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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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Cabraal: Prez appoints members to Port City Economic Commission



By Shyam Nuwan Ganewatta

The President of the country would always appoint members to the Colombo Port City Economic Commission, entrusted with running of that city under the proposed CPCEC Bill, State Minister of Money & Capital Market and State Enterprise Reforms, Ajith Nivard Cabraal, yesterday, told the media, in Colombo.

State Minister Cabraal said that most critics of the Colombo Port City Economic Commission Bill had not even read it.

“Sri Lankans don’t need to obtain a visa to enter the Port City as some claim. The Port City will be administered by the Colombo Port City Economic Commission and the Bill we have presented details how the area will be governed,” Cabraal said responding to a question posed by a journalist.

The State Minister said that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa had asked him to counter the misinformation and fake news that was being spread about the Bill. Once people have read and understood the Bill, most who criticise it would have to change their tune, the Minister said.


Journalists also questioned the State Minister on the allegations levelled by MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakse. The State Minister said that Rajapakse had not even asked a question about the Bill during the Parliamentary Group meetings.

“As I said earlier, the Port City will be administered by Colombo Port City Economic Commission. All members are appointed by the President. The Chairman of the Commission too is appointed by the President. The President can get rid of them anytime he wants,” Cabraal said.

The State Minister added that no one would be allowed to withdraw money or assets from Sri Lanka and invest in the Port City. “This is a special economic zone. We need to attract foreign direct investments. We need to have ease of doing business in this zone and we have to make it an important financial hub in the region.”

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Two hotels to be built obstructing elephant corridor in Sinharaja – MONLAR



Forest land being cleared for the construction of a hotel

By Rathindra Kuruwita

The Bowitiyatenna elephant corridor, used by elephants in Sinharaja to travel to Dellawa – Walankanda forest had been obstructed by two businessmen by clearing a section of the forest to build hotels, Sajeeewa Chamikara of the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reform (MONLAR) said.

“One hotel is being constructed in the Dolekanda Grama Niladari area after clearing seven acres of forest land. The Kalawana Divisional Secretariat has approved the construction of the hotel ignoring environmental regulations. Right now, forests are being cleared, land is being prepared and buildings are being constructed using heavy equipment.”

Another hotel was being built at the Bowitiyatenna Elephant Corridor, situated in Godakawela Divisional Secretariat area by a businessman from Godakawela. He has cleared around eight acres of forest land, the environmentalist said.

The two hotels were obstructing the elephant corridors used by the remaining two elephants in the Sinharaja Forest Reserve. Now, the the people of Rambuka, Thanawela, Ellagama, Handiyekade, Kajugaswatte, Pothupitiya, Kopikella and Cypresswatte would have the elephans marauding their villages, the environmentalist said, adding that the residents of those villages would lose property and lives due to the hotels being constructed by obstructing the elephant corridors.

“Most of the forest areas surrounding the Sinharaja are to be annexed to the Forest Reserve because they are an important part of the forest network. These unscrupulous businessmen and politicians supporting them are attempting to carve out as much land as possible before these areas receive protected status. They are also doing their best to delay the declaration of these lands as protected areas.”

Chamikara said that the Central Environmental Authority (CEA) had the power to take action against those who carried out such illegal activities.

According to Section 23 (a.) (a.) of the National Environmental Act, when a project is carried out without environmental clearance, the CEA can produce such people before a magistrate’s court. If found guilty, a person can be fined up to Rs. 15,000 or imprisoned up to two years or subjected to both.

Chamikara said: “According to Article 27(14) of Chapter VI of the Sri Lankan constitution the state shall protect, preserve and improve the environment for the benefit of the community.” However, the CEA seems to have no interest in taking action against those who are building these hotels illegally. This is CEA’s attitude to almost all major environmental destruction that seems to be taking place these days.

“The government is silent when the Sinharaja forest is degraded and elephant corridors are closed by businessmen. The right to land seems to be a right reserved only for businessmen. We have the right to oppose these under article 28. (f) of the Constitution which states that we have a fundamental duty ‘to protect nature and conserve its riches.’ Article 28. (e) states that we also have a fundamental duty ‘to respect the rights and freedoms of others.’ Thus, we, the citizens have the right to oppose the illegal use of natural resources by powerful businessmen. If we do not oppose these moves as citizens, powerful businessmen will take over all our natural assets like they are doing at Sinharaja.”

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RDHS predicts Coronavirus spike in Jaffna over the weekend



By Dinasena Ratugamage

There might be a spike in COVID-19 cases in Jaffna this weekend, A.

Kethiswaran, Regional Director Health Services told the media yesterday. Dr. Kethiswaran made the prediction after 26 new cases were detected in Jaffna.

A large number of COVID-19 cases had been reported from Jaffna in the past few weeks. Thus, the people should adhere to health guidelines. If people did not follow the guidelines, there would be a spike in cases and then some places would have to be locked down, he said.

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