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The Place of the Physician in Sri Lanka’s Society

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“The Best Physician is also a Philosopher”

Galen of Pergamon (c.129 –  216 AD )

An institution, a learned society and a body of practitioners, the Ceylon College of Physicians stands at the apex of medical learning and practice in Sri Lanka. For over half a century, the College has fulfilled an integral role in medical education and the maintenance of professional standards. As an institution, it has played a valuable part in the building of our nation. As a scholar, a historian and a Sri Lankan, it is a privilege and an honour to address its 52nd assembly.

In a thought provoking conclusion to the 50th Anniversary Commemorative Volume, Dr Panduka Karunanayake, President Elect for 2017, explores new horizons. In an increasingly technological age, he underlines the great need to master the human and social aspects of healing. A profession that truly cares for its patients in every sense of the word, must seek to understand and shape the future. This demands that the physician not only advise patients but that he guide society. If as Dr. Karunanayake suggests, the physician is to shape the future, he must endeavor to understand the human being, his society and his environment.

This was a philosophy which was articulated by one of the fathers of western medicine Aelius Galenus better known as Galen of Pergamon. The most celebrated medical authority of the Roman empire, Galen was one of the greatest physicians and surgeons of the ancient world. He has authored more books still in existence than any other ancient Greek. With the exception of Aristotle and Plato, he ranks as one most influential intellectuals in the classical west.

Born into the intellectual and social elite, Galen was son of a wealthy architect with scholarly interests and he received an excellent education. He travelled and studied widely, spending several years at Alexandria in Egypt, the greatest medical centre of the age. Returning home he spent four years tending a troupe of gladiators, eventually become the personal physician to a succession of Roman emperors.

Described by the Emperor Marcus Aurelius as “First among doctors and unique among philosophers,” Galen strongly believed that science and medicine must be practised in the context of human desires and needs. For him, medicine was an interdisciplinary field where science, ethics and the arts were all interwoven He saw himself as both a physician and a philosopher and believed that the study of philosophy would make for a better scientist, hence his short treatise The Best Physician is also a Philosopher.

In an eerie evocation of a contemporary dilemma Galen attacks the medical culture of his day which

“…encourages people to value wealth over virtue. For, “it is impossible to pursue financial gain at the same time as training oneself in so great an art as medicine; someone who is really enthusiastic about one of these aims, money or medicine, will inevitably despise the other.”

Galen advocated the study of arts and letters as an essential component of scientific study. In another work An Exhortation to Study the Arts, he warns against specialized isolation and lists several arts which he categorizes as divine gifts because they are useful to life. Alongside natural science and medicine, he also lists poetry, music, and philosophy. This underlines his belief that physicians must be specialists who were not only technically competent but also humane and morally responsible. According to Galen, proper, precise scientific inquiry was indeed ‘useful for life’. However, it could not be accomplished by scientists who were not properly trained in the other arts, because they would not then possess the humanity, the sensitivity, to do that science properly.

There does not appear to be a great distance between Galen’s creed and the requirements of contemporary medicine. A modern day physician like a philosopher is trained to think, to inquire and to ask questions. It is perhaps one of the foundations of his long and rigorous education. A good physician, like a good philosopher is always asking questions. It is by asking the best possible questions that he can make conclusions and diagnose.

A real philosopher is always open to question. This is even more the case with medicine. The danger is that answers shut down questions. Therefore the physician must always be open to question. As it is a question of wellbeing, of life and death, these questions are always shifting, changing with the time and the moment. If as a physician one must come to a conclusion, one can only do that by becoming a philosopher. To do that the physician must be able to listen, to observe, to think and to question. He must have time and make time. Time to listen, time to ponder, time to think, to analyze and evaluate.

It is a dilemma which still lies at the core of modern medicine. In an age where the internet and artificial intelligence have made vast inroads into the credibility of the physician, what makes him special is that although modern technology can make diagnoses, it cannot take a judgement call. That judgement call still rests on the human element, the physician’s understanding of the social context- on factors such as belief, culture, environment, sustainability and cost. This will determine the success of the cure. As Dr. Karunanayake foresees, if the physician is to play a role in the future, he must endeavor to understand the human being, his society and his setting.

