Sinharaja: From a timber reserve to a biological treasure trove | Sunday Observer

Sinharaja: From a timber reserve to a biological treasure trove

The ‘infamous mechanized logging project of Sinharaja’ is now in the well-documented annals of history. The role of the environmentally conscious public in discontinuing this ill-advised project is hailed as a major success of politico-environmental campaigns of the day.

It is heartening to note that the momentum generated from resisting this abominable Sinharaja fiasco is sustained even to date, though with varying degrees of success.

The conservation scientists who made an entry to this scene of ‘saving, studying and wisely using’ the elements of the rich repository of biological wealth have over the years unearthed some of the hidden treasures of global significance underpinning the conservation value of Sinharaja and its surrounding relic forests of South West Sri Lanka.

These rainforests of SW Sri Lanka is an outstanding region to study the process of biological evolution in this era of molecular biology.

However, on the downside, the threats to the survival of Sinharaja and other rainforests of SW Sri Lanka are continuously raising their ugly heads, suggesting the need for constant vigilance on the part of the environmentally responsible citizenry and conservation scientists alike, to conserve this biological treasure trove that continues to provision the ecosystem services for the well-being of humans and other biota.

Profs Savitri and Nimal Gunatilleke, retired professors in Botany, University of Peradeniya have been conducting long-term biological and ecological research in Sinharaja, and several other forests in Sri Lanka over several decades. In recognition of their research endeavours, they were awarded UNESCO’s Sultan Quaboos Prize for Environmental Preservation in 1997. Prof. Savitri Gunatilleke has been selected as an honorary Fellow of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation in 2016.

It is the highest award given by the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation in recognition of long and distinguished service to tropical biology. Prof. Nimal Gunatilleke holds a titular award of Vidya Nidhi (Science and Technology, 2005) awarded by the President of Sri Lanka.

They are both Fellows of the National Academy of Sciences of Sri Lanka.