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Two endangered geckos named after Jagath and Samantha

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By Ifham Nizam

Two critically endangered geckos have been named after famous environmental lawyer Dr. Jagath Gunawardena and former Deputy Director of Sri Lanka Customs Samantha Gunasekara, for their major efforts and contributions to biodiversity conservation in Sri Lanka

Both were also recognised for their support, motivation, and encouragement to authors to accomplish their research and career goals.

Gunawardena’s Day Gecko (Cnemaspis gunawardanai) newly discovered species is only found in two localities: Pilikuttuwa and Maligatenna in the Gampaha District. Gunasekara’s Day Gecko (Cnemaspis gunasekarai) only lives in Ritigala Forest, in the Anuradhapura District, which is a wet forest patch on an isolated mountain range in the north central dry zone..

With the discovery of these two new species, the total number of day-gecko species in Sri Lanka reaches 40.

There are 38 species of tiny day-geckos living in Sri Lanka, and most of them are forest dwelling species. All of these species are endemic to the island.

A renowned team of herpetologists led by A.A. Thasun Amarasinghe from the University of Indonesia discovered the two species from Pilikuttuwa Forest – Gampaha and Ritigala Forest – Anuradhapura respectively. Both species are critically endangered and one of them at the brink of extinction, says Thasun Amarasinghe

Dr. Gunawardana’s valuable contributions to popularising environmental law among the general public are highly commendable. Currently he is an advisor to many government institutions such as Central Environmental Authority (CEA), Department of Wildlife Conservation and Department of Forestry etc. Dr. Gunawardana is also a senior member and a former instructor of the Young Zoologists’ Association (YZA) of Sri Lanka.

The new species found from Ritigala named to honour a leading environmental activist, conservationist, and former Deputy Director of Sri Lanka Customs (Government of Sri Lanka), Samantha Gunasekara, for his dedication and contributions to biodiversity conservation in Sri Lanka, as well as his generous friendship and support towards the authors.

His valuable contributions to the Sri Lanka Customs Department in controlling biodiversity trafficking, illegal pet trade, and biopiracy, as well as to popularizing conservation among the general public, are highly commendable. Mr. Gunasekara is also a senior member and a former president of the Young Zoologists’ Association (YZA) of Sri Lanka.

The Research team consist of four leading herpetologists, A.A. Thasun Amarasinghe from University of Indonesia, Suranjan Karunarathna from Nature Explorations & Education Team of Sri Lanka Majintha Madawala from Victorian Herpetological Society of Australia, Anslem de Silva from Amphibia & Reptile Research Organization of Sri Lanka.

“We first got the attention about these new geckos while we were examining specimens at the National Museum of Sri Lanka,’’ says Thasun and Suranjan.

It seems the rupicolous (rock dwelling) species show higher speciation and diversity compared to the arboreal species, probably due to the isolation in and adaptation to isolated rocky habitats scattered in different bioclimatic zones in Sri Lanka, says Thasun. Supporting this hypothesis, among the currently known species of the day-geckos in Sri Lanka, only seven are fully arboreal, and the rest of 33 species are mainly rock-dwelling, adds Thasun.



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MP’s wife, father-in-law among three detained

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Rishad held under PTA to be questioned

16-year-old girl’s death:

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Police investigating the death of 16-year-old Ishalini, the domestic servant at All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen’s Baudhaloka Mawatha residence have arrested Ayesha Shiabdeen, 46, the wife of the former minister.

Police also took into custody Rishad’s father-in-law Mohammed Shiabdeen, 70, and Ponnaiah Pandaram alias Shankar, 64, a resident of Dayagama.

Police Spokesman Senior DIG Ajith Rohana said that Shankar had brought Ilashini from Dayagama to the Baudhaloka Mawatha residence of Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) Vanni District lawmaker late last year.

Having studied the post postmortem report, they were taken into custody in terms of Section 360 C and Section 308 B of the Penal Code that dealt with human trafficking and cruelty to children, the top police officer said. According to him, so far 20 statements had been recorded.

Asked whether MP Bathiudeen, too, had been among the questioned, Senior DIG Rohana said the parliamentarian detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) over 2019 Easter Sunday carnage, too, would be interrogated in that regard.

The ACMC contested the last general election on the SJB ticket. It switched its allegiance to the SJB ahead of 2020 general election after having represented the cabinet in UNP led yahapalana administration. Rishad has also served President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet during his second term.

Having suffered serious burn injuries on July 3 at the MP’s residence and admitted to the National Hospital, Illashini succumbed to her injuries on July 15th. Medical examination revealed that she had been raped over a period of time.

The police spokesman said that they intended to secure court approval to detain the suspects for 72 hours. A Superintendent of Police could obtain such approval on the strength of a B report submitted to the court in respect of offenses on children.

Although, the police indicated earlier in the day they would be produced in Colombo Magistrate court they weren’t brought in.

Meanwhile, the SJB said that interested parties were making a despicable attempt to politicize the incident. The police should be allowed to conduct the investigation without interference, a spokesman for the main Opposition party said.

 

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Women’s organisations in North conduct protests demanding justice for Ilashini

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A section of those engaged in Jaffna protests

 

By Dinasena Ratugamage

Women’s organisations in the North yesterday held a number of demonstrations in Vavuniya, Mannar, Kilinochchi and Jaffna against the death of J. Ilashini, the 16 -year-old girl who died while working at SJB MP Rishad Bathiudeen’s residence.

The protesters urged authorities to ensure that investigations into the death are conducted in a transparent manner. The family of the victim should be compensated and those guilty punished, they said.

Representatives of the organisations said that if justice was not done, they would hold a massive demonstration in Tarapuram, Mannar, which Bathiudeen represents in Parliament.

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Dancer lodges complaint with police over FB post 

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Police headquarters yesterday (23) said that dancer Anusha Damayanthi had lodged a complaint with the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over a Facebook post alleging that she was running a brothel.

Police headquarters said that Damayanthi, while denying the accusation, had also brought to the CID’s notice that a minister was being accused of lambasting the Walana anti-crime strike force for carrying out the raid. Police said that an investigation was underway.

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