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Malaka Rodrigo

Colombo, Sri Lanka
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About Malaka
Malaka Rodrigo is a journalist based in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
Portfolio

Explosives smuggled from India are facilitating blast fishing in Sri Lanka

12 Apr 2024  |  scroll.in
Blast fishing, using explosives to catch fish, is threatening marine life and tourism in Sri Lanka's Pigeon Island National Park. The practice damages coral reefs and could harm tourists, with explosives like TNT, C4, and gelignite being used. Despite efforts by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Sri Lankan Navy to curb the practice, challenges persist due to the economic crisis and fuel shortages. The Navy is also preoccupied with preventing migration to India. Local fishers in Mannar are primarily responsible for blast fishing, driven by easy access to explosives rather than poverty. A global review indicates that blast fishers tend to be wealthier than traditional fishers.

Record seizures mark Sri Lanka’s rise as a smuggling hub for star tortoises

04 Apr 2024  |  news.mongabay.com
Sri Lanka is emerging as a significant hub for the smuggling of star tortoises, a species native to India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, and the most trafficked tortoise in the illegal pet trade. Operation Dragon, a covert operation by the Wildlife Justice Commission from 2016 to 2019, revealed criminal networks across South and Southeast Asia and led to multiple arrests. Sri Lankan authorities have intercepted several large shipments of star tortoises, indicating the country's role as both a transit and source location. Despite seizures and arrests, there is concern that fines and penalties are insufficient to deter the trade. The Indian star tortoise is now listed under CITES Appendix I, banning international trade, but enforcement and consumer awareness are crucial to combat the illegal market.

As Sri Lanka floods swell with climate change, so does human-crocodile conflict

01 Jan 2024  |  Mongabay Environmental News
In southern Sri Lanka, increased flooding due to climate change has intensified human-crocodile conflicts, particularly along the Nilwala River. Crocodiles, displaced by floodwaters, often end up in human settlements, posing significant risks to residents. Experts like Priyanath Sanjeewa and Anslem de Silva highlight the behavioral patterns of crocodiles during floods, noting their tendency to seek calmer waters and the potential for nests to be destroyed. Social activist Malindu Gajadeera emphasizes the growing fear among villagers, who now avoid the river due to the increased presence of crocodiles. The article underscores the broader impact of climate change on wildlife and human communities.

Iconic tusker’s plight shows challenges in managing Sri Lanka’s wild elephants

29 Nov 2023  |  news.mongabay.com
Malaka Rodrigo, a journalist, has written a series of articles focusing on various environmental and wildlife issues in Sri Lanka. Topics range from the challenges of managing wild elephants, the first systematic study of fireflies, and the mistaken 'rescue' of leopard cubs, to the impact of the annual Adam's Peak pilgrimage on biodiversity. Rodrigo also covers research on mushrooms, the effects of a heatwave, and the controversy over Sri Lanka's bid for compensation for the X-Press Pearl disaster. Other articles discuss the proposal to export macaques, the restoration of ancient irrigation tanks, a newly described leafless orchid, the importance of seagrass, and the need for a lasting solution to human-elephant conflict. The plight of Sri Lanka's birds, a university's carbon-neutral goal, the impact of shipping lanes on blue whales, new species discoveries, and the consequences of fuel shortages on wildlife conservation are also highlighted.

China wants 100,000 Sri Lankan macaques

10 May 2023  |  qz.com
Sri Lanka is facing a debate on wildlife exploitation due to a Chinese company's request to import 100,000 toque macaques, which are causing significant crop damage and human-animal conflicts. The agriculture minister, Mahinda Amaraweera, stated the macaques would be exported for Chinese zoos, but animal rights activists fear they may be used for medical research or meat consumption. The Chinese embassy in Sri Lanka denied any government involvement in the import request. Wolfgang Dittus of the Smithsonian Institution questioned the estimated macaque population numbers, while a study by Jennifer Pastorini suggests a widespread distribution of the species. The IUCN lists the toque macaque as endangered, while the Sri Lanka National Red List categorizes it as vulnerable. Experts and environmentalists argue against exporting monkeys, advocating for nonlethal conflict reduction methods. Local farmers, however, support the export proposal due to the hardships caused by the macaques. The Sri Lankan government is considering various population control methods, but culling is unlikely due to cultural reverence for life.

If you see a fluffy ball of feathers fallen somewhere, give it some TLC

12 Apr 2023  |  window2nature.wordpress.com
On the first day of the new school term at Sujatha Vidyalaya in Matara, students discovered two baby Red-vented Bulbuls in their classroom. While one fledgling flew away, the other was later reunited with its family. During the breeding season, many young birds may fall from nests, and experts like Dr. Suhada Jayawardane and Prof. Sarath Kotagama advise placing them in a safe location to reunite with parents or providing care if necessary. Rukmal Rathnayake emphasizes the importance of proper diet based on species and warns against feeding milk to birds.

