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Going wild!

Aug 22, 2011 2:43:34 PM - www.ft.lk

By Cheranka Mendis
In keeping with the monthly promotion activities in line with ‘Visit Sri Lanka 2011’ year, a host of lectures and awareness programmes on wildlife have been lined up for September.
Identified as the month for nature and wildlife, Sri Lanka Tourism along with Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO) has organised four presentations to be held every Wednesday of the month in September.

Announcing the line-up of events, SLAITO President Nilmin Nanayakkara stated that the presentations would touch on four key aspects of Sri Lankan wildlife, i.e. elephant gathering, bird wave in Sinharaja, leopard sighting and blue whale sighting.
“The first presentation will be on elephant gathering and will be delivered by Srilal Miththapala. Elephant gathering in Sri Lanka which happens during the September-October period has been identified and listed as the sixth wildlife phenomenon by Lonely Planet,” Nanayakkara said. The gathering is said to bring in approximately Rs. 1 billion worth of annual tourism revenue to the country.
This will be followed by a presentation on leopards titled ‘The Leopard’s Island’ on 14 September and will conducted by leading wildlife photographer Chitral Jayatilaka and Riaz Cader. They will talk about leopard sighting in Yala which has been noted as a sanctuary with a high density of leopards.
A presentation titled ‘The Sinharaja Bird Wave’ will be conducted by Prof. Sarath Kotagama on 21 September followed by ‘Best of Blue’ by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne on blue whales.
“It has been noted that the largest and the longest studied bird waves happen in Sinharaja and Sri Lanka is increasingly becoming popular as one of the best spots for whale-watching,” he said. Revenue from whale watching can now top over Rs. 1 million a day during the season which falls between December and mid April.
Following the presentations, a safari focused on elephant gathering in Minneriya will be organised by SLAITO on 30 September at Chaya Village, Minneriya. A stakeholder awareness programme for the likes of Wildlife Department officials, trekkers, safari jeep owners and other service providers will also be held on the same day at Habarana.
“We have also organised a wildlife phototherapy competition which will run throughout the month starting 1 September. It would be a virtual exhibition where participants can upload their images of wildlife to the Sri Lanka Tourism website. A winner will be chosen at the end of the month,” Nanayakkara said. He stated that the competition would be open for both local and foreign tourists alike.