Bio piracy on the rise in Sri Lanka

By Rathindra Kuruwita 

Environmentalists warn of an increase in efforts to steal valuable genetic resources from Sri Lanka. Commenting on the arrest of a group of Slovakians who made an abortive attempt to smuggle out insect samples from Sinharaja forest, environmentalist Sajeewa Chamikara said that bio piracy had been going on in Sri Lanka for decades.

"There are many attempts at synthesizing medicines using compounds made from plants. Considering that Sri Lanka is a biodiversity hotspot we can only expect things to get worse."

Wildlife Conservation Department officials have detected a number of insect and plant specimens in the hotel rooms where the five Slovakians who were arrested while attempting to smuggle out samples of flora and fauna from the Sinharaja Forest range, recently, had stayed.

The officials inspected the rooms under the instructions of Ratnapura Acing Magistrate, Priyanka Gunawarnasuriya. A number of specimens had already been destroyed by the time of the raid and the Wildlife Conservation Department officials suspect the specimens they detected were those some people had failed to destroy. They have commenced investigations to identify the culprits. "It is likely that those who operate the hotel have done so and we are investigating the matter," a Wildlife official told The Island.

The five Slovakians were remanded by Ratnapura Acing Magistrate, Priyanka Gunawarnasuriya. The Magistrate ordered the police to document the live animal samples and release them back into the wild.

Lakshman Rathnaweera, a ranger attached to Kalawana, said that there were parts of a hitherto unidentified animal, among the samples in custody. The Magistrate directed Wildlife officials to send that sample to the Dehiwala Zoo and obtain a report. He ordered that the samples of plants and dead animals be stored in a secure location.

When questioned by the Magistrate, the suspects said that they had arrived with the intention of collecting samples of flora and fauna.

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