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  • Writer's pictureNimalka Sanjeewani

Our Recce trip to Thangappuwa/Knuckles forest reserve - Aug 2012

In Friday, August 3rd 2012 evening we started our recce into the ThangappuwaForest reserve. Our mission was to do a preliminary visit prior to launching surveys of this connector forest. It connects the Duckwari forest patches with the adjacent Knuckles reserve. WWCT is interested in doing a comparative between the patch forests of Duckwari and the larger intact forest of Thankgappuwa/Knuckles to assess variations in biodiversity.

Our route was through Bandarawela, Nuwara eliya, Kandy and Teldeniya. We left around 6 pm from Bandarawela and reached Hunnasgiriya around 3.30am the next day. We rested for 3 hours in the area and re started our journey.

Around 6am we arrived at the house where we have previously staying on the Duckwari estate. At 7am we started up towards Loolwatta where there is a short cut road to Corbert’s Gap. This is a 1km trail through the forest, used by surrounding villagers for their day to day activities. We met some villagers in the area and they were very helpful and seemed to have a good knowledge base about the surrounding forest.

We reached the Thangappuwa Knuckles road around 9 am, and we rested for 15 minutes before walking down the once well used jeep track to Thangappuwa. It was now disused and much eroded.

As we walked along it was clear that there was much habitat changes in this area; at first it was forest with Cardamom plantation undergrowth. There were some privet lands as well. Following this there is a small grass patch and then dense forest. We were lucky to see early on special moth species, (at first we misidentified it as a butterfly from the Lycinidae). On reaching the Gap itself we saw a clear canopy variation with a multi colour canopy. Beyond this was a huge bamboo forest where we saw a Ceylon Forester butterfly – a very rare endemic butterfly in Sri Lanka.

We rested near a bridge where a “Gambara Deviyan” worshiping place was. Many villagers in this area have gods that they worship and many shrines can be found in the forest. Heavy rain curtailed our recce at this point and so we had to return to Duckwari via the main road- a 4-5 km hike

The following morning we determinedly set out to complete our initial task. We walked quickly along the earlier route we had taken and on passing the bridge at which we had stopped the previous day we came across a grassland which stretches for around 1km continuing into thangappuwa. We saw a very colourful Calotes liolepis lizard, an endemic to Sri Lanka. It was one of the more beautiful male lizard specimens that I have seen. We finally entered Thangappuwa forest itself.

It was a wonderful forest recce but we were alarmed to see that this once pristine area was now disturbed by anthropogenic activities not from the villagers themselves but instead from the rise of tourists coming to the area. There was the dreaded polythene and direct damage to fauna and flora of the area.

It will be interesting to see what effects this is causing on biodiversity of this area when we launch our surveys. I for one would like to request all visitors to “please protect nature, and it will protect us”. This Thangappuwa/ Knuckles forest is a fragile ecosystem that still protects our endemism- it is a special place

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