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SLF Int, USA Donated Medicines & Medical Consumables to Kahawatta Base Hospital

On Thursday, June 23rd, 2022 Sri Lanka time at 2.00pm, Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA donated urgent medical consumables and medicines, to the Kahawatta Base Hospital in the Ratnapura District.

This is the seventh project completed by SLF and we continue to receive many more requests from hospitals across Sri Lanka for Urgent Medical Consumables and Medicines.

SLF extend their deepest gratitude to our ongoing loyal donors for their continuous support!

For more information contact:
Shirani Stanislaus:213-304-7500 or shirani@srilankafoundation.org
Keshini Wijegoonaratna: 213-400-7705 or keshini@srilankafoundation.org

The fast-paced journey of BISTEC Global

BISTEC Global Services (BTG), we are a proud homegrown IT service company providing Software, QA, IT & Digitally enabled services globally to 13 countries in 5 continents. Our 150+ experts deliver services based on a unique offshore delivery model that caters to specific business needs. Co-Founders of BISTEC Global Johann De Cruz, Anuradha Gajanayake, and Marlon De Cruz began the company’s journey with a single Australian client and by today BISTEC global has become one of the leading software companies in Sri Lanka.

At BISTEC we believe we have hearts and not heads and we have an open culture and promote freedom to be who you are at BISTEC. We believe that to provide our clients with the best possible services, firstly we need to focus on our core strengths and improve any weaknesses. We consider our family to be everyone who is connected to us some way or another. BTG had great opportunities to work with clients globally including a set of diversified industries, services, and domains. One of the biggest achievements is that we had the opportunity to work with a major e-government software including the opportunity to design and implement an application suite for digitizing population census for a Southeast Asian Nation. We also developed line of business (LOB) apps for Australian leading disability services companies. We are currently helping many customers including some who work with Rolls-Royce and the US government.

BISTEC Global has been working tirelessly for the past few years to deliver real value to its clients, as a result, BISTEC Global has invested in the development of the three new-age apps. Workflow – a cloud-based work management application for accounting practices that help them visualize bottlenecks in the planning process, plan with ease, and optimize their workload for increased efficiency and cash flow. BISTEC care – A patient management and booking system for the medical industry. At last, TAFI – A tax planning & lodgment application catered for individual income taxpayers, which automates the end-to-end process on the cloud.

Today as a company, BISTEC Global is looking forward to furthering developments, expansions, and addressing new challenges.

Check out BISTEC Global website for more on the company and news https://www.bistecglobal.com/

Find out more here: www.bistecglobal.com
WorkXFlow – https://www.workxflow.com/

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/company/bistec-global-services/

Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/bistec.global/

For more information:
Phone: +94 77 768 1014 / +61 02 9052 4700
Email: hello@bistecglobal.com

SLF Academy of Performing Arts Performed at the 25th Anniversary of Getty Center Museum

Sri Lanka Foundation Academy of Performing Arts was privileged to put our mission into action once again with our hands held with Getty to preserve, support, celebrate and present to a wide range of audiences; the culture, language, dance, and arts of Sri Lanka through performing our heritage. 

Getty is a cultural and philanthropic institution dedicated to the presentation, conservation, and interpretation of the world’s artistic legacy; an ideal platform for Sri Lankan heritage to converse with international art and culture. What portent can be greater than a conversation in this nature?

The event was open to multiple and a diverse set of communities in celebration of Getty’s 25 years of service to the international sphere of art and culture where they showcased the cultural diversity of Los Angeles by creating a series of free outdoor community art festivals, cultural performances, workshops, food stalls and many other colorful and diversified cultural experiences. It was a wonderful celebration with music, art and culture brought together by a global community, giving the expression of a global village.

Set up in KoreaTown, Liberty Park, home to many people from around the world, the most diverse part of the city of Los Angeles; the 25th anniversary of Getty was indeed a festival of diversity. Getty, being a cultural institute that is dedicated to celebrating beauty in the form of art and culture, has opened their arms for APA to join and perform at the 25th anniversary celebrations. The invitation was extended by Getty’s Lead Producer Mr. Albert, giving APA the opportunity to receive a free booth to distribute our marketing materials and to conduct a workshop to add a little bit of essence of Sri Lankan culture to the event. 

