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From Woodies to Plovers: an untold story of our national identity

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WNPS Monthly Lecture – February 2021

By Dr. Sampath S. Seneviratne

18th February 6 pm via zoom and FB Live

Birds are high in a list of biological treasures of any country. Few such lists match the extraordinary wealth of Sri Lanka’s biodiversity, and when it comes to avifauna, the exceptionally high number of endemics – the species found nowhere else but in Sri Lanka – is a salient feature of this island nation.

Our 100 or so endemic races amounts to nearly a third of all breeding birds of Sri Lanka. That is one of the highest proportions of endemicities for any country in the world. This is as a result of Sri Lanka’s island nature, that drives animals to isolate, which makes Sri Lanka of special interest not only to local ornithologists and birdwatchers, but draws those from overseas as well. The WNPS has been raising its concern on the habitat destruction taking place in Mannar and elsewhere, threatening this very nature of Sri Lanka that gives nearly 5% of its GDP.

A deep dive, armed with cutting-edge science and novel technologies, into our Victorian past or to the heart of Sri Lankan wilderness, would expose a picture far fascinating than what you see in your day-to-day field guides. In the light of recent discoveries of Hanuman Plover and Red-backed Flameback, Sampath will illustrate the art and science of finding new birds and how that revolutionize the understanding, valuation and protection of our own national identity.

Dr. Sampath S. Seneviratne is a research scientist specializes in the study of evolution, molecular ecology and ornithology. His laboratory – Avian Evolution Node – studies how animals evolve in isolation in an island biogeography framework using both field- and laboratory-based research. His research programme spans across oceans, islands and forests through studies on rainforest endemics in Sri Lanka and Western Ghats, and bird migration in the Central Asian Flyway. Sampath is a birder, a painter, a naturalist and a conservationist. He is a General Committee Member of the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society, Senior Lecturer attached to the Department of Zoology and Environment Sciences, University of Colombo.

The WNPS Public Lecture is presented in association with Nations Trust Bank and open to all

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Kingsbury Colombo launches a “Christmas Carriage of Hope”

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The Kingsbury Colombo launched their “Christmas Carriage of Hope”, a festive icon that represents the hotel’s CSR initiative this festive season with the presence of Mohan Pandithage, Chairman & Chief Executive for Hayleys PLC and Rohan Karr, Managing Director for Hayleys Leisure. The carriage has been designed and assembled by the hotel, and by using their Christmas decorations- mainly the carriage of hope, the hotel aims to create awareness towards this initiative.

The Kingsbury, Colombo has selected 25 deserving schools, one from each district with a total of 60-90 students in each school. Having liaised with the Principals and head teachers from these schools, the hotel has listed down the requirements of all these students. With over 2500 students, the hotel will be donating 25,000 exercise books during the first week of January 2023, by visiting each school individually during this time.

Guests visiting the hotel during the period are encouraged to share a picture with the “Carriage of Hope” and tagging the Kingsbury on social media platforms. The hotel aims to reach a total of 25,000 tags with 1 tag = 1 exercise book.

In addition to this, guests can also make a donation by visiting the hotel’s online delivery platform indulgence.thekingsburyhotel.com which will offer them a selection of exercise books that will help sponsor a child

“Christmas has always been about giving and sharing. These are trying times for so many people and I believe with this initiative that combines all our efforts and yours can help many deserving children” said Rohan Karr, Managing Director of Hayleys Leisure. “We invite you all to join hands and help spread the word to make this initiative a success” he further said.The Kingsbury, Colombo will introduce a range of offerings during the season and they invite you all to share the festive cheer!

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From the Frontlines: The truth about Masks and COVID-19

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There is a tremendous amount of disinformation circulating regarding the use of masks to decrease transmission of COVID-19. As with many aspects of the pandemic, mask use has become politicized which is unfortunate when it comes to public health. All science, including public health science, is messy. A new virus with limited data, such as the coronavirus causing COVID-19, adds to the uncertainty.

Initially there was a significant shortage of masks for frontline workers, which was why authorities were reluctant to recommend mask wearing to the general public. It is understandable that people may look back at this old advice and not know what to believe. I think we should trust the public health scientists and realize their recommendations may change as better data becomes available. It took years to fully understand transmission of HIV. People who disregarded emerging recommendations for safe practices in the early days of HIV did not fare as well as those who took precautions to protect themselves and their loved ones.

What We Do Know

The coronavirus is primarily transmitted person to person via respiratory spray. Staying away from people (social distancing) and decreasing the germs being transmitted between people are both ways to decrease the spread of the virus. While high quality research regarding mask use is limited, all of the data supports mask wearing as a key public health measure to decrease viral spread.

Are Masks 100% Effective?

The gold standard N-95 mask is 95% effective at keeping the wearer free of inhaling viral particles.  These masks are still best reserved for front-line workers in high risk settings where aerosols of viral particles occur. Surgical masks are less effective and cloth face coverings even less so in protecting the wearer. However even a 50% reduction in viral transmission is statistically important.

