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Farmer killed, another injured in leopard attack at Ampara



by Ifham Nizam

A Sri Lankan leopard, scientifically known as Panthera pardus kotiya, killed a farmer and injured another villager on Wednesday night at Panama in Ampara, police said.

“Generally, leopards in our jungles are scared of humans, but if they do encounter people and find it an easy target, the tendency would be higher for them to attack”, says researcher-cum-author Rajika Gamage.

Under the circumstances, the big cats would prefer to attack a human rather than a wild boar or a deer. Naturally, most of their prey have antelopes or horns but humans have nothing other than nails, he said.

Gamage who conducts research on leopards in the upcountry told The Sunday Island that leopards usually don’t take on humans who are in a standing position. Those in sleeping or sitting positions are more vulnerable.

He opined that the leopard responsible for the latest attack could be the same animal which killed a wildlife officer and injured another a year ago. “Studying the proximity of the distance would reveal whether it was the same leopard”.

He said that recently a leopard killed a woman during Pada Yatra while she was squatting to answer the call of nature. However, the incident where a woman was killed by a leopard at Nawalapitiya was puzzling as they usually don’t first attack the face of a victim first.

Gamage explained that dragging a person is easy for a grown leopard. It would be like “grabbing a loaf of bread”.

Meanwhile, more than 20 leopards were killed since January 2020, according to the Wildlife Department. This year the department will be conducting a series of awareness programs to prevent leopard deaths due to human intervention.

Wildlife Conservation Director (Health) Dr. Tharaka Prasad  told The Sunday Island that the Sri Lankan leopard is strictly protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. Sri Lankan leopards are regarded as an endangered species.

However, in recent months, several deaths of leopards have been reported from some parts of the country, particularly after the animals were caught in snares and sustained critical injuries.

Some environmentalists claim that leopards are being deliberately trapped and killed for their bone fragments used in traditional medicines.

“Using snares and traps to kill leopards are strictly prohibited under the law, but it continues to happen”, Dr. Prasad said conceded.

Sometimes, leopards fall prey to snares set up for other animals”, he added.

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Covid-19 vaccination programme: MPs not in priority group; President, armed forces chiefs in ‘third category’ 



By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Minister for Primary Health Care, Epidemics and COVID Disease Control, Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle yesterday (25) said that members of Parliament were not among those categorised as priority groups expected to be vaccinated against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dr. Fernandopulle said so in response to The Island query whether parliamentarians would receive the vaccine scheduled to be delivered by India this week. Asked to explain, Dr. Fernandopulle said that health workers, armed forces and law enforcement personnel engaged in Covid-19 prevention operations would be given priority.

“Lawmakers haven’t been listed under priority groups. However, some members may get the vaccine if they are accommodated in the over 60 years category and those suffering from diabetes, heart disease, cancer et al,” the State minister said.

In addition to State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera, several lawmakers, representing both the government and the Opposition had been afflicted over the past several weeks. SLPP lawmaker Wasantha Yapa Bandara (Kandy district) is the latest victim. Health minister Pavitradevi Wanniarachchi was among over half a dozen lawmakers tested positive.

Army Commander General Shavendra Silva told Derana yesterday morning Sri Lanka would receive approximately 500,000 to 600,000 doses from India. Responding to a spate of questions from Derana anchor Sanka Amarjith, Gen. Silva explained the measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth vaccination programme. The Army Chief who also functions as the Chief of Defence Staff revealed India had paid for the consignment obtained from the UK.

Later in the day, The Island sought an explanation from the Army Chief regarding the President, Service Commanders, Secretary Defence given the vaccination along with frontline health workers et al, the celebrated battlefield commander said: “Will be in third priority group.”

Asked whether the student population would be accommodated at an early stage of the vaccination programme, Dr. Fernandopulle said that those under 18 years of age, pregnant and lactating mothers wouldn’t be included at all as such groups hadn’t been subjected to trials. Education Secretary Prof. Kapila Perera wasn’t available for comment.

Dr. Fernandopulle emphasized the pivotal importance of following health guidelines strictly in spite of the launch of the vaccination programme. “We shouldn’t lower our guard under any circumstances,” Dr. Fernandopulle said, urging the population to be mindful of those unable to receive the vaccination due to no fault of theirs. As those under 18 years of age had been left out of the vaccination programme, a substantial section of the population would be denied the protection, the State Minister said.

Sri Lanka is also expected to procure vaccines from China and Russia in addition to the doses from India. Health Secretary Maj. Gen. Sanjeewa Munasinghe wasn’t available for comment.

Sri Lanka launches the vaccination programme with the total number of positive cases nearing 60,000 with nearly 50,000 recoveries. The government recently re-opened the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) following a pilot programme that brought over 1,200 Ukrainians in dozen flights through the Mattala International Airport.

Dr. Fernandopulle said that the government was ready to launch the vaccination programme as soon as the first consignment arrived from India.

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Tennis balls filled with drugs thrown into Kandakadu Covid-19 treatment centre



By Norman Palihawadane

Two tennis balls filled with drugs had been thrown into the Covid-19 treatment centre at Kandakadu, Police Spokesperson DIG Ajith Rohana said.

The contraband was found on Saturday by the Army officers attached to the facility.

DIG Rohana said the two tennis balls containing cannabis, heroin and tobacco, had been handed over to the Welikanda Police.

A special investigation has been launched into the incident, the Police Spokesperson said. Such incidents had been previously reported from Welikada, Negombo and other prisons, but it was the first time contraband containing narcotics had been thrown into a Covid-19 treatment centre, he added.

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All cargo clearances at Colombo port now through electronic payments




The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) has introduced a system where payment for imports could be made via the Internet. This allows port users to make payments from their homes or offices to clear goods from the Port of Colombo.

The SLPA has said in a media statement that the new special facility will enable port users to make their port payments easily without hassle.

At present, all terminals of the Port of Colombo are run according to a strategic crisis management plan.


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