BBC spotlight on Lankan wildlife
By Sanath Weerasuriya
Sri Lanka's wildlife will be the main attraction of the October 2004 issue of the BBC Wildlife Magazine. This is seen as a boost for Sri Lanka tourism and especially in making the island one of the top wildlife destinations in the world.

James Fair, a wildlife journalist attached to the BBC is on a tour of the Sri Lankan wildlife parks and his experiences will be published in the October issue of the magazine in a special 24-page supplement which will focus mainly on the country's endangered species.

A Wildlife Special on Sri Lanka will also be telecast on Discovery Channel and BBC TV in October. James Fair was at Minneriya National Park last week and had a nearly three and a half- hour taste of 'elephant adventure' with charging elephants and a rare view of two adult elephants engaged in a fight, probably over a female just a few yards away from his jeep.

Gehan de Silva Wijeratne of Jetwing Eco, who is accompanying Fair and the BBC team, along with Ravi Samarasinghe, says Sri Lanka has proved wrong the standard belief that small islands don't have big animals.

"In most small islands one does not find big cats, bears and definitely not elephants. But Sri Lanka is different and this edge will certainly give it an upper hand in tourism," said Gehan. James Fair endorsed his view at a news conference at Habarana Village. "I think this is an extraordinary situation and that's why we are keen on promoting Sri Lanka," said Fair.

He will also visit the national parks of Yala, Uda Walawe, Wilpattu, Wasgomuwa, Handapangala and other places of interest. SriLankan Airlines is the main sponsor of the BBC Wildlife Magazine's visit to Sri Lanka and is taking the initiative to promote wildlife in Sri Lanka while building awareness on endangered species.

"Sri Lanka is home to many endangered species especially animals like the sloth bear, elephants and leopards. SriLankan Airlines is spending over USD 40,000 to feature this supplement in the BBC Wildlife Magazine and is also establishing a fund, the proceeds of which would be towards wildlife conservation and research in Sri Lanka," said Priya Epitawala, Advertising Manager.

“The BBC Wildlife supplement while focusing on wildlife will also provide an opportunity for readers to contribute to the charitable arm of SriLankan Airlines, SriLankan Cares which will channel this money to wildlife conservation projects in the country,” she explained

SriLankan Airlines have been working with many research specialists and wildlife enthusiasts including Eric Wikramanayake, Rukshan Jayawardena and Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando.

The airline has also been working with the 'Centre for Conservation and Research', an organization managed by SriLankan conservationists who are recognized worldwide and work with organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Smithsonian Institute as well as respected names in the commercial arena.

Their current projects include the study of the social behaviour of elephants in order to solve the ongoing human elephant conflict and teaching rural communities how they could actually benefit from having elephants in their surroundings.

SriLankan Airlines have also put the BBC in touch with people involved in the study and conservation of leopards and birds.

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