Sinharaja jumbo emerges; wildlife officers manage to avert incidents with villagers

26 Mar 2023  |  window2nature.wordpress.com
An elephant known as 'Panu kota' from Sinharaja forest appeared near Neluwa villages, prompting wildlife officers to prevent confrontations with locals. The elephant, first seen on March 13, was followed by officers from Sinharaja and Udawalawe ranges through difficult conditions to ensure its safe return to the wild after five days. Sinharaja is home to two male elephants, believed to be siblings in their fifties, who annually migrate through the area. Efforts to translocate them have been halted due to their significance to the region's biodiversity. Historically, Sri Lanka's wet zone had many elephants, but numbers dwindled due to hunting and capture for labor during colonial times.

Sinharaja jumbo emerges; wildlife officers manage to avert incidents with villagers

26 Mar 2023  |  Print Edition - The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka
An elephant known as 'Panu kota' from Sinharaja forest appeared near villages in Neluwa on March 13, prompting wildlife officers from the Sinharaja and Udawalawe ranges to intervene and prevent confrontations with villagers. The officers tracked the elephant through difficult conditions and successfully returned it to the wild after a five-day operation. Sinharaja is home to two male elephants that migrate annually through the area, and despite past conflicts and attempts at translocation, they remain as important symbols of the region's biodiversity.

Lanka hails historic UN deal to protect high seas resources

12 Mar 2023  |  window2nature.wordpress.com
Sri Lanka has welcomed a new United Nations treaty aimed at the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. The treaty, which awaits adoption by UN member-states, will establish marine protected areas on the high seas and includes provisions for fair sharing of benefits from marine genetic resources. It also mandates Environmental Impact Assessments for certain high seas activities. The treaty represents a significant step forward in marine biodiversity conservation, although its implementation will take years.

In Sri Lanka and beyond, seagrass key to livelihoods, marine habitats

01 Mar 2023  |  Mongabay Environmental News
Seagrass meadows in Sri Lanka and other countries are crucial for supporting diverse marine life and local fishing communities. Despite their ecological importance, seagrass habitats face threats from illegal fishing, industrial runoff, and development projects. Conservationists emphasize the need for strategic environmental assessments to protect these ecosystems. The United Nations has recognized the significance of seagrass by adopting World Seagrass Day, thanks to efforts from Sri Lanka and global environmental organizations. However, conflicting interests among stakeholders pose challenges to effective conservation.

Net entangled whale shark rescued and released into ocean

05 Feb 2023  |  window2nature.wordpress.com
A whale shark entangled in a fishing net at Nawakkadu beach in Puttalam, Sri Lanka, was rescued and released back into the ocean with the help of local fisherfolk, the Puttalam Wildlife Department, and the Sri Lanka Navy. The whale shark, approximately 38 feet long and over 4000 kg, was successfully returned to deeper waters after several hours. Whale sharks are a protected species in Sri Lanka since 2015 and are known to be the world's largest fish. Experts emphasize the importance of research on whale shark movements in Sri Lankan waters, citing a successful study program in the Maldives.

Sri Lankans skip meals as food prices soar

01 Nov 2022  |  phys.org
Sri Lanka is facing a severe economic crisis, leading to skyrocketing food prices and widespread food insecurity. Food inflation has reached 94.9%, with staple foods like rice and chicken becoming unaffordable for many. The crisis has been exacerbated by a ban on agrochemicals, which has led to reduced agricultural yields. A report by the FAO and WFP indicates that a significant portion of the population is not consuming an adequate diet, and many households are adopting coping strategies such as reducing meal sizes or selling assets. The government, along with organizations like the WFP and the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, is implementing measures to provide emergency food assistance and promote community resilience. However, the food security situation is expected to worsen in the short term.

Marine turtles get a second chance while nets still pose risks

16 Oct 2022  |  window2nature.wordpress.com
Fishing gear in Sri Lankan waters continues to endanger marine turtles, with gill nets posing the highest risk. While some injured turtles are rescued and treated, many suffer severe injuries or death. A study found that most entanglements are accidental, and the sale of turtle meat has decreased due to legal repercussions. In contrast, the Maldives has a successful turtle rehabilitation program, MarineSavers, which has treated over 450 turtles since 2010. Efforts are being made to reduce bycatch, including testing green LED lights on gill nets, which have shown promising results in reducing turtle entanglements.

Sri Lankan study identifies new jellyfish, sparking interest in the species

01 Sep 2022  |  news.mongabay.com
A study by Wayamba University in Sri Lanka has filled a century-long gap in jellyfish research by identifying at least 10 new species in Sri Lankan waters, including Carybdea wayamba, a species new to science. Initiated in 2017, the Waya-jel-Survey has expanded the known jellyfish species in the region to about 150. The research, supported by the National Science Foundation, has also documented hazardous species affecting fishing and tourism. The findings underscore the importance of systematic research for conservation and potential economic benefits, such as the sustainable export of edible jellyfish species.

New cave bat species in Sri Lanka highlights need for more research

01 Sep 2022  |  news.mongabay.com
A new bat species, Miniopterus phillipsi, has been discovered in Sri Lanka and India, named in honor of British naturalist W.W.A. Phillips. The species was previously misidentified as the Eastern bent-winged bat but is smaller in size. The discovery, led by Tharaka Kusuminda, a PhD candidate at the University of Ruhuna, does not change the total number of bat species in Sri Lanka, which remains at 31. The research, involving DNA barcoding, highlights the cryptic diversity in bats and the need for modern techniques to explore this diversity. The findings were reported in the journal Acta Chiropterologica.

