Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Fishing cat (Prionailurus viverrinus)

How many cats do you know that like water? Not many I bet. But the spotted Fishing Cat happens to be an exception to the rule. This furry feline is a great swimmer and dives head first into water to grab fish with its mouth. It can also scoop fish out of the water with its paws, and if fish aren’t available it will eat other tasty treats like frogs, crustaceans, snakes and birds.

You can find Fishing Cats living in scattered areas across India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Lao; Myanmar; Nepal; Sri Lanka; Thailand and Viet Nam, in wetland areas including swamps and marshy areas, lakes, reed beds, tidal creeks and mangrove areas.

Fishing cats are an endangered species, and their population is getting smaller. They were once found in Pakistan but are now thought to be extinct there, and in other places they haven’t been seen in a few years. Over 50% of Asia’s wetlands have been destroyed or are under threat from human settlement and unsustainable farming. And as the wetlands have shrunk, so has the spaces for Fishing Cats to live in.

This isn’t the only problem they face – over-fishing by humans has made it harder for the Cats to find food to feed themselves and their young further reducing their chances of survival.

What can you do?

Fishing Cats need wetland habitat to live in. As the wetlands of Asia are slowly disappearing - so are the cats. You can help to preserve Sri Lanka’s wetlands by visiting our protected parks and keeping our wetland areas in unspoiled condition. You wouldn’t throw rubbish on the floor in your house, so don’t throw rubbish on the floor of a Fishing Cat’s home. Remember – when you visit our beautiful and natural lands, “take only photos and leave only footprints”.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Asia Hewapathirana

Friday, November 20, 2009

Brain coral (Platygyra daedalea)

Ever seen a real live brain? Well now you can – just grab a snorkel and dive into one of Sri Lanka’s colourful coral reefs.

Brain corals might have got their name because of the way they look, but they are also clever. Like other corals, they have microscopic algae called zooxanthellae living in their tissues, so small humans can’t see them. The algae make energy through photosynthesis from the sun. Most of this energy is transferred over to the coral – we could say it is the ultimate brain food! In return, the coral protects and shelters the algae. Together they make a great team.

Sri Lanka’s corals are in danger from lots of different threats – here are some of main ones:

Sometimes fishermen use dynamite to catch fish – but dynamite doesn’t just kill fish, it also destroys the reefs. Overfishing and pollution also damages coral.

Snorkelling and diving is a great way to see and learn about our sea life, but you have to be careful. Stepping on a reef can break coral that might have taken more than 50 years to grow! This can be a big problem in areas with lots of tourists.

But the biggest risk to coral is climate change. As the temperature of the world’s oceans change, this causes stress to the coral and it loses its algae. When this happens it is called ‘coral bleaching’ because the coral loses its colour – and in the end the coral usually dies.

What can you do?

1. If you go snorkelling, be careful not to damage the reefs you are exploring

2. Help keep our coastlines free from pollution by always throwing your rubbish into proper bins

3. Last month we looked at some small things you can do to help combat climate change – can you remember what they were? If not, have a look at last months blog post

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tennent's leaf-nosed lizard (Ceratophora tennentii)

It’s not difficult to see why this lizard is one of the 5 species in Sri Lanka commonly known as ‘horn-nosed lizards’. Each of the 5 species has a different shaped horn − and I bet you can tell how the leaf-nosed lizard got his name. Not only is the end of his nose flat, but also takes the shape of a leaf!

Adult lizards have a very special talent; they can change their colour to match their surroundings. Can you guess why this is important? Yep – you got it. They change colour to camouflage themselves so predators can’t see them.

Tennent’s leaf-nosed lizard can only be found in the Knuckles mountains (which are tropical montane cloud forests). Like many species in Sri Lanka’s they are under threat from habitat loss. In Knuckles especially, natural forest has been cut down to make way for cardamom plantations. The tallest trees have been left to give shade, but the undergrowth has been cleared to grow spices. But there is hope! These reptiles have been found living in cardamom plantations, which means they can adjust to some changes in habitat.

