Witness Weeping Wilderness
By Risidra Mendis
Some walk for miles in search of food and water and others die on the way. Some lay fallen by the roadside, with bullets in their bodies and about to breathe their last. Some put up a fight to save their babies and end up dead, while others are brutally hunted and killed for their skin, tusks, and meat. This is the fate of Sri Lanka’s wild animals and what goes on in the thick dense jungles, known only to a few.
The responsibility of protecting wild animals lies with the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and true to their word some wildlife officers have risked their lives to save wildlife, while some have even died in the line of duty, only to be forgotten soon after along with all the animals that have died at the hands of humans. In this light comes along a book that remembers wildlife officers who have sacrificed their lives to save wildlife, a book that addresses the cruelty to wild animals and their on-going struggle to survive in the wild.
Animals fight to survive in a cruel world dominated by humans and this book, The Exclamation of the Wilderness - Wanapetha Handa Nagai by Supun Lahiru Prakash gives you 29 short stories written by the author on the sad fate of wild elephants, deer, leopard, crocodiles, turtles, and sloth bears among others. Elephants killed and their babies stolen, pregnant elephants killed in the escalating human-elephant conflict (HEC), tuskers massacred for their tusks, leopards killed for their skins, pangolins, deer, sambar, wild boar, and turtles killed for their meat, and a black leopard and other animals caught in traps are just a few of the heart breaking stories that Prakash has included in his book.
Interest in wildlife
Prakash who has been working as a volunteer environment activist and freelance environment journalist since 2005, was recently recognised as one of ten 2020 United Nations Climate Change: Learn Champions in the World by the United Nations Institute for Training and Research and is the only person recognised in this event from Asia. It was by chance that Prakash first got interested in Wildlife.
“Many years ago a friend of mine Chandana Weeratunga gave me a photo that he had taken at Wilpattu National Park of a leopard who had caught a water monitor and asked if I could publish it with a write up in the Lakbima newspaper,” Prakash said. After the article was published Prakash was asked to do a daily write up. “My Editor didn’t tell me to write on wildlife conservation but I started writing on it and the suffering wild animals are subjected to.
Wanapetha Handa Nagai – published by Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) Sri lanka – consists of articles published by me since 2013 on the suffering of animals and their deaths at the hands of humans,” Prakash explained. He said that he appreciates and honours Weeratunga and the other professional photographers; Anil Withanage, B. Vijitha Perera, Mendis Wickremasinghe, Nilupul Rangana, Ajith Gunatunga, Jayatilaka Bandara, Sampath. K.K.Ekanayake, Tharaka Kusuminda, Irosh Nilanga, Dr. Prithiviraj Fernando, K.D. Devapriya, Nayanaka Ranwella, H.K. Janaka, Nishan Perera, and Milinda Wattegedara whose photos went a long way in giving life and meaning to the stories he wrote.
Nature suffering greatly
“Prakash’s book is being released at a crucial time when Sri Lanka’s nature and wildlife is suffering greatly. The book is rich in high-quality photographs taken by some of Sri Lanka’s leading wildlife conservationists, photographers as well as rangers from the DWC. Written beautifully in Sinhala, using emotive language, the book aims to persuade the reader to become empathetic towards the day-to-day struggles facing our wildlife,” WNPS officials said.
They say the book, which primarily targets school children, aims to raise awareness about Sri Lanka’s human-wildlife conflict by compelling the reader to see the world through the eyes of the wildlife. They added that the book is dedicated to the brave field officers of the DWC, who risk their lives daily to protect Sri Lanka’s precious wildlife species. “WNPS is proud to join hands with Prakash on the inaugural release of his book and has printed 1000 copies which are to be distributed free of charge to public libraries through the WNPS District Representatives’ Programme. The book will also be available for free download through the WNPS website,” the officials said.
Focusing on conservation
“I wrote this book with the hope that people who read it will have a better understanding on wildlife and change their attitude on the way they treat wild animals. This book is not for sale. It will be put in libraries for children to learn and be compassionate towards wildlife and nature. I also thank the WNPS for supporting me to publish this book and to Secretary WNPS Jehan Kanagaratne and others who helped make this book a reality,” Prakash said.