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SRI LANKA’S CROCODILES: Living Fossils

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By Dr. Anslem de Silva

6 pm, March 24, 2022, at the Jasmine Hall, BMICH

Often called living Fossils, crocodiles are considered to be one of the most successful species living on Planet Earth today. They have survived, virtually unchanged, for over 100 Million years. Crocodiles are also the largest reptile in Sri Lanka, famed for being one of the best places to watch ‘Mugger Crocs’ in all of Asia.

Recently, crocodiles have hit the headlines in Colombo, and beyond, with social media doing their best to demonize these ancient creatures who merely follow their instincts, one of which is to keep away from humans. Humans don’t always, however, respect the domain of crocodiles, and that is when the trouble starts.

Who better to explain all of this to us than Dr. Anslem de Silva, He is the current Regional Chairperson of the Crocodile Specialist Group IUCN/SSC for South Asia and Iran. For nearly 60 years, he has worked extensively on the reptiles and amphibians of Sri Lanka and has, to his credit, nearly 500 publications on various aspects of herpetology – these include almost 60 books, and chapters in prestigious publications (some published in the UK & India).

In 2013, he organized the World Crocodile Conference in Negombo. In that same year, he published a comprehensive 254-page book on Sri Lanka’s Crocodiles. He has also published dozens of research papers on them. He conducted the first island-wide survey on Human-Crocodile Conflict, including of crocodile burrows. In 2007, he was the Consultant for the WWF/American Red Cross Partnership on Crocodile Conflict in the Nilwala River, around Matara. In 2018, he was also a Consultant for the development of an ‘Action Plan for mitigation of Human-Crocodile Conflict in the Andaman Islands’, prepared by the Wildlife Institute of India. Currently, he is working on the ‘Mugger Crocodile ‘Crocodylus palustris Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan for the IUCN/CSG.

In 2019, in recognition of his contributions towards herpetology, and conservation the IUCN/SSC awarded Dr. De Silva with their highest honour, the Sir Peter Scott Award of Conservation Merit, the first and only Sri Lankan to receive this accolade.

In the course of his lecture, Dr. De Silva will address the following:

1. Crocodiles in Sri Lankan archeology and history.

2. Traditional techniques in the treatment of injuries sustained from crocodile attacks, including a ‘charm’ to protect one against crocodile attacks, dating from the 14th Century

3. The identification of the different species in Sri Lanka, and of their behaviour, including interesting accounts of their communal fishing techniques and ‘Crocodile Houses’ (S. ‘Kimbulgewal’).

4. The Human-Crocodile Conflict; is a serious issue that is often not adequately addressed. This includes tips on escaping from a crocodile’s ‘grip’, should you ever be in the unfortunate situation of being attacked by one!

5. The Importance of Crocodiles: how crocodile blood is used to treat anemia, produce the most powerful antibiotics, and many other aspects of their significance, including that of the crucial role they play in maintaining the natural balance of the eco-systems they live in.

The monthly lecture of the WNPS is supported by the Nations Trust Bank. We are happy to recommence our physical lecture at the BMICH whilst continuing both Zoom and FB live for the benefit of the members who connect from across the Island and the World.

The lecture is open to both members and non-members. Entrance free, we kindly request the members to follow all health and safety requirements at BMICH



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Weerawansa’s wife sentenced to RI

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Lawyers appearing for Shashi Weerawansa, MP Wimal Weerawansa’s wife, yesterday (27) appealed against a Colombo Magistrate’s Court decision to sentence their client to two years rigorous imprisonment.Colombo Chief Magistrate, Buddhika Sri Ragala found her guilty of submitting forged documents to obtain a diplomatic passport circa 2010. The Colombo Magistrate’s Court also imposed a fine of Rs. 100,000 on Mrs. Weerawansa. If the fine is not paid she will have to serve an extra six months.

Additional Magistrate Harshana Kekunawala announced that the appeal would be called for consideration on 30 May.The case against Mrs. Weerawansa was filed by the CID after a complaint was lodged on 23 January 2015 by Chaminda Perera, a resident of Battaramulla.

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Unions predict end of energy sovereignty

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By Rathindra Kuruwita

A government decision to allow all privately-owned bunker fuel operators to import and distribute diesel and fuel oil to various industries was a rollback of the nationalisation of the country’s petroleum industry and another severe blow to energy sovereignty of the country, trade union activist of the SJB Ananda Palitha said yesterday.Earlier, Minister of Power and Energy, Kanchana Wijesekera Tweeted that ‘approval was given to all the Private Bunker Fuel Operators to Import and provide Diesel and Fuel Oil requirements of Industries to function their Generators and Machinery. This will ease the burden on CPC and Fuel Stations provided in bulk’.Commenting on the decision, Palitha said that according to the existing law those companies only had the power to import, store and distribute fuel for ships. Those companies did not have the authority to distribute fuel inside the country, Palitha said.

“Only the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) and Lanka Indian Oil Corporation (LIOC) can distribute fuel inside the country. There is a controversy about the licence given to the LIOC as well. If the government wants other companies to import fuel, it needs to change the laws. The Minister does not have the power to make these decisions. A few months ago the Gotabaya Rajapaksa administration used to rush Bills that adversely affected the country through Parliament. Now, since they don’t have a majority in parliament, they are using the Cabinet to make decisions that are detrimental to the country’s interests.”

Palitha said that the controversial government move would further weaken the CPC, and that the ultimate aim of the Rajapaksa-Wickremesinghe government was to make the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) purchase fuel from private distributors. With a weakened CPC and a CEB under the mercy of private companies, the Sri Lankan state would have little control over the country’s energy sector, he warned.

“The CEB already can’t pay the CPC, and therefore how can it pay private companies? It will have to sell its assets. This is another step in the road to fully privatise the energy sector. When this happens no government will be able to control inflation or strategically drive production through fuel and energy tariffs. The people will be at the mercy of businessmen and the government will only be a bystander,” he said.

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US Ambassador calls on Speaker

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U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung yesterday (27) called on Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena at the Parliament Premises.The U.S. Ambassador said that she hopes the government, including the new Prime Minister, would be able to bring about political stability and overcome the current economic crisis. The Ambassador also emphasized the need to carry out the political reforms desired by the people and to safeguard democracy in the country.

She also hoped to enhance relations between the two countries through the Sri Lanka-USA Parliamentary Friendship Association. She appreciated the role played by the Women Parliamentarians Caucus and discussed the need to increase the representation of women.The Speaker also expressed his gratitude to the United States of America for its continued support to strengthening democracy in Sri Lanka.This is the first meeting between Ambassador Chung and Speaker Abeywardena since her appointment as US Ambassador to Sri Lanka.Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake was also present on the occasion.

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