Conserving Endangered Dragonfly Species at Hunuwela Estate

December 01, 2015
  • Conserving Endangered Dragonfly Species at Hunuwela Estate

Dilmah Conservation has partnered with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Kahawatte Plantations to protect four globally endangered species of dragonfly in Dilmah’s Hunuwela Estate: The Rivulet tiger (Gomphida pearsoni), the Wijaya’s scissortail (Micorgomphus wijaya), the Sri Lanka Lyrate Grappletail (Heliogomphus lyratus) and the Sri Lankan Nietner’s Grappletail (Heliogomphus neitneri).

In 2012, Dilmah Conservation commissioned IUCN to undertake a biodiversity assessment at Dilmah’s Hunuwela Estate. The purpose was to determine how to further improve the sustainability of biological resources within the estate and its bordering areas.

Sri Lanka is known to have some of the richest biodiversity regions in South Asia. But, as elsewhere in the world, the country’s unique ecosystems started to become degraded due to anthropogenic activities. Fortunately, in recent decades, there has been a global and national focus on the need for sustainable management of natural resources. The 2012 study was initiated to coincide with this paradigm shift and to determine what Dilmah, as a company, can do to better protect the biodiversity in its estates.

The assessment revealed that Dilmah’s Hunuwela Estate, spanning 991 hectares at an altitude of 300-900 meters and dominated by rainforest, plantations and home gardens, has a rich and diverse biodiversity. This is what was found:


Total Species 282 (belonging to 87 families)
Endemic Species 21
Nationally Threatened Species 15
Invasive Species 7


Total Species 214
Endemic Species 37
Nationally Threatened Species 13
Near Threatened Species 24

Two of the dragonfly species were found during the initial survey in 2012, and the other two were found during subsequent field visits in 2015.

Identifying the urgent need to protect these species and others in the region, Dilmah Conservation immediately commissioned a study to assess stream and water quality in order to obtain recommendations on watershed management and biodiversity conservation on the estate.

The study found several aspects that posed a direct threat to the biodiversity and water resources of the area. Stream banks were being destroyed due to the expansion of both plantations and home gardens. Existing habitats were also undergoing degradation and alteration. Planting taking place in high-slope areas was resulting in soil erosion while illegal poaching by villagers was also found to be a problem. Other issues identified by the scientists included illegal gem mining, the degradation of remaining forest areas and the spread of invasive plants.

IUCN proposed an integrated watershed management plan, highlighting five core areas while giving priority to conserving the water resources in the estate.

  • Preserving the existing biodiversity in Hunuwela Estate
  • Restoring the riverine forests, degraded habitats and marshy land in the estate
  • Improving the watershed to improve the water yield and reduce soil erosion
  • Promoting awareness
  • Conserving threatened fauna

In addition to saving these four species of dragonfly, sustainable watershed management will benefit the numerous other species on the estate, as well as providing an opportunity to develop a model conservation programme that can be replicated at other properties.