The workshop was conducted by our senior students, Umendra Kahadawaracchi who is the talented dancing teacher at APA and the Director of Cultural Affairs, Achala Weerasinghe. The workshop was dedicated to celebrating the beauty of Sri Lankan traditional dancing which is a huge part of Sri Lankan cultural inheritance. Sri Lanka is home to many different styles of dances such as Udarata Natum, Pahatharata Natum and Sabaragamu Natum which can vary in their styles of movements and motions, the style of dressing and the type of drums used for performances, the workshop has given prominence to kandyan Dancing, which is beautiful and deserves to be celebrated world-wide. 

The workshop was very colorful and engaging which also did not fail to enlighten the audience about many hidden beauties in Sri Lanka such as Dalada Maligawa which is a place where all these cultural performances come together, once a year, as a devotion to Sri Lankan religious belief systems. 

The workshop was appreciated by many in the audience including the event producers and parents of the foreign children who were privileged enough to immerse themselves in the beauty of a very foreign country to them which is physically miles apart. Traditional drums were in the center of attention for many of those kids and were keen on joining APA classes to learn drums such as thammattama, yak beraya and geta beraya.

It was indeed a day full of celebrations and our heartfelt gratitude goes out to our Founder and Chairman of the Board, Dr. Walter Jayasinghe, Vice President of SLF Aeshea Jayasinghe, Chief Operating Officer / Corporate Secretary, Shirani Stanislaus, Director, Research & Development, Rodney Perera, and our Media Director, Chamodh Amarasinghe not only for creating such platforms for

cultural celebration but also for being a part of this event and giving us a helping hand and courage to keep reaching greater heights as a Sri Lankan community away from home. 

SLF Int, USA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Professor Asgerally (Asgi) Fazleabas for his excellence in the Research of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology

Professor Asgerally Fazleabas is a student of St Thomas College, Gurutalawa and Mt Lavinia, Sri Lanka. He received his initial diploma in Agriculture at the Aquinas University College in Colombo, Sri Lanka and earned his Bachelor of Science at the California State University in Fresno, California, then after received his Master of Science, Dairy Science and Reproductive Physiology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. 

He became interested when he was in 8th grade in boarding school. One of the things that he did was work in a farm at the school and one of his responsibilities was to monitor the incubator where chicken eggs were being hatched. He had to candle the eggs by holding them up to the light to see if they were developing properly. He was fascinated by how quickly the blood vessels developed and that in a matter of a few days he could see a beating heart. Seeing these amazing developmental process really got Prof Fazleabas interested in Science & Developmental Biology.

Dr Asgerally Fazleabas received his Ph.D degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and completed postdoctoral training at the University of Florida. Following his training, he joined the Department Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he held the rank of Professor and Director of Women’s Health and Reproduction. In 2009, he became a Professor and Associate Chair of Research in the Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology, Director of the Center for Women’s Health Research and Co-Director of the Reproductive and Developmental Sciences Program at the Michigan State University.

Dr Fazleabas is an expert in female reproduction and his research focuses on critical cellular events during pregnancy. In his distinguish career he has published over 200 manuscripts, several of which appeared in Biology and Reproduction. He received the 2010 & 2016 Society for the Study of Reproduction Distinguish Awards. He has also served on numerous NIH Study sections and as 2009-2010 President for the Society of the Reproduction.

Some of his originality in research consist of pioneered in the development of novel and significant areas of knowledge, including the development of creative and innovative hypotheses, which he developed new knowledge in a creative manner and with independent insight. Created new knowledge to expand the understanding of reproductive biology and/or extended the application of knowledge to technology.

Thusitha De Silva Celebrates his 50th Birthday in the Mindfulness Meditation Center, Covina, California

On April 2nd, 2022, a large crowd including friends and family gathered at the Mindfulness Meditation Center in Covina, California, to celebrate Mr. Thusitha De Silva who reached 50 years of age on March 10th.