Sri Lanka eyes major compensation case over X-Press Pearl sinking

01 Sep 2022  |  news.mongabay.com
Sri Lanka has received a third interim payment of $2.5 million for damages from the sinking of the X-Press Pearl, bringing the total compensation to $7.85 million. The disaster caused significant environmental damage and affected local fishing communities. Legal experts estimate that Sri Lanka could secure $5-7 billion in compensation. Environmentalists are pushing for further action, and the MEPA is preparing a strong case for international litigation. Another compensation case involves the New Diamond tanker, with a claim for up to $44 million filed by the Attorney General's Department. Salvage operations for the X-Press Pearl are ongoing and may take another year.

Protected areas not exempt as blast fishing blows up in Sri Lanka

28 Jul 2022  |  news.mongabay.com
Blast fishing, using explosives to catch fish, is threatening Sri Lanka's marine life, particularly in protected areas like Pigeon Island National Park. Despite being illegal and dangerous to both marine ecosystems and humans, the practice persists, exacerbated by the easy access to explosives and political interference. The Sri Lankan Navy and the Department of Wildlife Conservation are working to combat the issue, but their efforts are hampered by the country's severe economic crisis, which limits resources for enforcement and surveillance. The problem has escalated from a conservation issue to a national concern, with calls for stricter vigilance and intelligence gathering to stem the flow of explosives.

Environmental policy failures contributed to Sri Lanka’s people power revolution

27 Jul 2022  |  india.mongabay.com
Environmental activists played a significant role in the movement that ousted Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Despite initial environmental promises, Rajapaksa's policies led to unsustainable exploitation of resources, including sand mining and deforestation. Resistance movements, such as the 'Stop Ecocide' campaign, emerged in response to these policies. Rajapaksa's administration also faced criticism for ignoring scientific counsel on human-elephant conflict and for a hasty transition to organic agriculture, which contributed to a national food crisis. With Rajapaksa's departure, the interim government faces the challenge of balancing environmental protection with the country's economic and social crises.

Protected areas not exempt as blast fishing blows up in Sri Lanka

12 Jul 2022  |  window2nature.wordpress.com
Blast fishing, an illegal practice using explosives to catch fish, is prevalent in Sri Lanka, including within protected marine parks and historical shipwreck sites. This practice not only threatens marine life and habitats but also poses national security concerns and risks to the dive tourism industry. Despite efforts by the Department of Wildlife Conservation and the Sri Lankan Navy to combat blast fishing, challenges such as well-coordinated networks of fishers, the easy availability of explosives, and the current economic crisis hinder effective enforcement. Experts call for increased vigilance and intelligence gathering to address the issue, which has escalated beyond a conservation problem to a matter of national concern.

Explosives smuggled from India used in blast fishing in Sri Lanka

01 Jul 2022  |  Mongabay-India
Blast fishing, using explosives to catch fish, is threatening marine life and habitats around Sri Lanka, including Pigeon Island National Park. The practice damages coral reefs and could harm the marine tourism industry. Explosives are regulated by the Sri Lankan Navy but are either leaked or smuggled from India. Despite crackdowns, the economic crisis has limited enforcement efforts. Local fishers in Mannar are identified as primary culprits, with political intervention often hindering law enforcement. A global review suggests that access to explosives and the prospect of increased catches are bigger drivers of blast fishing than poverty.

Sri Lanka’s economic crisis will hit country’s environment and conservation hard, experts warn

01 May 2022  |  Mongabay-India
Sri Lanka's severe economic crisis is impacting the country's environment and conservation efforts, with fuel shortages forcing the Department of Wildlife Conservation to scale back patrols. The crisis, attributed to government corruption and mismanagement, threatens to increase illegal activities such as poaching and deforestation. Experts fear that environmental safeguards and research will be neglected, undermining Sri Lanka's environmental gains and international commitments. Opportunities for improvement through blue and green bonds are suggested amidst the challenges.

Researchers puzzle over sea-crossing migration of crimson rose butterflies

01 Mar 2022  |  news.mongabay.com
Travel bloggers Paulmathi Vinod and Vinod Sadasivan witnessed thousands of crimson rose butterflies at Dhanushkodi Beach, India, which then flew towards the sea, possibly towards Sri Lanka's Mannar Island. Butterfly enthusiast Lahiru Walpita in Sri Lanka observed a similar phenomenon in October with large swarms of crimson roses. These butterflies, part of the swallowtail family, are known for their toxic nature and migration patterns. The recent migration could be triggered by post-dry spell rains in southern India, but more research is needed to understand the full behavior. Historical records and recent observations suggest that these migrations are influenced by monsoonal winds. Conservationists like Himesh Jayasinghe emphasize the need for detailed studies and citizen science contributions to unravel the migration mystery of the crimson rose, which has been known to undertake sea-crossing journeys since the early 20th century.
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