Kanneliya rain forest threatened by mystery disease
Rare bandura plant found in Kanneliya Rain Forest
Kanneliya Rain Forest in the Galle district, a rich biodiversity
hotspot known world over, is threatened with a mystery disease.
The disease that resembles the 'Rust' that completely destroyed
coffee cultivations 150 years ago, covers the leaves of the affected
plants with a brick red coating, blocking its food production process
that may lead the plants to wither.
"It is spreading at an alarming rate in and around the forest
reserve," the forest officers and the residents lamented adding that the
authorities don't seem to have realized the danger this disease could
pose its rich vegetation, diverse to that of even 'Sinharaja', according
to experts, since no action has been taken so far to identify the
problem let alone find a resistant to it.
"The officials in Colombo were alerted a long time back but no one
showed up as yet," a jungle trekker working for the Forest Department as
a guide to visitors said.
This disease, has not spared the domestics such as coconut, arecanut,
rambutan and ornamental plants in home gardens in the surrounding
The affected plants appear as if the leaves have been poured red
paint on them. The disease seem to have affected the bottom parts of the
trees in the forest as leaves on the top part still retain their
ordinary green colour.
"It has not destroyed the plants completely so far, but we are
disturbed at the rate it is spreading and by the fact that it contracts
to anything within its path," a concerned villager whose known by nom de
guerre Patti Aiya said.
Inside the forest reserve, from creepers like Weniwel to tall 'Hora'
trees bared its red leaves and the disease seem to have already engulfed
large areas of the unique forest.
Some of the Kanneliya residents voiced that the disease could have
contracted from the oil palm cultivations that borders the forest
reserve. Large patches of trees in these cultivations had brick red
leaves but without a proper study, what caused the disease will remain a
Other than world heritage site Sinharaja, Kanneliya is the last large
remaining rain forest in the country and it is regarded as one of the
most biologically diverse areas in Sri Lanka as well the world. It
shelters 220 species of animals, out of which 41 are endemic.
Of the 26 endemic birds, 20 varieties can be seen in this terrain
including several species that are listed endangered. The area boasts of
234 woody plants out of which 52 percent are endemic. Moreover, 27
floral species here are listed vulnerable and 45 are in the rare plants
category. For its unique ecosystem, the Forest complex was designated as
a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2004.