A Peek into the Mangroves of Sri Lanka (Part I: Chilaw Mangroves)

ආයුඛෝවන් (Ayubowan)

Ayubowan! (Greetings  in Sinhala, equivalent of saying “May you live a long life”).

Last December 2011, Rick a.k.a. the Mangrove Apprentice island-hopped from Singapore to Sri Lanka, which is  2601 kilometers away from the little-red-dot for a holiday. However, he couldn’t stray far away from mangroves upon touchdown in The Resplendent Land. He visited two mangrove sites which were physically and biologically different from each other and also to that of Singapore mangroves.

For this post (Part I), we shall highlight the first site that his journey at a  degraded  mangrove and restoration site.

It is located at the outskirts of Chilaw, within the Puttalam-Chilaw lagoons , Northwest of Sri Lanka.

Chilaw, like many parts of Sri Lanka, is rich in biodiversity. Besides  the mangroves, Chilaw-Puttalam lagoons are also famous for blue whale and dolphin watching, which are all-year round and resident animals in these lagoons.

Upon reaching the mangrove, Rick realized the mangrove vegetation in this site was very different than that of Mandai. Mangrove trees there were generally stunted in height and shrub-like. This observation may match the description of a degraded mangrove site; generally poor-nutrient soil (hence the stunted growth), the patchiness of mangrove species and poor diversity of mangrove species.

Riverine mangrove shrubs at Chilaw

A buta-buta or milky mangrove (Excoecaria agallocha) is easily spotted with its grey bark, uusally, mutliple trunked and  its convulated roots. Its distinguishing feature is that tree barks or damaged leaves releases white sap that may cause temporary blindness, hence the plant is named as buta-buta (blind)

Multiple trunked Buta-buta (Excoecaria agallocha) sighted

The roots of the Buta-buta in this mangrove was extremely convulated

Pointed leaves & small, round and clustered fruits-these secondary features of identifying a Buta-buta

A child posing for the camera in front of the Buta-buta

The second tree species found along the site was a Bakau (Rhizophora tree). Kindly click here to know more Bakau trees.

Ah-ha, Rhizophora tree spotted!

Perhaps it is a Rhizophora apiculata

Most probably a Rhizophora apiculata. Look at the buds

Venturing further away along the river, Rick  spotted a shrimp pond still in operation. Shrimp ponds  are an eye-sore to mangrove conservationists because mangroves are usually cleared out by shrimp farmers for short-term shrimp farming and they are usually abandoned after that.  Kindly click here to read up  more about the impacts of shrimp farming.

A shrimp pond adjacent to the river

A shrimp pond farmer showing his catch for the day

Shrimps caught in a tray net submerged in the pond

Given that an operational shrimp pond is located  only meters away from another mangrove site,  is there any hope for this mangroves of Chilaw? Yes, UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) is carrying several mangrove restoration in this site(pictured below). However, there is a need to better law enforcement and better governance in order protect mangrove areas from destruction in the first place. Education pertaining to the importance of mangroves would play a vital role to conserve mangroves for its many benefits.

Mangrove restoration by UNDP ongoing at the site

Next post will be Part II of Rick’s mangrove journey at Maduganga river! Be sure to catch the next post and other exciting news posts from this blog! Thank you!


About Mangrove Action Squad

Welcome to the Mangrove Action Squad (MAS) blog. The squad is very passionate about monitoring and conservation of mangroves of Singapore and we love to share our thoughts on the subject of mangroves.

Posted on January 20, 2012, in Mangrove News, Mangroves Education and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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