It’s impossible to be a conservationist in Sri Lanka without a two-step process

(This guest post originally appeared at the author’s blog) Today I attended a highly informative session on “Preparing for Lives Lost to Extreme Environments” presented by Dambitsingdehu Dlamini, Senior VP, Institute for Conservation Science…

It’s impossible to be a conservationist in Sri Lanka without a two-step process

(This guest post originally appeared at the author’s blog)

Today I attended a highly informative session on “Preparing for Lives Lost to Extreme Environments” presented by Dambitsingdehu Dlamini, Senior VP, Institute for Conservation Science of Sri Lanka. The discussion was a follow up to the rather warm reception that Sri Lanka has received from scientists and wildlife enthusiasts around the world in recent months for their campaign to end illegal poaching and deforestation.

The question from a panelist was posed: “Why not a ‘Bonn Agenda’ for the Conservation of Living Worlds in Sri Lanka”? The panelists included Dr. Nisitha Kumari, a Durban-based conservationist, Dr. Dilip Balasuriya, newly appointed Director of the Colombo South Conservation Area and Sirima Nishantha, former Deputy Director of the Department of the Environment. What struck me most about the panel was not the following: nor was it the varied challenges they spoke of that faced them in maintaining sustainable environmental management of the country’s resources in the years ahead.

My remarks were that this discussion was meant as a solution to a community raising concern about the status of their tiger population. Today, I am a little more skeptical.

From a conservationist’s point of view, taking a long view of environmental change, a reversal in deforestation may be desirable; but, as two-time champion of the least-known leopard in Sri Lanka Dr. Dilip Balasuriya argued, none of the roads that have run through the landscapes from other seasons have been constructed for the residents of Kandy, Matale and Kelaniya towns. Every “green” project was and is funded by foreign donors and has to be kept alive.

Thus, we have a situation where a built-up, already degraded landscape is fenced and cleared by clearing trees and any other potential cover, mainly through the clearing of undergrowth. Another large means of accomplishing this is increased logging. Leopards are not frequent companions with humans but there are reports of losing a couple of leopards to human use of the forest. If the hunt is not restricted to the tiger, what do the local communities see as their daily hunting opportunities? Can the ecosystem be safe and sustainable for this population?

I did not find any other recommendations that called for replacing the current model of environmental management, which includes unsustainable logging. I do hope that the current efforts taken by some national and local government authorities will lead to many years of sustainable preservation of the species in Sri Lanka.

The battle for Sri Lanka’s tigers is not really a battle, but rather a strategy. The species will be saved. My best guess is that this population is stable and that the remainder of the population will recover by a few more years.

This post was originally published on Friedl Dillano’s blog, The American Monk.

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