Dilmah Conservation shifted its focus from the more colourful forms of life and ignited the conversation on the less discussed charisma of bats, as Dilmah Founder, Merrill J Fernando released its latest publication, ‘A Field Guide to the Bats of Sri Lanka’ authored by Prof. Wipula Yapa on November 27 at the Home of Dilmah in Peliyagoda.

The publication, the 13th addition to Dilmah Conservation’s Field Guides series, is the sole guide to all the 30 species of bats known to inhabit the Sri Lankan landscape. Teeming with a multitude of strikingly detailed photographs, some of which were photographed for the first time, the book lends a panoramic view of these unique animals and their extraordinary abilities which set them apart from other mammals.

Exhibiting an astonishing species diversity that is surpassed only by rodents, bats constitute the second largest group of mammals. In Sri Lanka, although these mammals contribute to a third of the island’s mammalian fauna, a decreasing trend has been observed in their populations, with nearly seven species being listed as nationally threatened.

The economic and ecological importance of bats (although acknowledged by science) is yet to make a deep impression on the public consciousness. These flying mammals which sweep the night sky in tremendous numbers provide vital ecosystem services as agents of reforestation and pest control.

Often thought as harbingers of ill omen and bad luck, these nocturnal creatures have been side-lined for long as troublesome pests. However, it is estimated that 450 economically significant plant species, 100 of which are edible, depend on bats for pollination and seed dispersal. A classic example is that of the tropical fruit, Durian, which generates 0 million annually are pollinated by fruit bats.

A Field Guide to Bats of Sri Lanka is the culmination of three decades of field research and study by the author, Professor Wipula Yapa, a leading Chiropterologist, heading the Zoology Department at the University of Colombo. Speaking of the threat to these mammals, he says, "The biggest threat to bats is from humans. Humans often harm bats out of ignorance and without realizing how important they are to our well-being. Bats are beneficial to us and support our survival in many ways. The best way to protect them is to make the public aware of the valuable services they provide."

Dilmah Conservation, through the publication of this book, hopes to alleviate the sceptic and superstitious beliefs surroundings these night creatures, and stir the interest on these ‘feared’ creatures among the younger generation and inspire them towards the conservation of these critically important of animals.

Dilmah founder, Merrill J Fernando, shares his experiences from his childhood in Palansena when fruit bats would leave behind a litter of half-eaten fruits while he adds, " with many years having passed since then and the number of trees cut to accommodate the ever-growing human population greatly increasing, sightings of these ‘flying mammals’ in home gardens have now lessened. I sincerely hope that this publication will help the younger generation to have a better understanding of the importance of this less well-understood species and help in their conservation."

The Field Guide to the Bats of Sri Lanka, priced at LKR 350, takes forward Dilmah Conservation’s commitment towards making scientific knowledge available to a larger audience, allowing the younger generation and scientists of tomorrow to engage with nature in a more meaningful manner. The book is available at the Dilmah t-Lounges on Chatham St. and Independence Arcade and the Dilmah Tea Boutique at Crestcat.

DILMAH CONSERVATION PUBLICATIONS

The list of past publications include:

  1. ‘An Introduction to Common Spiders of Sri Lanka’ equips readers with informative descriptions on identifying common spiders of Sri Lanka while underlying the importance of these often overlooked and irrationally feared species.
  2. ‘Common Butterflies of Sri Lanka’ shows the ecological significance of these radiant species and provides an identification guide featuring 100 species of butterflies found in Sri Lanka, along with information on the plants that attract specific butterfly species.
  3. ‘Recognizing Deadly Venomous Snakes from Harmless Snakes of Sri Lanka’ provides a different outlook on these misunderstood and again, irrationally feared species, teaching readers of their various adaptations while providing a method of identifying different species and separating harmless species from venomous ones.
  4. ‘Fascinating Lichens of Sri Lanka’ gives these neglected species the spotlight they deserve, emphasizing their incredible adaptations and features as well as ecological significance, while providing an identification guide of more than 100 species found in Sri Lanka.
  5. ‘A Guide to Eco-Friendly Home Gardening’ aims to encourage readers to practice proven organic home gardening methods to not only make their own contributions to safeguarding the environment, but also to govern a healthier lifestyle.
  6. ‘A Pictorial Guide to Uda Walawe National Park’ provides both visitors and non-visitors alike with a comprehensive overview of the Uda Walawe National Park of Sri Lanka, its various habitats and ecosystems, and the species that reside within it. Dilmah Conservation conducts several projects involving the revered park, including the construction of an elephant information center, which gives visitors a complete overview of the biology, anatomy, history, cultural significance and conservation of Sri Lankan elephants.
  7. ‘Common Forest Trees of Sri Lanka’ is Dilmah Conservation’s latest publication. It provides an ample and detailed look into the forest habitats of Sri Lanka and provides an overview on more than 120 species of trees found in Sri Lanka. The publication mainly seeks to emphasize the crucial role trees play in our survival, the survival of our livelihoods and our economy and the survival of every species with which we share this world.
  8. ‘Our Biological Heritage’ is a Sinhala publication aimed at Sri Lankan youth, which provides easy information on the abundantly diverse biological landscapes found within Sri Lanka.
  9. ‘Traditional Communities of Sri Lanka: The Ahikuntaka’ gives a detailed overview of this colorful community, including an outline of the contributions made by Dilmah Conservation to empower and improve their livelihoods.
  10. ‘Indigenous Communities of Sri Lanka: The Veddahs’, provides an outline of the rich history, culture and society of Sri Lanka’s indigenous peoples with the aim of raising awareness and aiding in cultural preservation.
  11. ‘Hela Batha Asiriya (The Great Sri Lankan Agricultural Tradition)’ details the many unique aspects of Sri Lanka’s rich agricultural history, which was practiced more than 2500 years ago. The publication aims to highlight the sustainable and organic agricultural methods practiced in the immediate past and by the ancestors of Sri Lanka.
  12. A Field Guide to Dragonflies and Damselflies of Sri Lanka offers a window into the kaleidoscopic world of 105 species of dragonflies and damselflies inhabiting the island through brilliantly coloured images and detailed descriptions, encouraging one to appreciate the species diversity and their crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance.

Please click here to read the original article published in The Island

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