The history of medicine reveals that physicians have occupied a special role in many parts of the world. Classical scholars have always regarded the ancient Greeks as the fathers of western medicine. However recent research suggests that the ancient Egyptians practised medicine long before the Greeks. The Edwin Smith Papyrus, an Egyptian surgical treatise dating from 1600 BC suggests that medical practice was well established in Egypt 1,000 years before Hippocrates. This documents 48 injuries which were described, diagnosed and treated rationally through observation and examination. It is thought to be a copy of a much earlier work dating from the 3rd millenium BC by the Egyptian polymath Imhotep. Chief Minister to the pharaoh, a priest, a sage and an architect, over the ages Imhotep was gradually glorified and became a god of healing.

His counterpart in the Greek world was Asklepios, the son of Apollo. The legend goes that Asclepius become so skilled that Zeus, the king of the gods, feared that he might render men immortal. To prevent this Zeus slew him with a thunderbolt and over time like Imhotep, he too became a God. His shrine at the sanctuary of Epidaurus became known as the Asklepieion and it grew into the most important centre of healing in the Greek world. The legacy of Asklepios looms large in the Greek tradition of healing. Hippocrates formal name was Hippocrates Asclepiades, “the “descendant of Asclepios.” Galen too, we are told was not destined to become a physician and only took up medicine after the God Asklepios appeared to his father in a dream.

In Ayurveda, the system of medicine and lifestyle developed in Ancient India, the pre- eminent figures are Sushruta and Charuka. Sushruta is thought to have lived near Varanisi during the 6th-7th century BC. Regarded as the father of Indian medicine, he was the main author of the Sushruta Samhita, one of the most important surviving ancient treatises on medicine. The other medical text to have survived from ancient India, the Charaka Samhita, was authored by Charaka, who is thought to have practised throughout the Punjab between the 2nd -3rd century BC.

One of the oldest medical systems in the world is traditional Chinese medicine. This tradition has produced many leading figures. In the 5th century BC Bian Que (Pien Ch’iao) was the first to rely primarily on pulse and physical examination for the diagnosis of disease. He was followed by Hua Tuo (Yuanhua) the greatest surgeon in Chinese history. In 2nd century AD he became the first person in China to use anesthesia during surgery.

Throughout the ancient world the practice of medicine was associated with learning and skill, over time it become a divine gift. The physician was the incarnation of Imhotep, Asklepios, Hippocrates, Galen; he was a god, a seer, a sage, a skilled and deeply learned practitioner, a guide and a philosopher. Only in Sri Lanka however, was the physician a king.

The place of the physician in Sri Lanka’s society is documented in the island’s great historical chronicle, the Mahavamsa. Compiled in Pali by Buddhist monks, the Mahāvaṃsa and its successor, the Cūlavaṃsa, charts the history of Lanka from the 5th century BC to the 18th century AD. It is a remarkably accurate record, of seminal value for the history of India and Sri Lanka.

King Buddhadasa reigned between 341 – 370 AD. The Culavamsa recounts how he diagnosed, treated and cured patients from all walks of life. The chronicle devotes several whole sections to the practice and establishment of medicine and documents at least seven detailed case studies. This suggests that the physician had a very special place in this society and that his story was as important as the great warriors, builders, saints and the monks who shaped the history of Lanka. Each of these case studies tells us different things. Each concerns a different situation and elicits a deeply and carefully thought out remedy, based on reasoned analysis and evaluation.

In one case, it tells of how a man drinking water swallowed the eggs of a watersnake. The egg gradually grew into a snake. As it grew sucked at the man’s intestines, torturing the victim with pain. The man sought out the king, who questioned him. When he described the pain and related what had happened the king realized that a reptile must have formed inside the man. However as the reptile was lodged deep inside the intestines, the king refrained from cutting it out.

