An Urban Wetland. A Walk in the Park

Text and photography by Mihiri Wikramanayake – crossposted from Mihipedia.lk

It’s an overcast Sunday afternoon, and while the clouds keep the sun at bay, the day is devoid of its usual humidity and seems perfect for walking. Today, like many times before, we are letting our two dogs explore the wetland.

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Almost a stone’s throw from the Parliament Complex at Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte, the Diyasaru Uyana (formerly known as the Thalawathugoda Biodiversity Study Park), is a 60-acre urban wetland that is home to more than 80 species of wetland birds, over 40 species of butterflies, dragonflies, mammals, amphibians, fish, reptiles and other terrestrial and aquatic plant species. Adding to the list is the otter, the Purple-faced leaf monkey, a long-tailed arboreal languor endemic to Sri Lanka, and the even a couple of estuarine crocodiles.  

But more importantly, it is home to the elusive Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus), a globally vulnerable and locally endangered species which is being researched and studied by my offspring Anya Ratnayaka.

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Armed with a degree in wildlife conservation, a lot of spunk, a passion for protecting the underdog (in this case the cat), and heaps of patience, Anya collars and tracks these cats to see how well they are adapting to urban habitats and hopes to bring them to the forefront as a flagship species for urban wetland conservation. She also captures their movements via camera traps and has had many interesting encounters with them. You can read more about her work here and here and here.

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The Diyasaru Park consists of marsh lands, artificially created lakes and ponds, wooden walkways, a three-storeyed observation deck, a picnic patch, benches to sit and relax, wooded areas, a rush and reed pond where children can get into, and even some dinghy boats that can be used to explore the lakes.

A butterfly garden is now in full bloom, and today these beautiful creatures are everywhere. A Common Jezebel plays tag with a Common Tiger and they zip across this beautiful garden like bats out of hell. Some insects laze on stalks and stems while others flit from flower to flower, enjoying their evening tipple.

The Park also contains a study center and an open study area which could be utilized for various educational purposes, a laboratory for soil and water quality testing, an organic agricultural area with demonstrated composting operations, and so much more.

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Besides being a fun place to hang out at, a day spent at the wetland is an extremely educational experience. Children and adults can learn about how and why these special places hold such ecological and biological importance, observe creatures in their natural habitat, learn to identify trees, plants and flowers and so much more.

It’s been a good day for us and the dogs, Sirius and Vega have had a ‘field’ day!

This wetland has been created and is maintained by the Sri Lanka Land Reclamation and Development Corporation. Entrance to the Park is Rs. 100 per person.  Best times to visit are early morning and evenings.

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