The Faculty of Science, University of Peradeniya conducted a Short Course in Tropical Biodiversity and Conservation for ten students of Federation University, Australia, in January 2023. Dr. Kushan Tennakoon, an alumnus of the Faculty of Science and currently a Lecturer in Environmental Science, at Federation University, obtained funding from the New Colombo Plan for this course and was the Program Leader. Ms. Sharon Reid, an ecologist at the Federation University, also accompanied the students.
This two-week residential course, emphasized field experience which enabled participants to appreciate the high biodiversity and endemism of Sri Lanka’s flora and fauna. Thus, students visited the Knuckles Conservation Forest, Wasgomuwa, Udawalawe, and Madu Ganga National Parks, and Kanneliya Forest Reserve to obtain first-hand experience of the unique biodiversity of Sri Lanka in different bioclimatic zones. They visited forest restoration sites at Hantana and the Knuckles Conservation Forest and participated in tree-planting activities in Knuckles. Students observed the success of the orphaned elephant rehabilitation program at Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home. In addition, students were also given an overview of cultural practices related to the biodiversity of Sri Lanka. Participants were able to appreciate the uses of plants in traditional medicine at a home garden at Mahala Kotuwa in the Illukkumbura area and met a practitioner of traditional medicine in Ambalangoda. Students visited eco-tourism initiatives such as a turtle hatchery in Ambalangoda and a cinnamon-processing plant in Madu Ganga and were able to observe first-hand some of the socio-economic constraints that affect conservation measures.
The teaching panel comprised the academic staff of the Departments of Botany and Zoology of the Faculty of Science, and Basic Veterinary Sciences of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Peradeniya.