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New study finds 33 species of butterflies at Maduru Oya National Park



It could be a butterfly destination as well in the long-term

by Ifham Nizam

(Pics courtesy Praneeth Silva)

An ongoing new study has discovered 33 species of butterflies at the Maduru Oya National Park, which is better known for its wildlife and aquatic birds.

The new discovery could lead to the national park being identified also as a bird location in the long-term.

The research team comprising Prof. Dharshani Mahaulpatha, Praneeth Silva, Tharanga Dassanayake, Dulan Jayasekara, Chamara Prabhath, Wathmini De Silva and Hiranthi Dilrangi Praneeth Silva, a graduate research assistant of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura, expressed optimism that with further research the number of species could increase.

“We have already asked the Wildlife Department to take action against noise pollution as vehicles entering the park frequently is increasing”, the team said.

Though elephants and aquatic birds are popular in the park, it could also be made a popular destination for butterflies, which are fascinating flying insects among lepidopterans and essential bio indicators of ecology and evolutionary studies, the researchers said.

“There are about 19,000 species of butterflies distributed around the world. The Western Ghats and Sri Lanka are a global biodiversity hotspot characterized by a large number of endemic species. With respect to butterfly fauna which harbors 331 species, Sri Lanka has 248 species, including 26 endemics.

Of the total butterfly species in the island, 21 are categorized as critically endangered, while 38 are endangered, 40 vulnerable and 21 near threatened. Furthermore, the conservation status of 29 species of butterflies has not been evaluated due to the lack of adequate data, Praneeth Silva said.

The Maduru Oya National Park extends to the Eastern, Uva and North Central provinces. The national park provides habitats for displaced wildlife and provides refuge to many other native fauna and flora particularly elephants. It is also home to thousands of aquatic birds.

The new study discovered 33 species of butterfly fauna representing five families. The commonest butterfly species is the Common Mormon (Papilio polytes). The butterfly count is high during the wet season (October-February) and low in the dry season (March-September).

Distinct differences in butterfly individual and species counts may be governed by climatic conditions of the area. As butterflies are poikilothermic organism, their biological cycle, activity, distribution and abundance are influenced by monthly temperature and rainfall patterns of the locality.

As the park is situated in the dry zone, the climax community of the area is tropical dry mixed evergreen forests characterized by large trees. However, high butterfly diversity can be observed in shrubs and bushes in the Maduru Oya National Park other than roads, water banks and extensive grassland habitat types. Availability of diverse shrubs and bushes in the park is the main reason for occurring high numbers of butterflies.

They act as host plants for butterflies by fulfilling the main living functions of butterflies to sustain their survival in the environment: facilitate laying of eggs, ensure nourishment and shelter for caterpillars, act as nectar sources for adults.

Praneeth de Silva said a higher number of ‘road kills’ of butterflies was observed due to the impact of vehicular traffic. High speed driving, lack of awareness of foreign and local visitors and poor law restrictions of wildlife authorities are the major governing factors for this critical issue.

The research team appreciated the cooperation of the Maduru Oya National Park staff, especially former park warden M. R. Mohamed and the incumbent warden J. Rathnayake and the Department of Wildlife Conservation for granting permission for the research.

The team also thanked the “Wildlife Circle” Association (Department of Zoology, University of Sri Jayewardenepura) for helping with their field work.

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‘Those who fear exposure making a din over Easter Sunday carnage PCoI report – PM



Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said that some of those who fear that they will be held accountable under the law for the Easter Sunday attacks are now making a big noise over the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the carnage.

“They know that they will be exposed. That’s why they are making a din in the belief they could escape being taken to task under the law”, the premier told The Sunday Island.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has declared March 7 as ‘Black Sunday’ to demand justice to the victims of the attacks by bringing before the law those responsible for the carnage.

Church leaders have their congregations to be attired in black when they attend mass on Sunday. Church bells will toll at 8.45 am, the time of the near-simultaneous attacks, and special prayers will be offered for justice for the victims.

Trade Minister Bandula Gunawardena said that the CID will begin investigations shortly to initiate the process of filing legal action against those responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks.

