Habitat  loss  and  forest  degradation  due  to  encroachments  by  villagers  and  illegal logging  of commercially valuable  trees  has  been identified  as major conservation issues at Yagirala forest. In addition, poaching of wild animals for local consumption has affected the faunal diversity of the forest to an extent.  Populations of some nationally and  globally threatened  species such as Indian  Pangolin  and  Hogg  deer  have  substantially  declined  over  the  years  due  to  hunting  by locals.  As such, this comprehensive Forest Restoration and Biodiversity Conservation Plan developed by the Center for Sustainability have been designed to address conservation issues highlighted above. Accordingly, the proposed Conservation Plan includes following components.

I. Restoration of degraded forest patches with native species

  • In order to restore the degraded habitats due to natural and man-made causes, forest restoration with native species is essential. Such degraded habitats are particularly available near forest boundaries and edges. Approximately 15 acres of   degraded   forest   lands   within   the   University-managed   forest   have   been identified for restoration with native species.
  • More than 100 acres of degraded habitats have been identified for restoration with native species in the Yagirala forest.

II. Restoration of exotic pine -dominated patches with native species

  • Approximately 30 acres of forest restored with exotic pines are available within the University-managed forest.   These over-matured   pines are being naturally replaced by native species.  Natural death of pine trees creates gaps in the forest and these gaps can be restored with native species to accelerate the conversion of pine-dominated forest into native vegetation.

III.      Eradication of invasive plant species

  • The invasive  Godapara  (Dillenia  suffruticosa)  grows  vigorously  in  shade  on eroded   infertile  soils,   wasteland,   forest  edges,  stream  banks,  swampy  areas, roadsides  and   neglected   plantations.   Gradual eradication of the species and restoring such areas with native species needs to be undertaken systematically.
  • Invasive Clidemia hirta is spreaded throughout the pine-dominated and degraded forest patches. Hence, habitat restoration needs to be coupled with eradication of invasive species.

IV. Raise public awareness on biodiversity conservation in Yagirala Forest using Indian Pangolin as a Flagship Species

  • Of the   mammalian   species   encountered   in   Yagirala  Forest  Reserve,   Indian Pangolin  (Manis  crassicaudata)  is  an  inimitable  mammal with  small,  long  head and  scales on its upper body.  According to the National Red List (2012) of Sri Lanka, the species is listed under “Near Threatened” category.  Ironically,  no formal studies have been done on this species in the wild in Sri Lanka, and hence very  little  are  known  about  their  social  organization,  home  range  size,  and population distribution.  Yagirala Forest area over the years has been a conducive habitat for Pangolin as the species used to be encountered rather frequently in the area.  However, at present, Pangolins have become very much elusive largely due to excessive hunting by local poachers. This project proposes a novel strategy to conserve the elusive Indian Pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in Yagirala Forest Reserve  area  with  the  involvement  of the  local community  by  using  the  Indian Pangolin  as a Flagship  Species.

V. Community awareness and engagement in conservation efforts

  • As local communities  are  largely  responsible  for  the  decline  of biodiversity and forest   health,   changing   their   attitudes   through   appropriate   means   is   a   key requirement   to   ensure   the   survival  of   forest.   Hence,   several strategies are proposed to raise the community awareness.


Forest Restoration Project launched in collaboration with Stretchline (Pvt) Ltd

A memorandum of understanding was signed between the Stretchline (Pvt) Ltd and Center for Sustainability (CFS) of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science, University of Sri Jayewardenepura to restore seventeen (17) acres forest in Yagirala forest reserve on 3rd February 2017 at the board room of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura.

Briefing on the project, Dr Priyan Perea, Director-Center for Sustainability mentioned that, the Sri Lankan counterpart of “Stretchline”; the largest elastic manufacturer in the world provides funding for this project under four phases and it is expected to restore 17 acres by the end of 2017. This joint venture exemplifies the environmental commitment of Stretchline (Pvt) Ltd. while marking yet another successful industry-university partnership initiated by the Center for Sustainability.

Prof. Sampath Amaratunge Vice Chancellor of the University of Sri Jayewardenepura signed the MoU on behalf of the University while Mr. Hasantha De Silva Director-Finance HoldCo and Mr. Ruwan Senavirathne, General Manager-Finance were the signatories representing Stretchline (Pvt) Ltd. Dr Prasanthi Gunawardene, Head of the Department of Forestry and Environmental Science and Prof. Nilanthi Bandara, member of the Board of Advisors to the CFS also attended this landmark event.