Understanding nature with YZA | Sunday Observer

Understanding nature with YZA

The Young Zoologists’ Association (YZA) is based at the Dehiwela Zoo.

YV caught up with its vibrant and dynamic President Mega Ganeshan, who talks about the importance of sustainability and conservation of the environment. It is a hub for youth to come together and share their passion for wildlife.

Explain the brief history of the YZA and its progress since inception?


The YZA, was established in November 1972, by the late Mr. Lyn de Alwis, who was at that time the Director of the National Zoological Gardens, Dehiwela. YZA is a non-government, non-profit, voluntary, youth organisation, which is based at the National Zoological Gardens, Dehiwela. Celebrating 46 years this year YZA’s main focus is conservation through education. The main responsibility of the organisation is to educate the members on wildlife and conservation. To do this, we conduct group studies every Sunday at 2.00 pm.

The groups include; Aquatic, Bird, Butterfly, Flora, Mammals and Reptiles.

Many organisations carry out educational programs, what makes YZA different from others, is that we make sure the members are educated in a practical way and different excursions to the field are taken. In field visits, members are taught how to take a field note, how to behave and what to wear.

Many fauna and flora are identified in the field of work that is taken and observing inhabitant’s behaviour. YZA is the only place that teaches wildlife art and photography for the membership.

As YZA is all about wildlife conservation; two main events are conducted each year. One is the Public Relations & Education Day, which is a program focused on anyone who is interested in wildlife conservation. The program is also focused on educating school students. The other event is the Wildlife Art & Photography exhibition. Here the exhibition displays the talents of the members. It is also an event that brings rare sights of wildlife and flora of the country, which plays a conservation effort in an artistic manner.

YZA is managed by the Central Management Committee and the 5 committees that drive the organisation ahead. The Education Committee is responsible for all the educational activities, including group studies every Sunday.

The Research Committee conducts research work inside the Zoo as well as externally. The Publication Committee is responsible for all the publications published by the organisation, ‘Paniwidaya’, the newsletter is quarterly produced. The Sri Lanka Naturalist, a renowned scientific journal carries many research articles conducted by members and non-members. The Public Relations Committee, is the public face of the organisation. The Environment Action Committee is the committee that fights against environmental issues and conducts media conferences.

Who are its volunteer members and what are their age groups?

To join the YZA, you have to be in the age group 13 to 35. The members consist of students, academics, professionals in different fields and anyone who loves wildlife and has a passion to conserve them. We also encourage youngsters to join our junior section (age 8-12). Its stepping stone for the younger generation to be ahead in conservation.

How often does the YZA meet and what programmes does it engage in?

The YZA meets every Sunday at 2.00 pm and different study groups are conducted. Also during other times, shramadana in the zoo and enrichment programs for the animals are conducted.

Is YZA active in regions outside Colombo? What is your membership process?

Well YZA conducts many programs outside of Colombo. Especially, in National Parks and other areas. But the organisation is not established anywhere else, other than in Dehiwela.

Anyone who is interested in learning wildlife and want to be a part of our conservation efforts can get YZA membership. You will need to come to Dehiwela Zoo on a Sunday and fill the form and pay a membership fee of Rs. 700.00. This is for the General Membership. If you are a school student, with the signature of the principal, the membership will be only Rs. 300.00.

Has YZA partnered with any global conservation agencies or projects?

YZA has partnered the UNDP, Zoo Outreach organisation, Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC), Forest Department (FD), National Zoological Gardens and others during the past 4 decades.

Why is it important to educate the younger generation on wildlife- conservation- sustainability?

Earth is not just for humans. Even though we seem to have intruded on many occasions, wildlife is important for a habitat to thrive. The natural cycles need to work properly in order to have a healthy and a thriving planet. In order to enhance biodiversity that keeps this cycle moving, we need to keep the environment clean and its inhabitants safe. This is why, it is important to give this message to the younger generation so that they become older and they will understand nature’s way and that everything binds with everything else. One person can inspire, but together we can make a huge difference in protecting our environment. It is not just that, but all animals and plants too. It’s important that the next generation is aware of it and they do something about it. They will understand that you do not have to be a conservationist to conserve. You can be an accountant, a business person and still live a sustainable life.

Your contribution to the Zoo?

The National Zoological Garden has always been a part of YZA. As YZA is based at the Zoo in Dehiwela, sharing knowledge with members has become easy. YZA links with the Zoo as the Director being the patron of the organisation. At many events conducted by the Zoo, YZA takes part and contributes in any way possible. YZA also organises shramadana and cleaning programs, habitat construction for animals in the zoo, while conducting enrichment programs for the animals as they are not in their natural habitats.

The pet’s corner in the zoo is a special place as the visitors get to touch and experience wildlife. YZA support is extended to the snake show and the bird show conducted at the Zoo.

The role of YZA in the human- elephant conflict?

As I can remember, YZA always played a part when it comes to supporting activism in regards to wildlife conservation. Many media conferences and articles were published with regard to human-elephant conflict.

How do you use social media to advocate the concerns of YZA?

Social media plays a huge part of getting YZA to the unknown world. YZA uses, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Whatsapp to communicate not just to the members, but also to non-members.