Bio Diversity

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Item No 11. Expensive Wood Products Showcase

11.1 Sandlewood (Santalum album)

11.2 Red Sanders (Ptlerocarpus santalinum)

Portion of a Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) which were detected by Sri Lanka Customs is exhibited here.

Several consignment of these were intercepted by Sri Lanka while on transit through Sri Lanka, most notable recent detections being a detection of 4.5 Mt in November, 2013 by Mr.P.B.Kulanthunga (DDC) and a 10.6 Mt in February, 2014 by Mr.Wasantha Randeniya (SC) and Mr. Parakrama Basnayake (SC).

Red Sanders (Pterocarpus santalinus) is listed in Appendix II of CITES due to the rarity of the species.

11.3 Sri Lankan Agarwood (Gyrinops walla)

Specimens of Sri Lankan Agarwood (Gyrinops walla), commonly known as “Walla Patta” is exhibited.

Several detections were made by Mr.Nuwan Abeynayake (ASC), Mr.Thilanka Samaraweera (ASC), Mr. Samantha Pushpakumara (ASC), Mr.Sahan Jayasinghe (ASC) and Mr.Dilan Weerarathna (ASC) of Sri Lanka Customs while attempting to export illegally.

Due to the rarity and high demand for perfume industry, it is prices very highly in international market.

11.4. Edible Bird’s Nests

The Indian Swiftlet (Collocalia unicolor) is the only 'edible nest builder' among the five species of resident Swifts found in Sri Lanka. The bird secretes saliva, which once hardened takes on a white, thick gum like form which is used as nest cement. Swiftlets build in dark caves, occasionally in culverts, tunnels and empty caves. Limestone caves and sea caves are favoured by these birds who neatly saliva-glue their nests to the cave walls. Despite being engulfed by the darkness of the cave they are able to function using echo-location techniques. But the nests originally meant for two tiny Swiftlings have become a thriving trade for exploiters who are catering to Far Eastern markets.

The history of edible nest harvesting is believed to date back to the Chinese T'ang Dynasty (68-97 AD) even though there are no written references to such activity. Though there is no scientific research to back this claim, the Chinese, believed these nests possessed aphrodisiac and other benefits. They are considered a Chinese delicacy. Commercialization crept in during the 19th century when British authorities based in India, annually auctioned contracts to export nests to China, a practice which faded due to over-exploitation.

In Sri Lanka, nest gathering was practiced on a large scale by the native Veddahs, especially during the breeding season. There are references to the ancient practice of nest gathering in the dry zone in R.L Spittel's "Wild Ceylon". It was noted, however, that the nests were cleared, once the Swiftlings were grown.

The bird has been protected by law since 1964. It is a punishable offence to destroy birds, eggs or nests and with the 1993 amendment to the Flora and Fauna Act, penalties have also been increased, therefore, capturing, killing or wounding birds, destroying nests or eggs, selling or offering to sell parts of bird or possession of such, are liable to a fine and a prison term.

In 1994, Italy proposed to enlist Indian Swiftlets (Collocalia unicolor) under Appendix 2 of the CITES Agreement (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) which was withdrawn later. That would have opened the flood gates for commercial exploitation.

Sri Lankan Customs Officials have been able to intercept many attempts to export these over the years violating Customs Ordinance read with Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance.

Detecting Officers: Mr. A Wickramanayake (ASC), Mr. V.Buddarajadasa (ASC) – 1993 Mr.G W A W Piyasumana (ASC), Mr.W A Somadasa (ASC) – 1995 Mr.M M M Rishafy (ASC) – 1999 Mr.Piyal Hakmanaaracchi (ASC), Mr.S Senarathna – 1999 Mr.M F D Fernando (ASC),Mr. N P Ranjith (ASC) – 2002 Mr.K L D Malwita (ASC) – 2008 Mr.Mali Piyasena (DDC),Mr. G N W Jayasiri (ACO), Mr.C L Ambagahawatta (ACO) – 2009 Mr.Mali Piyasena (DDC), Mr.D M A Sagara(ASC) – 2009 Mr.P V J S B Pahalawithana (ASC) – 2012

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