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"Kaballeva" in Kandy: Rare photos of a Sri Lankan armadillo

Sep 19, 2010 8:59:54 PM- transcurrents.com

by Dushy Ranetunge

Our sojourn at the hill club was rudely interrupted this summer with a telephone call from an excited Navaratna. They don’t like mobile phones at the Hill Club, which disturb the tranquillity of the place. I quickly grabbed my vibrating phone and ran to the outside corridor to answer the call.

click on pics for larger images




Navaratna, our village handyman, has a reputation of having a superman like ability to climb trees and then nimbly move from branch to branch almost monkey like and to carry out any tasks, which the others give up saying its difficult. I don’t know anyone in Sri Lanka who has quite the abilities that he has, but unfortunately his personality is such that he is eternally getting into confrontations with villagers and ending up in that "people friendly" police station.

Navaratna in his usual excited voice informed me that he had caught a "kaballeava". I use "v" here instead of the "w" because there is no "w" sound in the Sinhala language, but that’s another story.


Selva watching the animal

I didn’t know what a "kaballeava" was, but informed Navaratna that I will be in Kandy the following day to view his latest adventure.

The following day, we saw a "kaballeava" for the first time in our lives. It was a Sri Lankan armadillo like animal, clearly an ant/insect eater, which has the ability to do some serious digging going by his armoured claws. Other than our family, our guests Maninda Wickremasinghe and his son Abijith, were also fortunate to see the animal.

I immediately photographed it and had it released in our land and it wandered into the undergrowth, curled up and went to sleep after eating some ants and insects found in forage and pasture. He was gone the following day.


Lal, carrying the Kandyan Kaballeava

We did not realize the importance of what we had photographed, other than our friend Fuzz, getting all hot and bothered about our Kandyan "kaballeava" I put up on Facebook.

On our return to London we met up with the naturalist, Gehan De Silva Wijeratne at the Winchmore Hill village for a pub dinner last Wednesday. He lives locally, and the "King’s Arms" does a great fish and chips on a square wooden plate.

He informed me that I might have been one of the first people in Sri Lanka to photograph a "kaballeava" as it is rarely spotted. He said that, had I informed him about the find, a whole heap of people would have driven up from Colombo to photograph the Kandyan "kaballeava". The prospect of our quite hideaway in the hills being invaded by a whole heap of naturalists from Colombo was indeed a daunting thought.

So for those who missed it, I am publishing the pictures. The pictures are free of copyright and they may be used for any purpose.