Dilmah Conservation's 'Novel Species Paving the Way for Biodiversity Conservation' programme was established to address the dearth of knowledge of Sri Lanka's herpetofaunal species, thereby generating scientific evidence of their existence and thus aiding conservation efforts.
Given the rapid changes taking place within the natural environment due to human activities, the importance of conserving species which are frequently overlooked or ignored is essential. Reptile and amphibian populations are especially susceptible to detrimental environmental changes, and endemic species in particular, are imperiled by the threat of extinction. These risks are further exacerbated due to the lack of research on these species which enables improved conservation.
Dilmah Conservation established the Novel Species Paving the Way for Biodiversity Conservation programme to address the need for current research to develop sound strategies for conservation management.
Implemented in partnership with the Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka, this project seeks to identify new species of reptiles and amphibians towards generating scientific evidence of their existence as a means of elevating conservation practices.
A significant portion of novel species awaits taxonomic descriptions and most of their habitats are under considerable pressure due to changes and threats to the environment. Given these circumstances, there is an urgent need to publish these species towards promoting the sustainable management of ecosystems with a view of conservation.
Amphibians in particular are a key indicator species towards assessing the health of an ecosystem, and this project seeks to fill existing knowledge gaps in the field of herpetofaunal conservation and enrich the knowledgebase on Sri Lanka's wealth of biodiversity and natural heritage.
While initially focusing only on herpetofaunal species, Dilmah Conservation has also expanded activity to include Lichen species since the initiation of the programme. Lichen are generally overlooked both by the scientific community and the general public, but are immensely important to the environment and to biodiversity.
The programme has so far facilitated the discovery of 31 species – 17 Lichen species and 14 herpetofaunal species.
Species of Frog Discovered:
Information on these species can be found here
The Dilmah shrub Frog, Psuedophilautus dilmah, is endemic to Sri Lanka and was discovered and documented from Loolkandura forest of Central Highlands. The authors stated in their report that the species was ‘named after Dilmah Conservation, for its dedicated efforts to biodiversity conservation on the Island’. Poetically, the site of this discovery is the very same location where James Taylor planted Sri Lanka’s first ever tea plant in 1867.
P. dilmah can be distinguished from other shrub frogs by the absence of nuptial pads as well as the absence of horny spinules from the anterior and posterior of its body. Unfortunately, the species is threatened by habitat loss due to anthropogenic activity. Species of Gecko Discovered:
Species of Snake Discovered:
The programmed also facilitated the taxanomic recharacterization of a little know South Asian species of snake named Rhinophis dorsimaculatus.
Species of Lichen Discovered:
In addition to the above lichen discoveries, the programme also supported the discovery of 152 new Lichen records from Sri Lanka; while these species have been previously discovered in other countries, they have not been recorded from Sri Lanka before.
These discoveries were all made by Dr. Gothamie Weerakoon, a renowned Sri Lankan lichenologist and the first woman scientist in South Asia to hold the prestigious ‘Annual Grantee Award’ of the National Geographic Society; NatGeo also supported Dr. Weerakoon’s work alongside Dilmah Conservation. Dr. Weerakoon is the author of Dilmah Conservation ‘Fascinating Lichens of Sri Lanka’ the first of its like in the nation.
The species Heterodermia queensberryi was named after Dilmah’s Queensberry estate where it was first discovered.