Mr. Thusitha De Silva was born in the town of Balapitiya, Sri Lanka. He graduated from Thurstan College Colombo, Sri Lanka, and presently works for the US Postal Services. He lives in Pasadena, California, with his beautiful wife Sudarshani and two children Parami and Lithum.

He is a well-known figure within the Sri Lankan Community in the USA. During Thusitha’s younger days he had a passion for playing rugby and cricket at Thurstan College; however, soon that changed after he migrated to the USA. In 1999, when he began associating with Dr. Mudalinayake Somarathna, Bhadrajee Mahinda Jayathilaka, Sunethra Sarathchandra, Kisagothami Sarathchandra, Somi Rathnayake, and Linton Semage he became involved in many stage dramas in the USA.

Mr. De Silva was the President of the Sri Lanka Arts & Drama circle in 2004 and the Vice President of the Sri Lanka America Association of Southern California in 2006. Additionally, he has remained a member of the working committee at the Sri Lanka America Buddha Dhamma Society since 2010.

Mr. De Silva sponsored, organized, and produced his first musical concert in Los Angeles in 2005 to promote Sri Lanka’s Baila Maestro Nihal Nelson. Since then, there was no looking back for Mr. De Silva when it came to continuing his found passion. He has currently produced 32 successful Sri Lankan concerts and dinner dances. Mr. De Silva has sponsored well over 200 professional artists, band members, and dance troupes to make their presence in “USA & Canada” tours all the way from Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka Foundation Int, USA donated urgently requested Albumin Bottles to the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Pediatrics Hospital in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka

On June 6th, 2022 Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA donated urgently requested 100 Vials of Albumin which is a life saving drug to the Sirimavo Bandaranaike Pediatrics Hospital in Peradeniya, Sri Lanka.

This is the fifth project completed by SLF and we continue to receive many more requests from hospitals across Sri Lanka for Urgent Medical Consumables.

Dr Aruna Herath, the Consultant Pediatrics Chest Specialist of the Pediatrics Hospital sent the Ambulance to pick up the Albumin Bottles from the Delmege Forsyth Co LTD location in Colombo.

SLF extend their deepest gratitude to our ongoing loyal donors that made a difference to this life saving situation. Also our sincere thanks to the President of the Capital City Rotary Club of Colombo, Randika Piyasiri the owner of J-Tech and Adrian Schockman, the CEO of Delmege for their assistance with the delivery and on going support to find the necessary medicines and Medical Consumables with short notice.

SLF also would like to convey a special thank you to the ITN TV Network Creative Director, Sandaruwan Jayawickrama for his support to do a special coverage of the project that was broadcasted in the Headline News . Click the link below to watch the program.

https://youtu.be/qrQEwCD2LUA

Please click the link below to listen to Dr Aruna, the Consultant Pediatrics Chest Specialist of Sirimavo Bandaranaike Pediatrics Hospital.

https://youtu.be/efwnXDBxSYI

Please click on the link below to donate as we have received many more requests from Hospitals across Sri Lanka:

https://www.paypal.com/donate/?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=KY287N6MD8ZJ8

For more information contact:

Shirani Stanislaus:213-304-7500 or shirani@srilankafoundation.org
Keshini Wijegoonaratna: 213-400-7705 or keshini@srilankafoundation.org

Students from Sri Lanka crowned runners-up at the 2022 Microsoft Imagine Cup World Championship

Team Nana Shilpa—among the top three in the world—competed with tens of thousands of teams from over 160 countries at the 20th edition of Microsoft Imagine Cup

Meet Team Nana Shilpa—the runners-up of Imagine Cup 2022 World Championship at the Microsoft Campus Redmond USA!

Seattle, USA: Microsoft recently announced that Team Nana Shilpa emerged as the runner-up following an intense finale against Team V Bionic and Team Melodic at the 2022 Imagine Cup World Championship in Seattle, Washington. The team from Sri Lanka won a cash prize of USD 10,000, and with this win Sri Lankan technology got recognized as one of the top three novel solutions at the global competition.

Microsoft Imagine Cup is designed to inspire students to use their imagination and passion for technology to create innovative solutions that tackle some of the world’s biggest social, environmental, and health challenges.