Instead he made the man fast for a week, starving the reptile within him. He then had the patient, bathed and rubbed with oil. This calmed and soothed him and he eventually fell asleep. The king knew that when he was asleep that his mouth would open. He tied a piece of meat to a string and dangled it over his mouth. Lured by the smell and driven by hunger, the watersnake reached for the meat. The king however, held the string fast and drew on it, gradually pulling the reptile out.

Another case concerned a Bhikku or Buddhist priest, the most venerated member of society. The bhikku had gone begging for alms and was given milk which had worms in it. The worms grew and fed on his bowels, causing agonizing pain. The king then asked leading questions. At what meal did the pain arise? What kind of meal was it and what was the nature of the pain? When the bhikku told him that it was a meal that he took with milk, the king recognized the symptoms.

Taking the blood from a horse, he gave it to the monk to drink. He then waited until he had drunk it all. Then he told him that was horse’s blood. The reaction was what he had anticipated. On hearing that he had drunk the blood of a horse, the monk vomited, spitting out the blood. The worms which had caused him such pain, came up with the blood.

Compassion and feeling made up an essential part of the King’s healing skills. There is a deep feeling for life in all its forms. This applied even to the most dangerous animals. Galen had concluded that even dumb animals are not entirely devoid of reason. In Buddhadasa’s most wellknown case, the king cobra, one of Sri Lanka’s most venomous reptiles, becomes a willing patient. As the king passed by, the cobra turned over onto his back to expose his underbelly so that the king could see the tumour growing on it. After observing the growth, the king reasoned with the reptile. Although he understood its pain, he dared not touch it. Understanding the king’s dilemma, the snake stuck his whole neck into anthill so that he could not hurt the king. Whilst the cobra was immobilized, the king slit open his belly, removed the diseased growth and applied a healing remedy.

This episode suggest a high level of surgical skill. It is underlined by another. A young man had drunk water which was full of frog’s eggs. Through his nostrils an egg had penetrated into his skull and evolved into a frog. As the monsoon approached the frog became more and more agitated, causing unbearable headaches. In this case the king appears to have resorted to immediate surgery. Performing a complicated and dangerous operation, he split the skull and removed the frog and then put the parts of the skull back together.

Ancient Indic society was dominated by caste and social taboos. Despite this and ignoring own his royal status, Buddhadasa cut across every social barrier and boundary to serve the suffering. In Indian society the lowest and most menial of tasks were performed by the Caṇḍālas, outcastes who worked as sweepers and scavengers. A Candala woman who had already had seven children, became pregnant for the eighth time. This time however, her unborn child was facing the wrong way in the womb. When Buddhadasa learned that this, he intervened to save the woman’s life. In the ancient world, birth and reproduction were the preserve of women and midwives. Socially this is a unique case. It is also a complex gynecological procedure.

The understanding of the human mind is an integral part of the physician’s craft. More often than not it holds the key to the patient’s condition and his recovery. In ancient times leprosy was a common condition. Lepers were shunned and regarded with horror and leprosy deemed a curse of the Gods.

The king noticed a leper, who upon seeing him, became enraged, striking the ground with his staff. In a previous birth the king had been the leper’s slave, it maddened him to see him riding his elephant and all he wanted to do was to kill him. Learning of this, Buddhadasa set his mind to winning him over. He sent one of his men to befriend the leper and share his anger. Pretending that he too was against the king, he invited the leper to stay at his house and help him destroy his enemy. The leper was bathed, fed and given beautiful clothes and a comfortable bed to sleep. One day, when he had become happy, contented and calm, Buddhadasa’s man served him food and drink, saying, “This is the gift from the king.” At first the leper refused and then refused again. Finally he accepted. Reaching out to the most diseased and most deeply troubled member of his community, the king was able to heal his mind. It is a clear demonstration of the power of empathy, feeling for and feeling with. It is from empathy that re assurance comes. So much of healing is in the mind. If the physician can take the time and make the effort, he has the power to do great good.