What can you do?

1.Buy organic
Like other animals, the lizards suffer from chemicals used in farming. By buying organic food which is grown without the use of chemicals, you are supporting farmers who are protecting wildlife

2.Conserve Carbon
The Knuckles Forest is under threat from climate change. As global warming takes effect, large areas of the forest are dying. You can help fight against climate change by conserving energy that is produced from fossil fuels (such as coal, gas and oil). So turn off lights when you leave a room, don’t leave the TV on standby, walk, cycle or take the bus to school instead of driving, and unplug your phone when it is fully charged.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Written by Rainforest Rescue International
Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus)

Have a close look at the Loris picture. What expression does he have? Surprise? Curiosity? Suspicion? Or maybe it is worried. With only around 1,500 Slender Loris’s left in Sri Lanka, it certainly has a reason to be a bit scared.

The Slender Loris can only be found in Sri Lanka's forests. They are nocturnal – sleeping in branches or hollow trees in the day and becoming active at night. They climb quietly through the forest looking for food, using branches and vines to help them travel. Their large eyes give them excellent night vision, and along with a keen sense of smell they find insects to eat, or as an especially delicious meal, lizards and geckos. They are named after their long, slender arms and legs, and have soft, thick grey or reddish fur.

Lorises are an endangered species. Loss of forest cover has greatly limited the habitat in which they can live. Unlike other species, they cannot adapt to living in different places such as home gardens. Lorises can also be the victim of road kill and are sometimes hunted for the pet trade. Sri Lanka does have national parks that protect the Lorises, and it is here you can still see some.

What can you do?

1. Plant a forest!
By supporting projects to restore forest cover you are creating new habitat for the Slender Loris to live in.

2. Drive carefully
If you are on a car journey at night, ask the driver to go slowly and carefully in forest areas so you don’t accidentally hit a Loris, or other animal that might have strayed onto the road.

3. Support our National Parks
By supporting the national parks in Sri Lanka that protect Loris populations, through visits or conservation works (what about organising a forest clean up?), you can help to protect Lorises habitat.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ceylon Rose Butterfly (Atrophaneura jophon jophon)

If the Ceylon Rose butterfly could speak, it would be telling us to tread carefully through the jungle. It’s an important message, because this butterfly only makes its home in Sri Lanka’s undisturbed rainforests. If we can find it, we know the forest around is unspoiled and rich with natural treasures. But the Ceylon Rose is very sensitive. If the forest is disturbed it cannot live there – so it is really important we protect the last few patches of primary rainforest. An animal like this is called an ‘indicator species’ – its presence indicates the forest is in pristine condition, and its absence is a warning that bad environmental changes are afoot.

The Ceylon Rose is very rare because there are not many areas of undisturbed rainforest where it can live. Sinharaja is one place you can still catch a glimpse, in early morning or late afternoon, when the sun is low in the sky. Look carefully in clearings, by footpaths and roads, where they flit between flowers looking for nectar. They have beautiful wings shaped like a swallowtail, about the size of a saucer when fully open. Look carefully and you can see the wings are tipped with red splashes.

What can you do to help?
The Ceylon Rose’s main threat is habitat loss. Living in Sinharaja Forest Reserve gives it some protection from the government and the international network of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves. But there are still things you can do to help.

1. Find out what other indicator species live in Sinharaja, visit the forest, and see if you can spot them.

2. If you do see one in the wild, don’t catch it. It’s illegal and will reduce numbers of this rare animal even further.

3. Research other endangered butterflies in Sri Lanka and make a butterfly map for your classroom

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Barred danio (Devario pathirana)

These colourful fish with dark-blue stripes can be found in Sri Lanka’s freshwater pebbly streams and ponds, in lowland tropical rainforest. They live in groups of 3-5, swim slowly near the surface and eat insects and larvae.