“Our Imagine Cup competition is a great example of the possibilities,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “For 20 years, students have shown us what’s possible when they come together to apply technology to help solve the world’s challenges.”

Team Nana Shilpa emerged as one of the top three to advance to the World Championship out of the tens of thousands of students from over 160 countries who registered for the 2022 Imagine Cup. Last week, the team had the opportunity to showcase their original tech innovation to judges through a 3-minute pitch and a question-and-answer session. The team flew out to Seattle from Colombo for the last leg of the competition.

The team—comprising Kalpani Abeysinghe, Chamil Diluksha, Maheshani Makalanda, and Prabath Shalitha from Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology (SLIIT) in Malabe—came up with Nana Shilpa, an application that screens and provides guidance for addressing reading, writing, and math learning disabilities in the Sinhala language. The team announced that the app would support different languages and cultures in a bid to help young children across the world.

Many children with learning disorders struggle in school long before being diagnosed. A learning disorder is an information-processing problem that prevents a person from learning a skill and using it effectively. As a result, the disorder appears as a gap between expected skills, based on age and intelligence, and academic performance.

“We live in a world where technology can address various problems. Nana Shilpa helps to eliminate the delay in learning disability discovery using localized languages. It captures input from a mobile device and processes it using advanced machine learning and computer vision algorithms. If a child is diagnosed positive for a learning disability, the app then provides curated activities to mitigate the condition,” Kalpani discloses.

Team Nana Shilpa presenting to the judges during the 2022 Microsoft Imagine Cup World Championship in Seattle on May 24, 2022.

“The screening AI models are trained using thousands of data points collected from children with learning disabilities,” says Kalpani. “The professional screening process to identify learning disabilities can cost between 400 and 2,000 dollars. With Nana Shilpa, we can cut that to just 60 dollars. We are on a mission to help every kid in the world to read and write.”

SLF Int, USA Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, Professor Nimal Rajapakse For his excellence as a Renowned International Researcher & Rank among the top in Civil & Mechanical Engineering

Prof Nimalsiri ( Nimal) Dharmakeerthi Rajapakse hails from Bopetta, Attanagalla and spent his formative years in Colombo with his maternal grandparents. He received primary and secondary education from Ananda College following the footsteps of his grandfather mentor, Don Elias Rajapakse, and his father. He was an excellent student of Ananda College and received several academic prizes. Ananda College honored him as the orator of Col. Henry Steele Olcott Oration in 2005, and he delivered a talk under the title, “New Frontiers of Engineering”

Prof Nimal is an internationally renowned researcher in Applied Mechanics and a recipient of several prestigious award/honors. He has received over $15 million in research grants as a principal investigator. He served four Canadian research universities for 35 years. He has over 5500 research citations in Google Scholar with a h-index of 44. Prof Nimal has mentored twenty-three Ph-D students and sixteen M.Sc. Students, as well as many post-doctoral fellows. He has co-authored a textbook published by Springer. He has collaborated and received support from IBM Research, Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Highways, AECL, Ballard, Kinectrics and Westport Innovation. In addition, he is a highly accomplished academic leader with nearly twenty years of leadership experience in Canada. He is recognized as a transformative leader who inspires people through his work ethics, collaborative leadership style, merit based decision making, commitment to inclusively and transparency, and ability to engage people.

He joined the University of Manitoba UM as an Assistant Professor in 1985 and started his academic administrative career when he was appointed as Head of the Department of Civil Engineering at UM. During his term as Head of Civil Engineering of UM (1997-2000), he took initiatives to raise the profile of the department within and outside the university and implemented an effective strategy to increase the undergraduate enrollment through industry collaborations and outreach.

Prof Nimal was recruited to the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 2000 as head of the Department of Mechanical Engineering. UBC is ranked amongst the top 50 universities of the world. The Mech 2 Program which received highest national and International awards for curriculum innovation was introduced in 2004 during his headship. Annual research income and graduate enrollment in the Department of Mechanical Engineering nearly doubled during his headship. UBC Mechanical Engineering was ranked first amongst the Canadian Mechanical Engineering departments in research performance during the final year of his headship. He led the discussion with PACE Program ( General Motors-led) consortium for Advanced Collaborative Engineering), which granted in 2004 an over $200 million in-kind donation of software and computer hardware. The department received the Outstanding PACE Partner Award in 2008. Four research chairs were established during his headship. Prof Nimal was appointed Director of the Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems (ICICS) at UBC in July 2007. ICICS is the largest multi-disciplinary research institute at UBC. A research team led by him obtained a $12.9m grant in 2009 to upgrade the ICICS research infrastructure.