All these cases make one point. The physician truly cares and feels for all his patients, no matter who they are or where they are from. In his posthumous work Galen and Galenism (2002) the Spanish historian and Physician, Luis García Ballester (1936-2000) quotes Galen as saying: “In order to diagnose, one must observe and reason.” This is the dictum which King Buddhadasa embodies. He observes closely, listens carefully and questions keenly, making every attempt to form a picture of the condition. It is then he makes his diagnosis and decides on course of action. A demonstration of the power of the mind, sustained thought and inquiry, it is characterized by understanding and feeling.

The Cūlavaṃsa praises King Buddhadasa as a “Mine of Virtue and a Sea of jewels.” This perception is based on the king’s understanding of the human and social aspects of healing, his ability to care and feel. It is probably this tradition which lies at the roots of the well known Sri Lankan saying “If you cannot be a king, become a healer.”

This is the challenge which western science and learning faces in one of the world’s oldest living cultures. This context demands that the physician be conscious of the rhythms of a society, whose needs, values and way of life are often quite distinct from western norms and practices, often very much older. If as an invited guest, I can make one suggestion, it is that Sri Lanka’s physicians begin to study their past. For it is through comparative traditions that we learn deeply about ourselves.

If he is to truly guide as well as “Cure, Relieve And Comfort,” the Physician must also strive be a Philosopher.

He must not only ask the best possible questions, most of all like King Buddhadasa, he must care, be concerned and compassionate. For that he must have time.

TITLE; SINHARAJA/ APRIL 4



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Two centuries tick by on Dockyard clock

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The Belfry Gate of the Trincomalee Naval Dockyard, a national architectural monument, is unknown to many. The once twin-towered belfry is now a single tower with its twin long gone. It has served as loyal timekeeper for sailors in the dockyard for 200 years and continues to do so

by Randima Attygalle

The strategically located natural deep water harbour in Trincomalee has been coveted by traders and colonists since ancient times. The earliest reference to this port of call once known as ‘Gokanna’ is found in Mahavamsa – the great chronicle of Sri Lanka. During the colonial days, Trincomalee or Trinco as it’s commonly called, was occupied by the Portuguese, Dutch, French and the British. The fort which was built by the Portuguese to keep rival sea faring nations at bay was expanded by the Dutch.

The British captured Trincomalee from the Dutch in 1795 during the Napoleonic Wars. Under the Treaty of Amiens of 1802, the Dutch ceded Ceylon to the British. H.A Colgate in his, The Royal Navy and Trincomalee- the history of their connection (The Ceylon Journal of Historical and Social Studies, Volume 1, Issue 1) documents that ‘in the days of sail, Trincomalee owed its importance to the variations of the monsoon, the prevailing winds in the Indian Ocean. A squadron defending India had to lie to the windward of the continent. It also required a safe harbour in which to shelter during the violent weather occasioned by the change of the monsoons in October and to a less extent in April. Only Trincomalee could fulfill these conditions. Thus its use was the key to the defence of India and the inestimably valuable British trade with India and China, which passed through the adjacent seas.’

The British used Trinco as an anchorage for Royal Navy ships in the Indian Ocean and when the steam powered ships were launched, the Royal Navy erected a coaling station to support bases throughout the British empire. Lieutenant Commander (Rtd) Somasiri Devendra, an authority on maritime archaeology, says that the Royal Navy constructed all its dockyard-related buildings along the coastline at the entrance to the port.

“The buildings were completed by 1812 and soon after this, the conclusion of the Napoleonic wars ended the threat to the Royal Navy from the French and the Dutch and the expansion of the dockyard was halted. Trincomalee became a backwater for most of the 19th Century with its major role being that of a coaling station. Coal was stored in bulk on old ships at anchor known as coaling hulks.”

Devendra explains that all buildings within the dockyard premises were accessed through the gates popularly known as Belfry Gates. These with their twin towers were built by the British in 1821. Only one tower remains today. The exact reason for the demolition of the twin and when it was done is not established. It is presumed that one of the towers was demolished when roads were being widened for heavier traffic. “This must have been somewhere between the first and the second World Wars,” says Devendra.

