Endana Nature Corridor

Technical team members:
Prof. Nimal Gunatilleke, University of Peradeniya
Prof. Savithri Gunatilleke, University of Peradeniya
Dr. Nalaka Geekiyanage, Rajarata University of Sri Lanka

Merrill J Fernando uprooting tea bushes
Merrill J Fernando uprooting tea bushes
Proposed Site for Nature Corridor
Proposed Site for Nature Corridor

Nature corridors are connections that link habitats. The Endana Nature Corridor (ENC) is 3 km long. Its purpose is to connect the fragmented Iharakanda and Walankanda Forest Reserves. This would allow threatened endemic species of plants and trees to freely migrate between habitats leading to ecological restoration and increased biodiversity. A key strategy for building the nature corridor has been by planting endemic tree species at the chosen site. To ensure the sustainable use of the forest resources and encourage preservation of forests and home gardens we have also integrated livelihood upliftment programmes.

In 2018 Dilmah founder Merrill J Fernando initiated the project by uprooting tea plant that had separated the two forest reserves for over 100 years. The project would serve as a model for large-scale nature corridors in future within Dilmah holdings and Sri Lanka.

Land use for the Endana nature corridor has been 24.3 ha taken from the Endana Tea Estate, 0.87 ha from active tea plantations and the remainder from abandoned tea lands.

  • Objectives

    • Enhance the biodiversity/conservation value of Dilmah’s land holding.
    • Link protected areas with Dilmah land holdings using mechanisms such as corridors, mosaics, stepping stones.
    • Showcase participatory approaches to conserving nature and the sustainable use of natural resources.
    • Demonstrate the benefits of connectivity conservation to local communities and small holding tea growers.
    • Promote good practice within the tea industry sector and share lessons learned more widely in the region and globally such as restorative home gardening initiatives towards mitigating landslides which frequently affect the area.
  • Highlights and Progress

    Tree Planting

    Endemic species were selected for planting in the corridor based on the baseline survey, ensuring sustainability of the project. Since the project initiation several tree planting events have been completed:

    • 2019 (Aug) - Tree planting event was facilitated by Dilmah as a CSR initiative for Booking.com organisation in July
    • 2019 (Dec) - Awareness programme and tree planting event was conducted by Dilmah One Earth Nature Club members for community and plantation members in December.
    • 2021(May) - 50 saplings of the endemic Hal species were planted by Kahawatte plantations’ officers as a gift for Dilmah chairman’s birthday
    During a Tree planting event
    During a Tree planting event

    Research

    Several research studies have been performed to measure and evaluate the current state of the land and plan the best way forward.

    2018 Baseline survey to determine the soil profile and biodiversity of the region. Results were published as part of the dissertation of two PhD students on 5th September 2018.

    2019 Baseline survey to gather information about its wildlife. Conducted by a research team from Rajarata University Sri Lanka with the guidance of the project technical team. During the survey, 201 species were found that included 34 endemic species and 20 were in the IUCN Red list as threatened.

    2020 Socio-economic baseline survey for Endana Nature Corridor was completed by a research team of Rajarata University of Sri Lanka. Survey objectives were to evaluate how livelihood of the local community and sustainable use and preservation of forest resources could be improved, in addition to evaluating species diversity in home gardens of the said community.

    The following activities were also executed during the visit:Socioeconomic Survey Research Team:
    • Translocating bees for a home garden • Dr. Nalaka Geekiyanage
    • Visiting the village area and Walankanda area to understand the boundaries of the nature corridor and the village community, and • Dr. Anura Sirisena
    • Trekking to the Iharakanda Forest and village • Mr. A P S Fernando
    • Mr. Asanka Srimal
    • Students from the Rajarata University
    • Delwala Division Plantation Team

    2021

    Endana Nature Corridor Research

    • Land suitability map for for the tea plantation of Uda Dhelwala division, Endane tea estate. Research areas included are developing a perimeter of the estate and identifying different areas prone to landslides and soil erosion while identifying area important for watershed conservation.
    • Valuation of Ecosystem Services in Endana Biological Corridor To identify the key ENC ecosystem services and their financial value for estate community and rural village community, and to demonstrate importance of watershed conservation for water yield in Hangamu Oya and electricity generation.

    Beekeeping Research

    • Floristic Pattern and Foraging Behaviour Of Honey Bees In Endana Biodiversity Corridor: within Greater Sinharaja Forest Complex To identify floristic patterns of bee foraging on existing plants, develop a pollen key, analyse pollen collect by honey bee, and propose suitable species to establish in the corridor.
    • Performances of Domesticated Honeybees (Apis Cerana) In Endana Biodiversity Corridor: Initiation Of Beekeeping As A Cottage Industry Objectives include studying growth and development of introduced honey bees in home gardens, features of behavior of bee strain found in the study area and evaluating farmer attitudes and technical skills related to beekeeping

    Plant Nursery

    The plant nursery exists to ensure that trees reach maturity and that the adequate number of saplings can be generated for the sustainability for the project. Activities in plant nursery include seed collecting after locating mother trees, making soil medium, planting in nursery and nursery maintenance. Once saplings reach a suitable stage for planting, a tree planting event will be organised to establish the saplings in the nature corridor. The tree plantings help promote ecological restoration and biodiversity of the area.

    2019 Plant nursery established for endangered and primary forest species

    2020 From Sept 2020 to May 2021 over 3000 seeds collected

    2021 The plant nursery grew to house 2641 nursery plants by May 2021

    Section of the Endana Plant Nursery
    Section of the Endana Plant Nursery

    Uplifting Livelihoods

    To support the sustainability of the nature corridor livelihood upliftment projects for communities in the nature corridor and environs in Endana have been organised.

    Beekeeping Programme

    The communities engaged in beekeeping are supported through education and awareness programmes facilitated by the Endana Resource Centre, while the ultimate goal is to establish a livelihood supporting beekeeping cottage industry – which will involve honey collection, processing the honey and crafting unique flavor profiles for honey.

    January 2021 A livelihood supporting beekeeping programme commenced. Currently 10 bee colonies and a cottage level beekeeping industry has been established in the Endana area.

    Inspecting Bee Box
    Inspecting a Bee Box

    Education and Awareness

    When a community is more aware and knowledgeable about the forest in their backyard and resources that they draw sustenance from, they are empowered to protect it.

    April 2021 A sensory education programme was carried out for students from the MJF Child Development Centre in Endana, to help children get into the practice of caring for seeds and plants they have sown.

    Toddlers learning about seeds and planting
    Toddlers learning about seeds and planting
  • Partners

    • Uda Delwala Rural Organisation (UDRO)
    • Forest Department of Sri Lanka
    • Rajarata University