by Ifham Nizam
Sri Lanka holds the record for nearly 14 per cent of the amphibian extinctions in the world. In other words, of the 130 amphibian extinctions known to have occurred across the globe, 18 extinctions (14 per cent) have occurred in Sri Lanka, says Dr. Anslem de Silva, widely regarded as the father of Herpetology in the country. Speaking to The Sunday Island, the authors of a news book on amphibians, said that this is one of the highest number of amphibian extinctions known from a single country. Some consider this unusual extinction rate to be largely the result of the loss of nearly 70 per cent of the island’s forest cover. Dr. Anslem de Silva, Co-Chairman, Amphibian Specialist Group, International Union for the Conservation of Nature/Species Survival Commission (IUCN/SSC), together with two academics, Dr. Kanishka Ukuwela, Senior Lecture at Rajarata University, Mihintale who is also associated with IUCN/SSC and Dr. Dillan Chaturanga, Lecture at Ruhuna University, Matara had authored this most comprehensive book on amphibians running to nearly 250 pages released last week. The prevalent levels of application of agrochemicals up to few months back, especially in rice fields, and vegetable and tea plantations, have increased over the past three decades. Similarly, the release of untreated industrial wastewater to natural water bodies has intensified. As a consequence, many streams and canals have become highly polluted, they say. The use of pesticides directly decreases the insect population, an important source of food for amphibians. Furthermore, these pollutants can easily make the water in paddy fields and the insects on which the amphibians feed toxic or increase the nitrogen content of the water. The highly permeable skins of amphibians would certainly cause them to be directly affected by these, they add. Amphibian mortality due to road traffic is a widespread problem globally that has been known to be responsible for population reductions and even local extinction in certaininstances. In Sri Lanka, amphibian mortalities due to road traffic are highly prevalent on roads that serve paddy fields, wetlands and forests. Further, they are especially intensified on rainy days when amphibian activity is high, the book explains. Recent studies indicate that amphibian road kills are exacerbated in certain national parks in the country due to increased visitation. According to recent estimates, several thousand amphibians are killed annually due to road traffic.
Professor W. A. Priyanka, PhD (USA), Professor in Zoology, Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya says the need for a guide to the amphibian fauna of Sri Lanka is obvious, given the currently critical conditions endangering them. Amphibians are an attractive group of animals whose diversity has always sparked interest among the scientific community, creating a vast body of unanswered questions.However, the identification of amphibians has been a challenge due to the lack of a complete and informative guide. The comprehensive pictorial guide provided by the new book should thus be of great benefit to a better understanding of the unique and intriguing nature of these fascinating living beings.The authors have done an outstanding job in compiling this book. An introduction to the guide briefly describes the history, current status, threats and conservation information, along with interesting folklore associated with amphibians. With the clear and informative images, distribution maps and updated status of each species, this guide can easily be comprehended by experts and beginners in the field alike.”I firmly believe that this book will be very useful to undergraduate and postgraduate students in the fields of zoology, biology and environmental science, as well as researchers, wildlife managers and visitors,” Professor Priyanka added.The authors said that like their previous guide to the reptiles of Sri Lanka, A Naturalist’s Guide to the Reptiles of Sri Lanka (de Silva & Ukuwela, 2017, 2020), this book is intended for both naturalists and visitors to Sri Lanka, providing an introduction to the amphibians found here. It features all the extant species of amphibian in this country with colour photographs and quick and easy tips for identification. At the time of writing, 120 species have been recorded within the country and ongoing taxonomic work is certain to add more to this impressive list in the next few years.This guide provides a general introduction to the amphibians of Sri Lanka, a profile of the physiographic, climatic, and vegetation features of the island, key characteristics that can be used in the identification of amphibians and descriptions of each extant amphibian species.Additionally, it presents information on amphibian conservation here and a brief introduction to folklore and traditional treatment methods for combating poisoning due to amphibians in this country. The species descriptions are arranged under their higher taxonomic groups(orders and families), and further grouped in their respective genera.The descriptions are organized in alphabetical order by their scientific names. Every species covered is accompanied by one or more colour photograph of the animal. Each account includes the vernacular name in English, the current scientific name, the vernacular name in Sinhala, a brief history of the species, a description with identification features, and details of habitat, habits and distribution (both here and outside the country).Key external identification features of the species, such as body form, skin texture and coloration, are provided, to help in the quick identification of an animal in the field.It must be noted that according to Sri Lanka’s wildlife laws, amphibians cannot be captured or removed from their natural habitats without official permits, which must be obtained in advance from the Department of Wildlife Conservation.Sri Lanka is home to an exceptional diversity of amphibians. Currently, the island nation boasts of 112 species of amphibians of which 98 are restricted to the country. However, nearly 60 per cent of this magnificent diversity is threatened with extinction. To make matters worse, very little attention is paid by the conservation authorities or the public. The last treatise on the subject was published 15 years ago. However, many changes have taken place since then and hence an updated compilation was a major necessity. This book by the three authors intends to popularize the study of amphibians by the general public by filling this large void. Historical aspects
Sri Lanka is one of the few countries in the world where conservation and protection of its fauna and flora has been practiced since pre-Christian times. There is much archaeological, historical and literary evidence to show that from ancient times amphibians have attracted the attention of the people of this island.
