Thirty outstanding range officers were awarded the Diploma in Wildlife Management
The Awards Ceremony of the Diploma in Wildlife Management 2022 was held on the 11th of July 2023 at the Faculty of Graduate Studies Auditorium. Thirty Range Officers of the Department of Wildlife Conservation who successfully completed the programme received the Diploma on this occasion. The Chief Guest for the event was Professor Siril WIjesundara, former Director General of the Royal Botanical Gardens and an eminent scientist. Mrs R.M.C.M. Herath, Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resource Conservation was the Guest of Honour. Many distinguished personalities in the field of natural resource conservation including the Mr M.G.C. Sooriyabandara, Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, Dr Thilak Premakantha, Director General of the National Zoological Gardens, Emeritus Professor Lakshman Dissanayake, former Vice Chancellor of the University, Directors and Assistant Directors of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, many scientists in the biodiversity, ecology and conservation field who contributed to the course attended the event. Several Diploma holders from the previous batch were also present at the occasion to cheer on their successor batch.
The Acting Vice Chancellor, Professor Lasantha Manawadu declared the opening of the Awards Ceremony and Welcomed the Diploma Awardees and the invitees. He highlighted the importance of this Diploma with the fact that it was designed and trained specifically for enhancing the human resource of the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Sri Lanka and commended the effort taken by the Academic Coordinator, Professor P. N. Dayawansa for the leadership and organisation in providing the best resources and training for the officers in this course. Professor Upul Sonnadara introduced the Chief Guest elaborating on the significance of the contributions of Professor Wijesundara, both as a researcher and a professional in the field of conservation. Professor Wijesundara delivered the keynote speech and addressed the Range Officers specifically highlighting the importance of education and personal development in the career while maintaining integrity and a dignified reputation, yet amicably when making decisions. The 30 Wildlife Rangers proudly ascended the stage to receive their hard earned Diploma from the University of Colombo. The Diploma in Wildlife Management is funded by the Ecosystem Conservation and Management Project (ESCAMP) and is only to a selected batch of Rangers qualify to follow it. The Training is a comprehensive curriculum involving both theoretical and practical education topped up with laboratory and field coaching on classical and modern conservation knowledge.
Following the conferment and declaration of Diploma awarding, the Guest of Honour, Mrs R.M.C.M. Herath addressed the gathering. Her speech focused on the stars of the day, the awardee Rangers of the Diploma in Wildlife Management 2022. She called attention to the gravity of their profession in protecting not just animals but also plants as life that does not have a voice. Arriving at the final and the high point of the ceremony, the finest performers of the Diploma were awarded Gold medals, a Silver medal and a Bronze medal. Mr C W Nicholas Memorial Gold Medal for Diploma in Wildlife Management 2022 celebrated the first warden of the Department of Wildlife who believed in the importance of public involvement in wildlife protection. He had recognized the concepts such as Minimum viable population long before it was introduced. The medal was awarded to the best student of the Diploma, Wildlife Ranger, Mr D. Ramasinghe.
Mr H.K.C. Kumarasinghe Memorial Silver medal for Diploma in Wildlife Management 2022 was received by Wildlife Ranger Mr P.A. Piyawardena. Late Mr Kumarasinghe was a brave, Wildlife Ranger Officer who sacrificed his life for wildlife protection in an encounter with poachers. He had been entitled to the award that year before unfortunately passing away while protecting the wildlife of the country. Hence the award now recognizes his sacrifice to the field. An expert in human elephant conflict and serving wildlife for 40 years, Mr K. Mansoor received his Diploma in Wildlife Management in 1997. He had led his life saving many wild elephants and had unfortunately passed away in a field operation. Wildlife Ranger Mr A.K. Saman Kumara was the recipient of Mr K. Mansoor Memorial Bronze Medal for Diploma in Wildlife Management 2022.
In addition to the hard work and dedicated service of the wildlife rangers, there are many personalities who have done valuable services to the field of wildlife management. Among such contributions, Emeritus Professor S W Kotagama is a name that cannot be forgotten. He has contributed to ornithology, wildlife biology and environmental conservation in Sri Lanka and has been recognized at many levels for his services. He was one of the vibrant personalities the Department of Wildlife Conservation has had and a pioneer of the National Wildlife Training Centre in Giritale. Recognizing his outstanding contributions, the Emeritus Professor S W Kotagama Award for the best field performance was awarded jointly to the two Wildlife Rangers, Mr D. Ramasinghe and Mr K.H.K.L. Peiris.
Wildlife Rangers, Mr W.M.S.S. Weerakoon and Mr D.M.S.K. Dissanayake were jointly awarded the Emeritus Professor Lakshman Dissanayake Gold Medal for the best research project in the Diploma in Wildlife Management 2022, which was named to honour Professor Dissanayake’s continued support and emphasis in incorporating research into the course. He had been acclaimed worldwide for research and is known for highlighting the importance of research for achieving high standards. The Awards Ceremony was then declared as successfully concluded by the Acting Vice Chancellor and the congregation dispersed for felicitation.
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