ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 04, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 36

He was one with the wilds and colleagues

~ Lyn de Alwis

Eminent conservationist, intellectual, excellent administrator and lover of music, Lyn de Alwis passed away on November 22, 2006. The demise of Lyn de Alwis, who rendered a great service to both the Zoological Gardens and the Wildlife Service in Sri Lanka and in foreign lands is a loss to the nation and the world.

His love of the wilderness, the natural environment was second nature to him from his younger days. His university recess was spent at Wilpattu national park, living and accompanying the wildlife staff on their daily beat patrols.

After graduating he joined the Dehiwala Zoological Gardens as an understudy to the Director Aubrey Weiman and succeeded him on his retirement, which post he held throughout his distinguished service.

He made a tremendous contribution in the public service and set a standard of working independent of any influences. Lyn de Alwis was appointed Director of the Department of Wild Life Conservation (DWLC) on two occasions in addition to his duties at the Zoo and I had the privilege of working under his guidance.

He brought to bear his expertise, knowledge, honesty and dedication in such a convincing manner that endeared him to the entire rank and file in the DWLC, many an N.G.O. and even politicians.

His style of work was marked with team spirit and getting an indepthstudy of each task. He emphasized the value of resource management and research as a relevant aspect of the national parks concept. He encouraged and invited students and research workers of the Colombo, Peradeniya and Aberdeen Universities and the Smithsonian Institute, to work in collaboration with the DWLC staff at the national parks. On the basis of the data and findings thorough research and general observations, guidelines were formulated for the optimum management and protection of the National parks and wildlife matters in the country.

The benefits and achievements accrued both to the nation and the DWLC field staff, through Lyn de Alwis’s farsighted policies are too numerous to detail here.

He had a hand in the creation of the Uda-Walawe national park and the resettlement of over 5000 encroachers, and the creation of national parks within the Accelerated Mahaweli Scheme (AMP) and the “Saving of the Wasgamuwa strict natural reserve” from being utilized for agricultural purposes under the AMP.

He granted the opportunity to his field staff to pursue and improve their knowledge by sending them abroad to participate at seminars, workshops and on scholarships in Wildlife Management.

Lyn de Alwis was also the Chairman of the South Asian Elephant Group making a concerted effort for the ‘Save the Elephant Campaign’ creating elephant control teams and ‘link forests’ for the benefit of elephant movement and their survival.

His preference for camping in the wilds, when on inspection and circuit rather than staying in one of the many circuit bungalows was an inspiration to the field staff. When he did so his generosity was beyond limits, providing the staff staying with him with necessary wants.

He had the ideal temperament, personality and qualities of leadership, and was the typical outdoorsman well suited to carry out his task as Director DWLC. He knew everyone working in the Department by name and supported them during difficulties or otherwise.

By Childers Jayawardhana

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.