- Jetwing’s longest-running conservation project
By Venessa Anthony
One of Sri Lanka’s most acclaimed wildlife research and conservation programmes – the Loris Conservation Project at Jetwing Vil Uyana – celebrated 12 years last week. An iconic experience offered at the boutique resort in Sigiriya, the Loris Conservation Project and the nightly Loris Trail are prime examples of how tourism can have a positive impact on the biodiversity and environment of the country.
To get a clearer picture of this conservation project, The Morning Brunch reached out to the resort’s Experiential Manager, environmentalist Chaminda Jayasekera. He informed us that the thriving population of dry zone grey slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus nordicus) on their property is a direct result of the careful construction and re-wilding of Jetwing Vil Uyana.
The hotel project began in the early 2000s with the ambitious task of converting an abandoned, severely degraded chena cultivation into a wetland ecosystem. “Once we had the waterways set up and preliminary native trees planted, natural succession took over. As the flora matured, lorises as well as other animals moved in to occupy the new habitats,” Jayasekera explained.
Jayasekera’s first encounter with this elusive primate of the night was in 2010. Realising the importance of the habitat to the loris population, the management of Jetwing Hotels moved to declare a portion of the resort earmarked for the construction of additional dwellings as a loris conservation site, shelving development plans. This was the first site in Sri Lanka dedicated to the conservation of the slender loris. A trail created through the site allows guests to engage in a night trail to spot the creature, armed with red headlamps and under the guidance of the hotel.
The demarcation of the forested land for conservation has led to a natural influx of other wildlife, including fishing cats, otters, and rusty-spotted cats. Over 8,000 local and foreign guests have so far experienced the trail, which boasts an encounter rate of about 90%.
Jetwing Vil Uyana also has many other conservation projects going on. Giving us more details about these, Jayasekera stated: “We run three conservation programmes: Jetwing Vil Uyana Loris Conservation Project (the longest-running conservation project to protect the grey slender loris, which started in 2010), Jetwing Vil Uyana Wild Cats Conservation Project, and Protect Eurasian Otters Project.”
He added that their loris conservation project funded and built a local library and community wildlife education centre as well.
Jayasekera observed that 12 years on, the loris conservation project has led to the creation of a Loris Conservation Fund, supplemented by the night trail and used for research, awareness, and conservation efforts as well as a Loris Conservation Centre at the hotel.
Jayasekera has currently published two books based on his countless hours researching the slender loris at Jetwing Vil Uyana and the hotel has hosted cinematography crews from world-renowned media organisations such as BBC Wild and National Geographic – the former spending over 17 nights at the property filming for the documentary, Primates.
We asked him if he had spotted any other interesting or rare species on the property, to which he responded that rare and threatened species that are reliant on water such as otters and fishing cats now thrive within the hotel premises.
“The forested areas also support a resident population of the protected grey slender loris – first observed in October 2010, with numbers growing each year. Presently, over 150 species of birds, 27 species of mammals, 51 butterfly species, 15 species of dragonflies, ten species of frogs, and 29 species of reptiles are found within hotel premises,” he informed us, adding that one can find species like the slender loris, rusty spotted cat, and the Eurasian otter as well.
To date, Jetwing Vil Uyana has welcomed over 29 lorises to the world as the population within the resort continues to thrive.
“This project is a testament to the positive impact of tourism,” concluded Jayasekera. “By creating a secure environment for these creatures as well as a sustainable model to contribute towards their conservation and carrying out widespread awareness programmes, we have ensured that we have made significant progress towards the future of the slender loris in Sri Lanka.”