This is evident by the discovery of an ancient bronze cast of a frog (see photo) discovered during excavations conducted by the Department of Archaeology and the Central Cultural Fund. Strati-graphic evidence from the excavation sites indicate that these objects belong to the sixth to eighth centuries AD (Anuradhapura and Jetavanārāma museum records). Beliefs that feature the ‘good’ qualities of frogs and association with nature. These beliefs have some positive effects on the conservation of amphibians, perhaps one reason that Sri Lanka harbours a diverse assemblage of frogs. Absence of frogs and toads in agricultural fields indicates impending crop failure, it is believed.
The authors have specially thanked Managing Director John Beaufoy of John Beaufoy Publishing Ltd, for publishing many books promoting Sri Lanka diversity.
Giving Sri Lankan street dogs love, respect and a home
by Zanita Careem
An epitome of courage and wisdom, she is one of the top entrepreneurs in Sri Lanka, founder of Sri Lanka’s most stylish department where she served as Managing Director. Otara Gunawardena is truly inspirational.
She has earned many awards and notched several achievements. She was awarded the best female entrepreneur award at the Seventh US Stevie awards for Women in Business and 2018 Women of the Year Award by Women in Management (WIM).
Embark has become a popular brand. How do you account for it, its beginnings and its progress?
“Back in 2007, pedigreed dogs were popularly in demand but there were countless street dogs who needed care and love. Many of them were abused and unwanted. I wanted to change their circumstance and initiated Embark with the dream of providing a better life for our Sri Lanka’s street dogs and to give them the love, respect and the home they deserve.
“The brand was set up so that the profits would support the work we do with street dogs. It was also meant to help people to live a lifestyle supporting the cause and being ambassadors for the dogs with the clothing they wear. Most of the T- shirts have slogans conveying a positive message about street dogs in a fun way and many items became popular fashion statements.”
Explain the concept behind embark and the advocacy campaign for the welfare of homeless dogs?
“The concept was to make the street dog fashionable to own. And we have succeeded in doing so as more than 6,000 street pups have been re-homed, more than 60,000 vaccinated and sterilized throughout the island. Close to 35,000 plus street dogs have been rescued and treated over the last 15 years. Many people also now do their own rescues and adoptions.
“Embark mainly provides free medical treatment for sick and injured street dogs, the majority without owners. We also help find homes for pups who are abandoned on the streets. Besides the direct rescues we do there is also a foster network who rescues these pups, looks after them temporarily whilst we provide the required medical care – vaccinations, de-worming etc. and bring them to our monthly adoption programs where they find forever homes. We carried out many sterilization programs throughout the country and ensure there is population control within the street dog population in Sri Lanka. We also have a free medical clinic weekly at our head office in Colombo where we provide vaccinations, treatments and sterilizations for street/ adopted dogs.
What is your main focus in initiating this project?
“As explained previously, the main reason behind Embark is to give our Sri Lankan street dogs the love, respect and most of all the home that they deserve.”
Don’t you ever find the work you’re doing depressing and do you find any changes for the better?
“Sadly, the situation is quite dire in Sri Lanka but it has definitely improved from the past. There is now a no kill policy and sometimes there are programs of vaccination and sterilization implemented but unfortunately not done well. There is a lot more awareness and concern with people now against cruelty and also many more helping stray animals than before. However, there is still a lot of cruelty to elephants, an increase in terrible pet shops which are filled with suffering animals, cruel pedigree breeding, inhuman zoos, animals suffering in captivity etc.
“Lack of laws is a big issue too, something that has not changed despite many governments that have come and gone. It can be quite depressing to be aware of the cruelty and see it daily in a country such as ours where the need for compassion is stressed. We just do what we can each day to make a positive difference in the current situation.”
What has been the highlight of setting up Embark?
“Well, there are many, but I can say it has been rewarding to see a paralysed dog walk again, a dog who was severely ill recover and a rescued pup finding their forever home and living the best possible life. These may seem small achievements but they are close to my heart and I am glad I am able to help these amazing beings recover and live a good life. “
What are your programs to improve and protect animals and the environment in Sri Lanka?