SLF PRESIDENT/CEO GUEST OF HONOR AT THE ITN SINHALA & TAMIL NEW YEAR CELEBRATIONS IN SRI LANKA

Independent Television Network Limited (also known as ITN or simply as ITN Sri Lanka) is a Sri Lankan state governed television and radio broadcaster located in Wickramasinhapura, Battaramulla, Sri Lanka. ITN, a Shrama Abhimani Award winner (Oct 2009), broadcasts content to a wide demographic within Sri Lanka as well as the expatriate community. The programs are high quality and creative to promote the country’s economic and social development, cultural diversification and preservation as well as the environmental protection and promotion broadcasted in three languages; Sinhala, Tamil, and English. The ITN broadcast coverage extends to 99% of the island of Sri Lanka.

The Vision of ITN is to be the leader in Electronic Media, and their Mission is to Produce & Telecast Quality and Attractive people friendly media content consistent with the Sri Lankan Values and Culture to a wide range of audience.

On March 29th, 2022, at the Cinnamon Grand location in the Nugagama Premises in Colombo ITN Network organized a “Nuga Gama Aurudhu” Celebrations of the Sinhala & Tamil New Year to showcase the Sri Lankan Culture to the World Audience.

The President/CEO, Dr Dishan Jayasinha of the Sri Lanka Foundation International, USA and his wife Zuigly Jayasinha were the Guest of Honor to grace the occasion. The Director of Cultural Affairs & the Director of the Academy of Performing Arts, Achala Weerasinghe was also present to witness the occasion as well as many other tourists who attended appreciated the event to the fullest.

The event was gracefully organized with many different cultural performances by Ranwala Balakaya to promote the Authentic Culture of Sri Lanka.

Dr Dishan, in his speech said he was so pleased to be a part of this Amazing Cultural Event as this is one of the Missions of SLF to promote the culture to the Non Sri Lankan Audience around the world. The ITN in the vote of thanks expressed their gratitude to SLF for showcasing similar events as well as for all the relief effort contributions given to Sri Lanka.

The event concluded with a delicious meal offered to all the guests which included the traditional food items and also a handmade natural Sri Lankan product was presented as a token of appreciation for gracing the occasion.

Click on the link below to watch the event:

https://youtu.be/u0zaIg11TkA

Sri Lankan wins Linnean Medal, the ‘Nobel Prize for naturalists’ (commentary)

*Today the Linnean Medal was awarded at a London ceremony to the first Sri Lankan in its history: since 1888, the medal has been given annually to a botanist or a zoologist, or to one of each, in the same year.

*The list of winning scientists–from Alfred Wallace to Stephen Jay Gould–is long, yet the 2022 honoree in the zoology section is not a scientist in the formal sense, but rather a Sri Lankan author, educator and taxonomist, Rohan Pethiyagoda, who formerly served as deputy chair of the IUCN’s Species Survival Commission.

*“His impact on biodiversity research in Sri Lanka and beyond through his output and catalytic influence cannot be overestimated,” the award committee wrote, and the author of this commentary explains why this is so. This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Looking at the roll call of Linnean Medal winners is to witness the history of natural history, taxonomy, and nature conservation since Darwin.

The medal is tangential to the orbit of the Nobel Prize – more international and human-centric with few famous naturalists (excluding those in the Peace Prize category) and those mostly from 1973, when there was a simultaneous hat-trick with Niko Tinbergen, Karl von Frisch and Konrad Lorenz. They won that Nobel, somewhat incongruously, for Medicine, and this was a recognition that understanding nature can contribute to human welfare, too. But in a way, the Linnean Medal may be seen as the Nobel Prize for naturalists.

