Sri Lanka mammals, endemic shrews to whales, showcased in new book

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s mammals are showcased in a new field guide illustrated with 300 colour photographs of nearly 130 species ranging from the tiny shrew to the blue whale in the seas around the Indian Ocean Island accompanied descriptions.

A Naturalists Guide to the Mammals of Sri Lanka, written by Gehan de Silva Wijeratne who is also a photographer, is published by John Beaufoy Publishing. It is available for sale online.

There are 22 endemic mammals in Sri Lanka with four recent additions

Sri Lanka’s Dusky-striped Squirrel (Funambulus sublineatus) has been elevated and the Golden Palm Civet (Paradoxurus zeylensis) already an endemic has been split into three endemic species – the Wet Zone Golden Palm Civet (P. Aureus), Montane Golden Palm Civet (P. montanus) and the Dry-Zone Palm Civet (P. stenocephalus).

The Highland Shrew (Suncus montanus) has been split from S. niger in India into a Sri Lankan endemic.

Sri Lanka’s endemic mammals include the Red Slender Loris (Loris tardigradus), Toque Macaque (Macana sinica), Hanuman langur, Layard’s Palm Squirrel , White-spotted Mouse Deer and Yellow striped Mouse deer, and five rats and mouse species and seven shrews.

The Red Slender Loris has circular eye markings as opposed to the oval shaped markings of the Grey Slender Loris.

“The Highland sub-species found in Horton Plains National Park and the isolated population of the Knuckles Range are potential candidates for a split,” Wijeratne says.

Sri Lanka’s primates have been studied at length by primatologists Anna Nekaris, Woflgang Dittus, Jinie Dela and their students.

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Wijeratne lists 31 marine mammals as having been spotted in Sri Lanka including the Southern Elephant Seal (of which there was one record) and the Dugong, which is endangered.

There was a debate whether 29 or 30 species of whales had been seen off Sri Lanka with some raising doubts about the Fin Whale and Northern Minke.

“In the checklist for this book I have exclude the Fin Whale as there is a consensus that previous records may have been mistaken,” Wijeratne writes in the introductory pages.

Wijeratne has played a key role in popularizing Sri Lanka’s various wildlife assets by indentifying the global context. He named Sri Lanka as the easiest place to spot blue whales in 2008.

A gathering of elephants in Sri Lanka’s Minneriya tank bed, where a grass grows as waters dry up, he said was the largest such in the the world.

Though there are African elephant gathering in drought years, they are not consistent. Three Asian elephant species are found in 13 countries.

In addition to Wijeratne’s own photos, the pocket book photos of other contributors including Paula Olsen (whales), Tharaka Kusuminda, Suyama Meegaskumbura, Ranil Nanayakkara, Andrew Sutton, Namal Kamalgoda and Burton Lim. (Colombo/Jan02/2020)

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