Most of the civilian labour working for the Navy lived outside the dockyard and the bell possibly would have been rung to mark the time of opening and closing of the gate, he said.

“The large house near the dockyard gate known as as Belfry House in which I once lived is now two houses,” he recollects. The belfry gate stands where three roads meet, marked by a traffic light believed to be the first in the country. The lights that still work well were probably needed to manage and ensure the safety of numerous vehicles carrying building material, ammunition, artillery, spare parts, and sailors and soldiers who were busy fortifying the naval dockyard and attending to the needs of ships and craft anchored in the harbour.

“When I got my driving license, there was only one set of traffic lights in Colombo – at the Kollupitiya junction. So the Trinco traffic light is probably the first in the country,” says Devendra. He adds that one of the roads controlled by these lights goes uphill to the Dutch Fort Ostenburg where the Dockyard Signal Station was situated. “It’s a steep road through forest and made of concrete, supposedly the first such road built here.”

Those who served in the Dockyard remember the belfry very well. “Traditionally, when naval officers who long served there are transferred they’re presented a replica of this landmark for display in their homes to remember their time at the dockyard,” says Rear Admiral (Rtd) Niraja Attygalle who had served many years there during his naval career.

“Two hundred years is certainly a long period for a clock to tick giving the accurate time for men in white and men in overalls in workshops as well as for naval civilian workers in the dockyard. Also, the gear mechanism and electrical circuits of the traffic lights still work perfectly.”

The responsibility of maintaining both the belfry clock and traffic lights lie with the technical staff of the dockyard and their work needs to be appreciated, says Attygalle. “Even though the original bell has not rung for years to ensure its conservation, a smaller version has taken over that duty. The quartermaster of today’s Navy Dock, standing in the shadow of the belfry, announces the time by ringing the bell as done onboard on a man-o’-war,” he says.

Although unknown to many, the Naval Dockyard Belfry which marks its bicentennial this year (its exact date of unveiling is unknown) is an iconic landmark. “This unique structure reflecting British architecture during the occupation of the Dockyard by the Royal Navy must be acknowledged for its 200-year history as part and parcel of the Dockyard fraternity,” reflects Deputy Area Commander (East), Rear Admiral Anura Danapala. “Every single Naval Officer and sailor serving today and those who have retired will undoubtedly recall with sentimental pride, the unique service the belfry has rendered over two centuries.”

“The belfy had been the timekeeper for the naval fraternity in the dockyard and may it continue to serve for several more centuries,” says the officer.

(Pic credit: Somasiri Devendra, Niraja Attygalle)

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Subtle make-up to make you glow

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by Zanita Careem

Ramani Fernando, beautician and hairstylist has many experience in the beauty industry ,. juggling homelife while climbing up the corporate ladder. She is a lover of minimalism! on par with international beauticians: She creates signature styles that are one of a kind.You must be a marketeer of yourself in order to establish trust, respect and support amongst your clientele says Ra,ami .

A self possessed ‘beauty icon’ Ramani knows how to sell herself, with her charming demeanor, she offers the total package of beauty and brain.

What is beauty?

To me beauty is an energy, we all possess that comes from the soul and radiates through the skin and face. Beauty is personal but it is also universal. Beauty is everywhere and it inspires us all the time.

Make up is indefinite, it has many possibilities of making someone confident For me it took me sometime to step out of my comfort zone and use different colours on different people, but when I started there was no stopping, it was admired by many clients,Most importantly, when clients pay me compliments I am so happy. Beauty industry is challenging and this challenges honed my artistic skills.

Beauty comes from within and everyone has a way of portraying thier looks by colours. Makeup simply enhance s ‘ an individual’s existing features.

How would you describe your makeup style and what sets you apart from others What are your signature styles as an artist?

I am an individual and as an individual I have own creative styles to suit one’s facial looks and features. Nothing can beat the feeling of making someone feel and look beautiful.

