One of Sri Lanka’s most acclaimed wildlife research and conservation programs, the Loris Conservation Project at Jetwing Vil Uyana, celebrated twelve years last week. An iconic experience offered at the boutique resort in Sigiriya, the Loris Conservation Project and the nightly Loris Trail is a prime example of how tourism can have a positive impact on the biodiversity and environment of the country.
Speaking to Daily Mirror, Chaminda Jayasekera, Experiential Manager and Environmentalist of the resort stated, “the thriving population of dry zone grey slender lorises (Loris lydekkerianus nordicus) in our 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,” Chaminda further stated.
Chaminda’s first encounter with this elusive primate of the night was in 2010. Realizing the importance of the habitat to the loris population, the management of Jetwing Hotels moved to declare a portion of the resort earmarked for 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 allowed guests to engage in a night trail to spot the creature, armed with red headlamps and under the guidance of the hotel.
Twelve years on, the 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. Two books have been published by Chaminda 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 seventeen nights at the property filming for the documentary “Primates.” 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 8000 local and foreign guests have so far experienced the trail which boasts of an encounter rate of about ninety percent.
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,” concludes Chaminda. “By creating a secure environment for these creatures as well as a sustainable model to contribute towards their conservation and carrying out widespread awareness programs, we have ensured that we have made significant progress towards the future of the slender loris in Sri Lanka.”