The prize of the Linnean Medal is populated with biodiversity titans like Richard Owen (who coined “dinosaurs”), Alfred Wallace, Darwin’s defenders Joseph Hooker and Thomas Huxley, and from the continent Alphonse de Candolle, one of the fathers of botany. There are also characters who remain historically unforgettable to biologists: Albert Günther, Ernst Haeckel, Willi Hennig, Stephen Jay Gould, Ernst Mayr, Alfred Romer, William Stearn, G. Ledyard Stebbins, D’Arcy Thompson and many more that others would recognize – plus Derek Yalden, one of my beloved tutors.

The medal was never conceived as an international award but has reflected the reach of the fellowship of the Linnean Society, rooted in naming things, global exploration, evolution, earth history and taxonomy. More than any other similar award available elsewhere, notably from the U.S., it is distinguished by a historical pedigree and the names celebrated. Not just of medal holders, their travels, ideas and arguments, but also named plants, animals and the groupings assigned to them.

Association with the Linnean Society has never been a requirement to win the prize, but, as with all medals, nominations have arisen in connection with the society itself, thanks to the discoveries and influences provided by the prevailing naturalist community.

In 2022, the Zoological Medal of the Linnean Society has gone to Rohan Pethiyagoda from Sri Lanka, representing a first for the island, possibly being only the second prize-winner from Asia. In the past both Sri Lanka and Asia have come under the ambit of the Linnean Medal and biodiversity exploration. Alfred Russell Wallace was most associated with the Malay Archipelago, Joseph Hooker was strongly linked with the Himalayas and Ernst Haeckel spent time in Sri Lanka, among related geographical journeying.

How has Pethiyagoda qualified from an Asian sphere after over a century, given that a great deal of the focus of 20th century Linnean Medal winning seemed more concerned with academic evolutionary and taxonomic science rather than the naming of things that seems to belong to an earlier age? As a mere Fellow of the Linnean Society, people like me have no say over who gets awards, but one can nominate candidates.

Amongst his copious outputs, Pethiyagoda has contributed greatly in highlighting the very history of biodiversity in Asia, linking together scientists, artists, travelers and explorers in both East and West. Starting from around the 17th century, he has catalogued and brought to the fore a celebration of foreign engagement, predominantly from the West, that reveled in the biodiversity of South Asia and Southeast Asia. His publishing house Wildlife Heritage Trust (WHT) has produced biographies and memoirs of notable naturalists from the region. To celebrate the 300th anniversary of Linnaeus, Pethiyagoda authored Pearls, Spices and Green Gold, a WHT book that celebrates many notable contributors to the wildlife of Sri Lanka and South Asia, including among many now, the not widely known Ernst Haeckel.

Pethiyagoda’s prodigious taxonomic output centered on Sri Lanka but also Singapore, parts of South and Southeast Asia involving collaboration and research with friends and institutes in the U.K., U.S. and Australia. Dawkinsia, a genus of fish whose name he conceived honors the British evolutionist Richard Dawkins – these attractive fish have also benefited from the limelight and are now popular with aquarists.

Richard Dawkins is not the only scientist so honored, others include malacologist Fred Naggs. South and Southeast Asia are now recognized as hotspots of amphibian diversity thanks to this work with the introduction of hundreds of new frogs, dozens of new fish and reptiles in work that continues to evolve. One of Pethiyagoda’s first books, a comprehensive color guide to the freshwater fish of Sri Lanka was a bestseller and started something big. To paraphrase Mark Twain for the umpteenth time, the death of alpha taxonomy has been greatly exaggerated.

Meanwhile, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), ratified in the 1990s has been of questionable benefit to wildlife research and alpha-taxonomy, particularly in the global South. It started with fears about private patents on genes and gene technology and has ended up in misplaced hype around “biopiracy.” Pethiyagoda has helped the scientific community to appreciate just how much damage the CBD may have caused to taxonomy and industry such as the pharmaceutical sector – both in Sri Lanka and many other countries with overzealous interpretations of its provisions, that seem to dubiously accord wildlife ownership within sovereign nationalistic governance – so-called bionationalism.