What is your beauty philosophy?

I strongly believes in natural beauty. I believe that behind every face there is individuality, which becomes evident from client to client my style differs widely from others. I apply makeup to suit one facial feature and to fit their personality. My signature style is creating a flawless finish complemented with neutral colours on the eyes. It is simple, clean, sophisticated and elegant.

How do you keep up with all the new trends and styles?

Where do you find your inspiration for your makeup looks?

I always keep in mind to watch on TV international fashion shows and trends In my travels.I am inspired by all things around me

In your opinion. What are common mistakes you see women make on their makeup

?

The most common mistakes are bold dark lines on brows.The lipliner should not be too harsh.

What do make up artists do?

Makeup Artists are professionals with artistic skills and they are experts in the use of colours to enhance the beauty and physical attributes.

How do you get your start in the industry?

After travelling to UK, I saw an opportunity to develop my skills, I started working as a junior stylist in a very popular salons in Harrow.

It was at this point that I discovered the potential in me. I came back to Sri Lanka with many innovative ideas. I soon became a trail blazer in the industry, new techniques and new innovative ideas used in my salon that were not available at the time. became the talk of the town.

What do you love most about makeup?

It’s a passion that I loved . I wanted to make people feel more confident with new styles and colours,

Does everyone look better with make up?

Personally, all women are beautiful with or without makeup. It really depends on the individual and their purpose of why they choose to wear makeup. I agree, makeup can completely change the appearance of a women. However, some people who have more blemishes on their faces, acne or any other skin issues usually benefit more from wearing extra pigmented creams and powders in order to lesson the effects of skin imperfections. A strict beauty regime is a must. A good foundation talks volumes about your beaty and looks

What do brides ask for in the post-covid era?

This entire pandemic has made everyone so cautious. It doesn’t change much for brides. When the bride/family decides to go through with the wedding, nothing changes for the bride. She still wants to look the best, she wants her makeup to last through all her functions, She wants to be free of stress and strains So, when it comes to what they’re asking, they aren’t asking for much or anything different

What are your safety measures?

At the end of the day, it’s about who you book as your artiste and how much about the safety in mind.

Do you offer trial makeup?

YES – I not only offer trial makeup, but I also emphasize it. Irrespective of whether they are busy or travelling or whatever may the reason be, it is important. For the simplest reason that if anything needs to be changed or needs to be figured out, it can be done in due time and not the day of the wedding. The best part about having a trial is you can experiment not only with one but with as many styles as you like and finalize what you like best so you know exactly what is happening and you are stress-free on the day of your wedding. It also gives you the opportunity to bond with your bride so she can trust you to deliver your best work on one of her most important day.

How have things changed for you in these times?

2020 has actually been quite a game-changer because it’s something that nobody had imagined could happen; for the whole world to come to a standstill. Like everyone was living through a fast-paced life and someone just hit the pause button. It has affected a lot of businesses because nobody wants to step out and take a chance or risk their health or that of their loved ones – which is the right thing to do right now as well. I think that is the major change this year.

What advice would you give brides that are planning to get married in 2020-21?

They should match their face mask with their bridal trousseau… ha-ha just kidding but on a serious note, the advice for brides planning to get married this year or in the coming year is that NOT let the pandemic dampen their spirits. It is still their day; they still deserve to look the best and feel the best on their wedding day. So, engage an artist they like but also someone who is high on safety standards.

What are the trends in bridal makeup/hairstyles are in right now?

Fashion, Styles, and Trends are indispensable. They don’t go away. What has been trending is the concept of natural beauty and people understand the meaning of natural beauty and they want to see themselves as more than just makeup and that is also the beauty of it. When you do Airbrush makeup or HD makeup, it’s about accentuating your natural beauty. That is what today’s trends are about. It is basically only playing with natural beauty and highlights and contours. Makeup has never been something that you just go in and do. It is about seeing the face and understanding the structure and then creating a look. You have to understand where exactly a contour stops and how much depth you need to give a face and what parts of the face need highlighting. That, I think is something artists know and a professional will understand and is what is trending right now.