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Sri Lankan High Commission in India remains headless for 14 months




Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI, March 5:

The Sri Lankan High Commission in India has remained without a Head of Mission for 14 months now.

Veteran civil servant Austin Fernando, who was posted here as the High Commissioner, went back home in January last year.

Former Minister Milinda Moragoda was appointed as the new High Commissioner with a Cabinet rank late last year, and India has accepted the appointment shortly thereafter.

But Moragoda is yet to take charge. It is not clear when he is planning to arrive in India.

Being a large neighbour and in view of excellent relations between the two countries, India is important for Sri Lanka.

Besides, as many as 92 New Delhi-based Ambassadors and High Commissioners are also concurrently accredited to Sri Lanka. Only 41 countries maintain their diplomatic missions in Colombo.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, direct flights between the two countries were suspended early last year. But Air India has been running special flights at regular intervals from Colombo to New Delhi and other cities to bring back Indian nationals stranded in Sri Lanka while on a holiday or a business trip.

India has also created air bubbles to allow flights to over 20 countries, including Bangladesh. But Sri Lanka is not one of them. Negotiations are said to be in progress to make this happen in due course of time.

Sources in Colombo said Moragoda is expected to leave later this month.



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WFP and Korea to Help Supply Thriposha to Children and Mothers



COLOMBO – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) are supporting the Government of Sri Lanka with funding worth USD 600,000 (LKR 117 million) to procure maize for the production of Thriposha.

The funding will be used to produce Thriposha, a maize-based fortified food product, which will be provided to 1.1 million mothers and children. The grant from Korea helps ensure continuation of the Thriposha programme, which the Government of Sri Lanka has been conducting for almost 50 years to provide nutrition to undernourished children and pregnant and lactating women.

Thriposha, which means triple nutrients, is a locally produced supplementary food product, provided free of charge to children below 5 years of age who are underweight or with a slow rate of weight gain and pregnant and lactating women with a low body mass index (BMI), through the public health system.

“The world is facing unexpected circumstances while battling with the pandemic,” says Kang Youn Hwa, KOICA Sri Lanka Office Country Director. “The contribution from KOICA for the Thriposha National Programme was extended with the objective of improving the nutritional status of vulnerable people, especially children and pregnant/lactating women who are disproportionately affected by Covid-19. KOICA stands in solidarity with the Government of Sri Lanka during this difficult time.”

This latest contribution forms part of the activities carried out by KOICA — the Official Grants Division to the Embassy of the Republic of Korea — in response to Covid-19. KOICA has been present in Sri Lanka for over two decades, with programmes that support a variety of sectors including education, health, rural development, water management and transportation. One such intervention is the “R5n” programme, a joint project conducted with WFP since 2019. “R5n” aims to improve the lives and livelihoods of rural smallholder farmers by strengthening their resilience to recurring climate shocks, especially drought. KOICA’s support for the procurement of maize to produce Thriposha complements its on-going assistance to the Government of Sri Lanka.

Covid-19 has brought about fresh challenges in the country, including an estimated rise in unemployment and reduced incomes. This affects a family’s ability to access nutritious food and threatens to have long-lasting impacts on the health and nutrition standards in the country. The Thriposha programme provides a readily accessible source of nutrition to mothers and children when they need it the most.

The Ministry of Health requested WFP’s support in ensuring a continuous supply of Thriposha. In response to this, WFP together with KOICA, arranged to provide funding to bolster the Thriposha programme and help safeguard the health and nutrition of women and children.

“WFP has been supporting the Thriposha programme for over a decade, as part of its efforts to improve nutrition standards in the country,” says Andrea Berardo, Deputy Country Director of WFP Sri Lanka, highlighting that Sri Lanka ranks among the countries with the highest rates of wasting, known as thinness, among children under 5 years of age (15 percent). “This latest contribution reflects our long-standing support to the government to not just treat, but also prevent these high rates of malnutrition and importantly, safeguard development gains made within the country.”

In 2021 and beyond, WFP will continue to work with the government to enhance the national health system as part of its efforts in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2 of enhancing food security and improving nutrition in the country.

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