To quote Pethiyagoda:

“My beef with the biopiracy argument is not that biopiracy cannot happen, it is entirely conceivable that someone will look in a rainforest somewhere and find a gene of huge commercial value, that is conceivable. But in order to prevent that guy from finding that gene, we have shut down all of biological research in Sri Lanka… you have to get a permit to do any kind of biological research in this country. And there is a huge problem because they believe that people are out to pirate biological resources, as a result of that, to get a permit is near impossible and I’m going to return to this subject. The biopiracy hysteria set up by the environmental lobby has caused huge harm to research we need for biodiversity conservation.”

Whereas there are tensions and dangers between foreigners taking commercial or scientific bragging rights from wildlife in poorer or under-resourced localities, Pethiyagoda has highlighted the best advantages of a shared approach to the exploration of nature by locals and foreigners – that would hopefully bring in much needed research and conservation revenue to poorer parts of the world, and lead to a wider appreciation of wildlife. When we declare, as Pethiyagoda has helped to emphasize, the hotspot status of parts of South Asia, then, at some level, the wildlife treasures of the region can also belong to the whole world. This is in the same way that the Mona Lisa is famous worldwide while residing in Paris. Why otherwise should the Sinharaja forest be declared a Man and Biosphere (MAB) reserve of international importance?

In this skein, once more through his publications, and now films and podcasts, Pethiyagoda has, and is, helping to create and foster local and international expertise centered on the regions he is most interested in. Many are the scientists who Pethiyagoda has mentored, championed or represented through WHT and scientific output – Madhava Meegaskumbura, Kelum Manamendra-Arachchi and Mohammed Bahir from Sri Lanka but also Wolfgang L. Werner, A. J. G. H. Kostermans or Mark S. Ashton, leaders in their field from further away. Such collaborations and an international interchange of specimens, publications, ideas and funds will be pivotal to ensure the survival and cherishing of biodiversity both in Sri Lanka and further afield.

Unfortunately, politics, economics, legalities and poor attitudes – not least borne of ignorance and failure in international diplomacy – has stymied many of Pethiyagoda’s ambitions for the island, such as a Biodiversity Institute or a greater sharing of expertise and funds, if not specimens. Many things now look a lot bleaker since vast areas of forest were felled in Sri Lanka to make way for a plantation economy – something that Pethiyagoda, as former head of the Board of Tea would also have familiarity with. What the Linnean Medal will help highlight is Rohan’s contributions for us to at least appreciate the historical legacy of commerce and enterprise alongside a wealth of biodiversity in searches for future solutions. As he has publicly stated:

“Most environmentalists in Sri Lanka just talk; it’s a talk shop. That’s what I’m doing here today, but I think to be fair I do some work, too. But most of us just articulate opinions not based on science, not based on fact and it has done us a huge disservice. And that, I think, is the core problem that we need to address to get environmentalism in Sri Lanka back on track doing good work, fostering and protecting the environment, recovering species that are threatened with extinction, restoring landscapes that have been degraded; putting our country back on a decent track.”

Pethiyagoda was awarded the Linnean Medal simply because he deserves it. His body of work and legacy with regard to the natural world is greater than that of many others combined, and will be of assistance to both locals and the international community to cherish their own biodiversities and associated histories. This was accomplished in spite of the fact that he was, or still is, largely an amateur, a naturalist in the old sense of the word, from a time before the first half of the twentieth century. He has never really been a salaried scientist throughout his rich career so far, and has declined honorary doctorates proffered in his direction – maybe because putting wildlife on the map was more important.

And the future beckons more discoveries that may yet cause ripples. His latest work, The Ecology and Biogeography of Sri Lanka, written alongside H. Sudhasinghe, is a first in-depth study of the faunal history of South Asia, from a fishy perspective, among other biotas.

The legacy and inspirations from his work will be influential in the years to come, despite grave doubts about the fate of Sri Lanka’s own biodiversity heritage.

Rajith Dissanayake co-nominated Rohan Pethiyagoda for the Linnean Medal with a team of two others. He earned a PhD studying Funambulus palm squirrels and works at Birkbeck College/University of London.

Find his latest thinking on Twitter via @Lanka_Wildlife.

For more information go to: http://www.mongabay.com