For the general public, the reason for wearing a facial covering is to help protect others from you when you cough, sneeze or even talk and spray viral droplets into the air.  Many people who become infected can unknowingly spread the COVID-19 virus because they have few or no symptoms. So wearing a mask is showing respect for others and is your way of helping lessen the spread of the disease. It is important that the mask not be so thick as to make breathing through them completely uncomfortable. Filter inserts are probably not necessary and may make the masks more uncomfortable.

“Mask wearing allows us to open the economy up faster. Not wearing a mask around others only worsens the pandemic, leads to more disease, and worsens the economic effects.”

Do Masks Cause Low Oxygen Levels?

Absolutely not. We wear masks all day long in the hospital. The masks are designed to be breathed through and there is no evidence that low oxygen levels occur. There is some evidence, however, that prolonged use of N-95 masks in patients with preexisting lung disease could cause some build-up of carbon dioxide levels in the body. People with pre existing lung problems should discuss mask wearing concerns with their health care providers. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that mask wearing or physical distancing weakens the immune system.

So What Should You Do?

Decreasing the severity of the pandemic is about statistics. If you desire 100% avoidance of infection, the only way to achieve it is to isolate yourself completely. That is not practical or mentally helpful for the vast majority of people. The next steps are to do things which limit the likelihood of spread from person to person. These include distancing and mask wearing.

The further away you are from an infected patient, the less likely you are to get the virus. Six feet is better than two feet and 12 feet is probably better than six. At some point the distance away becomes statistically meaningless. Unfortunately, there is no absolute correct number. Airflow (indoor, outdoor, ventilation, wind, etc), temperature, humidity, the viral load being produced by the infected person and the susceptibility of the uninfected person all play a role in how far apart you need to be.

Masks are not 100% effective, but mask wearing does decrease the risk of viral spread. Public health professionals believe that mask wearing and social distancing are the keys to controlling the first wave and diminishing or avoiding subsequent waves of the virus. Mask wearing allows us to open the economy up faster. Not wearing a mask around others only worsens the pandemic, leads to more disease, and worsens the economic effects.

Does Wearing a Face Mask Reduce Oxygen—and Can It Increase CO2 Levels?

And is carbon dioxide toxicity

possible from wearing a mask?

With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation to wear a face mask to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, some people felt that wearing a mask reduced their intake of oxygen—or forced them to breathe in their own carbon dioxide. This left them feeling faint, light-headed, or “smothered.” They were also concerned about how dangerous this might be, and how less oxygen and more carbon dioxide might affect their health.(the Guardian)

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Shangri-La Colombo Unveils a World of Enchanted Tropical Wonders

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Shangri-La Colombo launched a season of festive celebrations with the annual ceremonial Christmas Tree lighting on 29 November, 2022said a press release.The release said the hotel invited guests to step into a world of enchanted tropical wonders featuring the flora and fauna of Sri Lanka, in an effort to highlight the importance of protecting the island’s rich biodiversity. Over the past few years, there have been many threats to Sri Lanka’s wildlife and nature reserves and this year’s festive theme aims to inspire our visitors to play his or her part in conserving our environment.

Shangri-La Colombo also invited a Sri Lankan artist, Nirosh Fonseka, to showcase his talent by hand painting the mural of the hotel’s Christmas Goodie Hut. For the next two weeks, visitors to the hotel will be able to see him at work bringing to life enchanted tropical wonders of Sri Lanka.

Similarly, the rattan finishes of the hotel’s Christmas décor have been weaved by a craft community in Wevaldeniya. Rattan and cane weaving is a part of the island’s rich craft heritage which has seen a decline in recent years. Shangri-La Colombo has incorporated this craft to highlight the importance of preserving Sri Lanka’s unique arts and crafts heritage.

Herve Duboscq, General Manager of Shangri-La Colombo stated, “As a leading hotel brand in Sri Lanka, one of our core values is to uplift our community. We felt it was important to highlight the rich biodiversity, arts and crafts of Sri Lanka and showcase it to the world. We are delighted to introduce our Festive collection full of enchantment with gourmet delights, festive dinners and many other surprises to make this wonderful season even more joyous.

This year, guests can get into the festive spirit with a specially curated festive Afternoon Tea featuring exquisite patisserie and scrumptious savouries at Sapphyr Lounge; tuck into a delectable Christmas feast with a live carvery and 16 live action stations at Central; toast to the season with a range of celebratory cocktails that perfectly compliment a vibrant, festive meal at Capital Bar and Grill; and ring in the new year in good company as you dine on an epicurean feast while enjoying firework displays across the city.

The Christmas Goodie Hut offers an array of sweet temptations including gingerbread houses, Christmas cookies, handmade chocolates, cakes and puddings made of the finest ingredients. Make merry with luxurious gourmet hampers which make the perfect seasonal gift for loved ones, valuable business partners or even for yourself.

Shangri-La Colombo invites guests to delve into seasonal delights, traditional fare and heart-warming celebrations from gala dinners, exciting entertainment, luxurious wellness experiences and fun-filled family afternoons; all with an abundance of the Christmas spirit to create everlasting colourful moments of joy.

Colombo’s seasonal promotions, dining offers and to make your reservations please visit https://www.shangri-la.com/en/colombo/shangrila/ or contact us +94 11 788 8288.

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