure rivers are functioning smoothly. The new species will be a bit bigger so that they can even transport goods for human beings,” Isuru opined with a smile.


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