Wetland habitats are characterized by the permanent or temporary accumulation of water and associated flora and fauna. Initial interest in wetlands began with waterfowl hunting and the escalating exploitation of wetland resources resulted in the Convention on Wetlands, referred to as the Ramsar Convention—an intergovernmental framework for wetland conservation—being adopted in 1971. This historic meeting, held in Ramsar, Iran, resulted in the formulation of a broad definition for wetlands designed to provide international protection to the widest possible group of wetland ecosystems. The Ramsar Convention defines wetlands as:
“Areas of marsh, fen, peat land or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, including areas of marine water the depth of which at low tide does not exceed six meters.”
In Sri Lanka, the conservation of wetlands has been vested mostly with the wildlife sector as reflected by the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance of 1938 and its amendments. However, for a number of reasons due recognition for the importance of conserving wetlands in the country has not effectively come off the ground until recently.
The biodiversity of wetlands in Sri Lanka is clearly characterized by the rich array of habitat types and the high number of animal and plant species that they harbor. For example, amongst the total inland vertebrate species in Sri Lanka, about 30% are ecologically dependent on wetlands. Among the migratory birds that visit Sri Lanka annually, more than 50% are directly dependent on wetlands for food and shelter. Furthermore, the future survival of approximately 32% of the nationally threatened vertebrate faunal species in Sri Lanka is dependent on wetland ecosystems of the island.
The wetland project at Jetwing St. Andrew’s was initiated in recognition of the importance of wetlands and the need to conserve biodiversity. Main objectives are developing a man-made habitat for wildlife especially for small animals such as amphibians, dragonflies and damselflies due to their habitat distraction.
We hope to popularize this model within schools in Nuwara Eliya as well as around the country. The Jetwing St. Andrew’s Wetland Reserve is a perfect educational tool. We use the model, the process of its establishment and the outcome to educate school children on the importance of conserving habitats for wildlife for them and for the generations to follow.
The wetland is also a immersive experience to engage hotel guests, staff and the local communities to help them understand the responsibility and contribution needed to minimize habitat distraction and pollution.
Jetwing Hotels is a leader in nature-based tourism in Sri Lanka. We hope that this wetland area will serve as a role model to demonstrate that even small sites such as this, if managed correctly, can serve as important sanctuaries for Sri Lanka’s biodiversity.
Stay tuned for part 2: Biodiversity of Jetwing St. Andrew’s Hotel Wetland Reserve