First review since 1930s of Lanka’s mammals launched

By Ifham Nizam

Sri Lanka would have lost all specimens, particularly of mammals, if stored in the museums here. However, due to the storage of species in British Natural History Museum, Stockholm Museum in Sweden, Paris Museum and in some eastern European countries, researchers, both national and internationally, could bank on the most important specimen of fauna and flora.

Those remarks were made by world renowned biodiversity authority Dr. Rohan Pethiyagoda, at the launch of the book, `The Mammals of Sri Lanka’, last Friday evening at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute in Colombo.

Pethiyagoda, an engineer cum scientist, speaking on the topic `Writing concerning the mammals of Sri Lanka- Short History’ gave a detailed account of the mammalian species here in Sri Lanka, how, when and who started drawings and writings of the country’s fauna and flora species.

He said Sri Lanka was home to a staggering 125 Mammalian species.

Much had been written about the big game animals and primates. However, after W. W. A. Philips’ review of Sri Lanka’s mammals in the 1930s, no other comprehensive review was undertaken, he said.

The book, weighing nearly three kilos and consisting of 1,012 pages, was authored by Asoka Yapa, a Zoologist by training and a communication specialist by profession. It has been enhanced by Gamini Ratnavira’s exquisite illustrations.

It also contains many photos of mammals taken in the field by seasoned photographers, Vimukti Weeratunga, Nadika Hapuarachchie and Dr. Janaka Gallangoda.

The book has several unique features. For the first time it carries colour illustrations of almost all of Sri Lanka’s mammal species.

Yapa, who has been based in Canada since the early seventies said that the text of the book was the painstaking effort of 30 months. There were thousands of scientific publications to review.

Chief of the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka, Prof. Sarath Kotagama said that each taxonomic order of mammals in Sri Lanka had been introduced in their evolutionary, taxonomic, and ecological context.

Family descriptions follow, after which comes a species by species account that covers morphology, behaviour, ecology, diet, reproduction, distribution within Sri Lanka, and conservation status and concerns. Where there are significant differences among subspecies within the island, these are described and illustrated.

The book is in full colour. It is printed and bound in Sri Lanka with ecologically produced papers and ink. It was Published by the Field Ornithology Group (FOGSL) of the Department of Zoology, University of Colombo.

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