“Embark under, Otara Foundation has been working on improving the lives of street dogs throughout the country, conducting rescue and re-homing initiatives whilst managing the canine population and preventing rabies through sterilization and vaccination programs across the country. Most of the rescues and treating of the injured are focused in the Western Province, but we do try our best to reach as best as we can in other areas.
“Embark has been at the forefront influencing policy in relation to animals and playing a vital role in making a significant change in the lives of animals and people alike.
“The Otara Foundation works with its accredited partners to promote large and medium-scale reforestation projects in the country. In addition, because it is the Foundation’s mandate that all life matters and every little effort is a step in the right direction, we support and promote smaller individual initiatives in reforestation and replanting. I personally advocate a better life for animals, speak out on behalf of the animals and participate in awareness.”
“I can only look at the change I have been able to make for animals and the environment and be grateful for what’s been achieved. The drawbacks are knowing how much more we need to do and can be done if there was conscious caring leadership as a lot of bigger change has to be initiated from the top.”
How does it feel being a female entrepreneur?
“It has been a challenging yet enjoyable journey. I am happy to have been able to change the direction of retail and fashion in Sri Lanka and to give a lot more women hope to follow their dreams and be who they want to be.”
Uterine myomas, commonly called fibroids, are very common in South Asian and African women. However, the risk of them turning malignant or cancerous is very rare. In an interview with the Sunday Island, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist and Senior Lecturer in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the Kotelawala Defense University, Dr. Romanie Fernando throws light on the causes and treatment of fibroids which are found in 30% of Lankan women over 30 years.
by Randima Attygalle
Uterine fibroids are benign or non-cancerous muscular growths which could appear in the uterus (womb), uterine wall or on its surface. The uterine wall which is made of smooth muscle becomes harder as a result of fibroids. “There is a genetic pre-disposition involved in fibroids; South Asian and African women are at a higher risk of getting fibroids and why they are more pre-disposed is still unknown,” says Dr. Romanie Fernando.
Fibroids usually appear in women of reproductive age- generally between 30-40 years although in some, they could appear earlier than that. “They are very common, so much so, one in three Lankan women above 30 years will have fibroids. However, the risk of having a malignant change is very rare. Only less than 0.5% of uterine fibroids will have the risk of turning into cancer, hence women should not have unnecessary fears about them,” Dr. Fernando says.
Genetics and hormones largely influence fibroids and their growth. Estrogen and progesterone imbalance affect fibroid growth. When hormone production slows down during menopause, these fibroids usually shrink. “Family history, age and race are the other factors which could place a woman at a higher risk of developing them,” explains the obstetrician.
Symptoms depend on the size and site of the fibroid. Only about 30% of women with fibroids will have symptoms and the majority will be asymptomatic (not showing symptoms). “Some fibroids are so small and are of a size of a shirt button that they will go unnoticed and won’t cause any harm, while others grow in big masses and can affect the uterus and adjacent structures causing symptoms.”
If a fibroid is found inside the uterus or the uterine cavity, it could affect the menstrual cycle resulting in pain during menstruation, heavy periods and spotting (bleeding in between two cycles). “If a fibroid is found in a woman close to menopause and if it is not causing any menstrual or pressure symptoms, we usually wait until she reaches menopause without intervening because with low estrogen, the fibroids will naturally shrink.”
Diagnosis is largely an incidental or accidental finding during a clinical examination. “During a routine pelvic exam a doctor may suspect fibroids if the shape of the uterus feels irregular or unusually large. Fibroids are also diagnosed during pregnancy when routine scans are done.”
Treatment too depends on the age of the woman, size and site of the fibroid. The growth of most of the fibroids is very slow, usually about half a centimeter in two years, explains Dr. Fernando. “However, if the growth is very rapid within a short time, it could be worrying and we need to intervene to remove it.”
Although not a very common presentation, severe backache could also be a symptom of fibroids. “Some women with fibroids could also be anemic due to increased menstrual blood loss and in such instances, we address anemia as well.”
Fibroids are treated symptomatically. If a fibroid is found to be causing pain, heavy menstrual flow or pressure on other organs such as the bladder for example, (causing frequent urges to urinate or inability to control urine) investigations will be done to determine the best mode of treatment. “Treatment could be either with oral medication or surgery depending on the severity of each case.”
Fibroids and pregnancy
If fibroids larger than five centimeters are found in a woman before her pregnancy, they are usually surgically removed to avoid complications during pregnancy. During pregnancy, the blood supply to the womb is increased, hence removal of fibroids is very risky and is postponed until after the delivery. “After a pregnancy the hormone levels and the blood supply become less and the fibroids too tend to become smaller. There had been maternal deaths when trying to remove fibroids during cesarean operations because of the inability to control the heavy bleeding,” says the consultant.
