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Taxonomists discover new ‘true frog’ genus from South-east Asia



by Ifham Nizam

Discovering new species is fundamental for the expansion of knowledge of the endangered biodiversity of the planet, a large part of which still remains unknown to science.

It is rare to discover a completely new genus or higher taxon. Most new species discovered nowadays are part of well-known genus.

A group of taxonomists discovered a new genus of ‘true frogs’ and ‘ranid frogs’, which scientifically belong to Family Ranidae, according to a research article in the latest edition of the Journal of Asian Biodiversity, ‘Taprobanica’.

The new genus is named as “Bijurana” in honour of Prof. Sathyabhama Das Biju of the University of Delhi, India, for his enormous contribution towards amphibian research and conservation in the Indian subcontinent.

Prof. Biju is renowned as “the frogman of India” for bringing fresh fascination for Indian amphibians. He has discovered hundreds of new species new genera as well as new families. This world renowned taxonomist has been working very closely with many Sri Lankan amphibian taxonomists for decades.

The research of discovering new genus was conducted by three expert herpetologists and taxonomists in the Asian region, S. R. Chandramouli, an Indian researcher at Pondicherry University, Amir Hamidy, an Indonesian researcher at Indonesian Institute of Sciences and Thasun Amarasinghe, a Sri Lankan researcher at University of Indonesia.

The frog family Ranidae comprised 26 genera in the world. Among these, 15 genera, namely Abavorana, Amolops, Chalcorana, Clinotarsus, Huia, Humerana, Hydrophylax, Hylarana, Indosylvirana, Merystogenis, Nidirana, Odorrana, Papurana, Pseudorana and Pterorana are in the Oriental Region.

The first systematic classification of true frogs of the genus rana was carried out by world- renowned, most senior amphibian expert in the world, Alain Dubois in 1992. Prof. Dubois placed the sub-Saharan African Ranid frogs into the genus Amnirana and placed the unique species, Hylorana nicobariensis found in Nicobar Islands in South and Southeast Asian genus, Sylvirana, considered the most appropriate placement for the species at the time.

However, subsequent researchers from different parts of the world reallocated the species into different genera during the past two decades from Sylvirana to Hylarana, Hylarana to Amnirana and thereafter from Amnirana to Indoylvirana.

Actually since the discovery of Hylorana nicobariensis in 1870, the taxonomists were unable to find the correct generic position of this species. Therefore, its generic position has changed more than 10 times during last 150 years.

The tree experts reassessed the systematic position of Nicobarese species based on an integrative approach of both phylogenetic and morphological affinities and described a new genus to solve the long disputed taxonomic issue of true frogs.

The team observed these animals during last decade in Nicobar and Indonesian Islands with the support of their respective institutes and governments. They also recorded calls of Nicobarese frogs and analyzed the sounds. The description of the new genus will shed new light on the conservation of the species, as the new genus is now endemic to Southeast Asia, which earlier considered distributed up to sub-Saharan Africa.

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GL follows up Udaya’s initiative, negotiates concessionary crude oil supplies with UAE



Balance-of-payment crisis continues to stagger govt.

By Shamindra Ferdinando

The United Arab Emirates (UAD) has agreed to discuss a possible arrangement to provide Sri Lanka crude oil on concessionary terms in the face of the country experiencing a severe balance-of-payments crisis, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Foreign Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris took up the matter with UAE Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, on the sidelines of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. Prof. Peiris is on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s delegation to the UNGA.

In late August, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila sought the intervention of the Acting Head of the UAE Embassy in Sri Lanka, Saif Alanofy. Minister Gammanpila also met the Iranian Ambassador in Colombo in a bid to explore the possibility of obtaining oil from Iran on concessionary arrangements.

The Foreign Ministry statement on Prof. Peiris meeting with the UAE Minister dealt with the financial crisis experienced by the country. “Foreign Minister Peiris explained the challenges Sri Lanka is experiencing in respect of its external budget, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Prof. Peiris focused in particular on the country’s requirement for oil and requested concessionary arrangements from the UAE.”

The Foreign Ministry quoted Minister Al Jaber as having said that the UAE would be happy to assist and proposed the establishment of a strategic framework to take the process forward.”

The ministry stressed that both sides agreed to follow-up rapidly.

Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila earlier told The Island that concessionary arrangements were required to procure oil as part of an overall strategy to overcome the developing crisis.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader and Attorney-at-law Gammanpila said that increase in fuel prices in the second week of June this year was only a part of the government’s response to heavy pressure on foreign reserves. Minister Gammanpila said that the decision was taken close on the heels of dire warning from the Central Bank.

Minister Gammanpila said that in spite of foreign currency crisis, the government ensured an uninterrupted supply of fuel. According to him, Sri Lanka spent as much as USD 3.5 to 5 bn annually on oil imports depending on the world market prices.

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President attends 9/11 commemoration in NY



President Gotabaya Rajapaksa yesterday attended the special commemorative event near the Manhattan Memorial in the United States to mark the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

The terrorist attacks took place on September 11, 2001, targeting the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon, the headquarters of the United States Department of Defence.

Coinciding with the 76th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism and the 9/11 Memorial Museum jointly organised the event. Other Heads of State and government representatives, who were in New York to attend the UN General Assembly, were also present at the event to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in those attacks.

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FSP calls on govt. allies not to pretend to oppose adverse deal with US firm



By Anuradha Hiripitiyage

Due to the secret agreement signed with US firm New Fortress Energy, Sri Lanka would soon face a situation akin to the one already faced by Ukraine, the Frontline Socialist Party (FSP) predicted yesterday.

“Sri Lanka is trying to reduce its dependency on coal and switch over to LNG. With this in mind, several coal and diesel power plants are to be converted into LNG in the coming decade. Now, we will entirely depend on the US to provide us with LNG to power these plants. Given that the US intends to control the seas in which Sri Lanka is placed strategically, they will not let us off the hook once they establish their foothold here. We are in deep trouble,” FSP Propaganda Secretary, Duminda Nagamuwa said.

Nagamuwa said that some constituents of the government were pretending that they opposed the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant to New Fortress Energy. “But this is not the time for theatrics but for concrete action”, he said.

Nagamuwa said that the agreement between the government and US Company New Fortress Energy to construct a new offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) receiving, storage and regasification terminal at Kerawalapitiya as well as the transfer of government’s shares in the Yugadanavi Power Plant had to be scrapped.

“Even government ministers agree that the agreement was not discussed with them. Several affiliates of the government are trying to convince the people that they are fighting this decision from inside. However, past experience has shown that when push comes to shove they will stay with the government. They must show the leaders of the government that they are not puppets,” he said.

Nagamuwa said that if those affiliated to the government were serious in their opposition to undermining Sri Lanka’s energy security they should show their commitment by doing something concrete.

The Yugadanavi Power Station at Kerawalapitiya already produced 300 MWs of energy and there was a plan to build another 350 MW plant there. The US Company had now been allowed to build an offshore LNG receiving, storage, and regasification terminal and to provide LNG to the existing Power Station and the new 350 MW power plant to be built, he said.

“Now we are under the power of the US. We will soon be facing the plight of Ukraine,” he said.

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