Like many of Sri Lanka’s ornamental fish, they are at risk from pollution (chemicals washed into water) and illegal collection for sale to aquarium owners. They are Critically Endangered which means they have a high risk of becoming extinct in the wild in the near future. But if left alone they can double their numbers in only 15 months – which means if we look after the remaining few fish carefully – it won’t take too long before they are off the endangered list.

What can you do to help?

1. Don’t catch ornamental fish from the wild
It’s illegal, and taking fish from their natural home, especially when there are not many left, stops them from breeding and increasing their numbers. If you see someone catching fish illegally, tell a responsible adult and you can inform the police together.

2. Don’t release aquarium fish into the wild.
They could be sick and spread disease – infecting other, healthy fish.

3. Check before you buy
It is illegal to buy and sell many of Sri Lanka’s ornamental fish because they are threatened. If you are going to buy fish, check first to make sure they are not a protected species.

4. Keep streams clean
It’s important to not pollute rivers with rubbish or chemicals from factories, farming and homes. Keep your local streams clean for fish to live and breathe in.

» Find out how else you can help to protect Sri Lanka's endangered species

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana

Monday, June 29, 2009

Karunaratne's narrow-mouthed frog (Microhyla karunaratnei)

Ever heard of a rice frog? Meet Karunaratne's narrow-mouthed frog. This group of frogs got their name from their habit of laying eggs in shallow pools, made from activities like rice farming. Because the puddles don’t last a long time, rice frogs turn from tadpoles into frogs in only a few weeks.

They live in shaded areas of tropical moist forests and love wet leaves. You can find them in Sinharaja usually in tangled roots and grass stems surrounding small water pools.

Karunaratne’s story is similar to many of Sri Lanka’s amphibians. It is a Critically Endangered and rare species. One of their biggest threats is poisoning from pollution by chemicals used in farming. They also suffer from habitat loss, when the forests they live in are cut down. But amazingly, these little critters have taken advantage of areas that have been deforested to find new homes, nesting in gem pits made through illegal mining activities.

What can you do to help save Sri Lanka’s amphibians?

1.Look after your environment
Frogs are very sensitive to pollution and chemicals. Help protect their homes by looking after your local environment, recycling, using less plastic and polythene, properly disposing of rubbish and cleaning areas frogs live in.

2.Start an amphibian group
Find out more about the frogs in your area and how you can help conserve them. Learn how to identify them by how they look and by their calls. Raise awareness in your community about how to protect them. Why not design a poster, write an article for your school paper or have a frog day at school?

3.Celebrate Save The Frogs Day. Get involved at

Illustration by Asia Hewatathirana

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Purple-faced leaf monkey (Trachypithecus vetulus)

Bark whoop whoop snort. Bark whoop whoop snort.

Welcome to the Purple-faced leaf monkeys’ great call.

With a great show of bounding through trees and spectacular leaps of up to 50 feet, you can often hear the male monkeys shouting loudly in the morning.

If you are lucky, you will come across a brownish-black face, with a bushy grey beard, peeking through the leaves of a tree. They live in groups of between 3 and 8 in tree tops, and love eating new leaves, fruits and seeds.

Endangered status

The purple-faced leaf monkey is an endangered animal in Sri Lanka - and one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world.

The forest areas where monkeys live in Southern Sri Lanka have been cut down over the past 150 years to make room for plantations, farms and villages. The monkeys are also sadly seen as pests, who eat fruit and vegetables from gardens, jump on roofs or pull down cables. But what people don’t realise is because the forests have shrunk, the monkeys don’t have anywhere else to go.

What can you do to help?

1. Spread the word! Many people don’t realise the purple-faced leaf monkey is endangered. By explaining there aren’t many left, and encouraging people to help protect monkeys rather than treat them like a nuisance, you can help prevent further extinctions.

2. Protect habitats. Monkeys rely on tree canopies and fruits to survive. By helping to protect the forests they live in, and planting new trees, you can create safe habitats for the monkey’s to live.

Illustration by Aisa Hewatathirana