Fibroids can cause foetal growth restrictions and premature labour in some women. The positioning of the baby could also be abnormal in some cases. “If the fibroid is found closer to the uterine cavity, there could be a higher risk of miscarrying and after normal delivery heavy bleeding (post-partum haemorrhage) is also common.
Types of surgery
There are many ways to treat fibroids. The treatment that works best for each woman will depend on symptoms, reproductive plans, age, and the site of fibroids in the womb. “In younger women with reproductive wishes (those who hope to get pregnant in future), we usually remove the fibroids with myomectomy. This type of surgery removes them while retaining the healthy tissue. Myomectomy could be performed in many ways from abdominal surgery to laparoscopy,” remarks Dr. Fernando.
Although several other non-surgical interventions including the latest high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) device which was developed for treating uterine fibroid and drugs to shrink fibroids are available in other parts of the world, locally we are still limited to treating fibroids surgically with myomectomy (removal of the fibroid) or hysterectomy (removal of the uterus), says the consultant.
Vibrant hair colours and subtle make-up for 2022 –Ramani
by Zanita Careem
As 2022 begins, the beauty boom continues. In this article Ramani Fernando takes a daring leap into the overarching themes set to trend 2022.
How we express ourselves through products, to progress in sustainability and inclusion across the country.
Ramani Fenando’s deep passion to beauty trends in hair, and engagement with, its growing enthusiastic followers continues to dominate the beauty scene in 2022.
A beacon for new trend beauty entrepreneurs will not be short of support and guidance helping to bring a growing number of mission driven beauty brands to life and scale. My passion became my career and that’s why I also say do what you love, you never know where it will lead.
Q: The past year has witnessed a significant shift to people who discover and indulge in beauty category, what your take on it.
I want to inspire people to understand that no matter what they look like, they are people. For me beauty is timeless. We want everyone to accept and love themselves for themselves and be comfortable in their own skin.
From being a beautician and handresser to becoming the founder of many Ramani Fernando salons I have come a long way. My name in the beauty industry is most recognizable, she gets candid about her passion,her salons, her favorite make up products and share words of encouragement for women entrepreneurs.
What do you think your brand Ramani Fernando salons is synonymous to?
I’d like to think that Ramani Fernando Salons has been a pioneering, inspirational and passionate brand with more than 45 years within the hair industry, having grown from a single unit into a large chain of salons around the country.
I wouldn’t want to compare my salons to other brands in the industry as each brand or individual has their own pioneers which makes them unique in their own way.
What kind of make up do you like?
Something I live by is “Less is More” I like subtle classic looks when it comes to bridal makeup, I feel elegance and simplicity are my focus.
Have you ever faced any crticism for your work?
Yes of course, I take it very seriously and in a positive manner as constructive criticism which I feel, we all need in our lives to learn and grow from.
Your words of encouragement for women who want to have identity of themselves?
“Each of us has unsuspected power to accomplish what we demand of ourselves.”
The new trends in hair styles, hair colour and hair cuts.
Ten years ago, people were just styling hair and not thinking about the haircut underneath it.” It’s a way of approaching your hair that allows you to embrace all manner of trends, from embracing your natural curls to air drying your layers, and gives your hairstyle its unique character.
For a while now, we’ve favoured hairstyles which appear artfully undone, low maintenance and effortless, but many hairstylists are predicting a return to the old-school blow-dry and a more finessed approach to hair.
Undoubtedly the haircut of 2021, the bob is going nowhere for this year. But for young teenagers the bob remains at the forefront. There are so many new variations in the hair—changes in length, shape, volume and styling—for 2022
What do you think are the new make up trends this year?
Yet another popular type of makeup application is HD makeup. This makeup is done using regular brushes but products that contain pigments with light-diffusing coatings that blur the imperfections when light reflects onto them.
Mineral makeup is all about getting that natural finish with makeup that looks like your skin, but better. The products for this type of makeup style are made using compressed minerals and they don’t have any oil. This is generally the preferred makeup technique for oily skin types, but with the rightful application can work fabulously for any skin type.
The signature products that will dominate the skin industry.
There are many products that I consider as signature products for skin car, some of the more dominant ingredients, like niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, salicylic acid (to name a few) focusing on creating healthy moisturized, blemish free, pigment free and glowing skin.
Any hair colour that will dominate the young teenagers.
At the moment we see many teenagers coming in to the salon asking for many vibrant colours like blues, greens, purples and pinks.
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