What are brides asking for in the post-covid era?

This entire pandemic has made everyone so cautious. It doesn’t change much for brides. When the bride/family decides to go through with the wedding, nothing changes for the bride. She still wants to look the best, she wants her makeup to last through all her functions, she still wants to be treated like the bride and not have any stress.

At the end of the day, it’s about who you book as your artiste and how much you trust them to know they have your safety in mind.

Do you offer trial makeup?

YES – I not only offer trial makeup, but I also emphasize it. Irrespective of whether they are busy or travelling or whatever may the reason be, it is important. For the simplest reason that if anything needs to be changed or needs to be figured out, it can be done in due time and not the day of the wedding. The best part about having a trial is you can experiment not only with one but with as many styles as you like and finalize what you like best so you know exactly what is happening and you are stress-free on the day of your wedding. It also gives you the opportunity to bond with your bride so she can trust you to deliver your best work on one of her most important day.

How have things changed for you in these times?

2020 has actually been quite a game-changer because it’s something that nobody had imagined could happen; for the whole world to come to a standstill. Like everyone was living through a fast-paced life and someone just hit the pause button. It has affected a lot of businesses because nobody wants to step out and take a chance or risk their health or that of their loved ones – which is the right thing to do right now as well. I think that is the major change this year.

What advice would you give brides that are planning to get married in 2020-21?

They should match their face mask with their bridal trousseau… that is if possible. The advice for brides planning to get married this year or in the coming year is NOT let the pandemic dampen their spirits. It is still your day; they still deserve to look the best and feel the best on their wedding day. So, engage an artiste they like but also someone who is high on safety standards.

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Conserving Horton Plains: What the Science Tells Us

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WNPS Monthly Lecture

by Dr Rohan Pethiyagoda

Pix by Ranjan Josiah

20th May 2021, 6.00 pm, via Zoom

Just about everyone who visits a protected area in Sri Lanka comes away with many ideas of how its management could be improved, and Horton Plains is no exception. Despite its small size, Horton Plains is one of our country’s most unique and priceless biodiversity assets—and sadly it faces graver threats than most other protected areas. Over-visitation, fires, alien species, pest species, illegal mining, forest dieback, population declines, pollution, climate change… the list goes on and on.

While a great deal of research has been done on most of these problems, translating scientific findings into management interventions remains a formidable challenge. In this lecture, Rohan Pethiyagoda explores the threats that confront Horton Plains and discusses how he could respond to these. The solutions he proposes are often provocative, controversial, and perhaps even aggressive—but unless these recommendations are openly discussed among serious-minded conservationists, the decline of this jewel in the crown of Sri Lankan biodiversity is set to continue. The 40-minute lecture will be followed by an extended discussion time so that listeners can ask questions or challenge the solutions he offers.

Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda is a biodiversity scientist who has published widely on Sri Lanka’s fauna and flora. He has published more than 60 research papers, in addition to authoring several books on Sri Lanka’s fauna and flora, through the Wildlife Heritage Trust (WHT), a foundation he endowed in 1991. WHT built up Sri Lanka’s largest specimen collection for research, which was gifted to the National Museum in 2009.

WHT has also helped several outstanding young biodiversity researchers expand their careers by undertaking postgraduate research and some 150 new species were discovered and described through this work. Rohan is also an editor of the journal Zootaxa, has headed several state entities, served as Environment Advisor to the government, and as deputy chair of the Species Survival Commission. He has won wide international recognition for his work, including a Rolex Award.

Conducted successfully over two decades, the Wildlife & Nature Protection Society’s Monthly Lecture series plays an important role in sharing scientific information and knowledge with the public and also acts as a launchpad for conservation initiatives. Please join us online at this month’s WNPS Monthly Lecture, focusing on Horton Plains National Park and what science tells us, about its future.

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

Please sign up here https://forms.gle/GSAjK2S1kPBDWD7h7

 

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