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Combank promotes Sri Lanka’s biodiversity with project to search for more types of blind snakes


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Commercial Bank Deputy General Manager – Marketing Hasrath Munasinghe (centre) exchanges the agreement with L.J. Mendis Wickramasinghe, the principal investigator and founder of the Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka in the presence of Mahesh Ratnayake of the bank’s CSR Trust

  • Funds new research study of Herpetological Foundation on Family Typhlopidae

Eight of the known types of fossorial blind snakes of the Typhlopidae family are endemic to Sri Lanka, and the Commercial Bank of Ceylon is funding a new scientific project to identify and classify more types in this species to add to the country’s biodiversity pool and promote conservation.

The bank has committed financing support to the Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka (HFS) to conduct a research study relating to the taxonomy (or the classification study) and conservation of the Typhlopidae, which seeks to systematically revise, study and classify the Typhlopidae in the country, with the potential for the introduction of several species of the family that are new to science.

The Foundation has said it is hopeful it will be able to taxonomically publish 30 new species of Typhlops as a result of this study.

“Commercial Bank’s funding of this research will also help create conservation awareness about the family of blind snakes among the general public, while enabling the updating of a fully-curated collection of the species to be deposited in the National Museum of Sri Lanka,” the bank’s Managing Director Jegan Durairatnam said. “We believe that contributing to the expansion of scientific data and knowledge in the sphere of biodiversity is a worthy cause for the bank to support.”

The objective of the study extends to arriving at a detailed understanding of the current distribution of the Typhlopidae in the country, and to recognise conservation issues faced by the species. Besides this, publishing new species would pave the way to declare Sri Lanka as a separate Biodiversity Hotspot as per the mission begun by the National Species Conservation Advisory, and as a ‘Megadiverse’ country – a country with high numbers of endemic species, a spokesman for the Herpetological Foundation of Sri Lanka said.

Upon achieving these goals, the Foundation would be able to assess and determine the conservation status of the Typhlops using the IUCN Red List for threatened species criteria, and also update the national database on species maintained by the Ministry of Environment of Sri Lanka. 

The Family Typhlopidae consists of fossorial blind snakes is currently represented in Sri Lanka by 10 species, of which eight are endemic to the island. The last description of a Typhlops species in Sri Lanka was entered more than half century ago, and no surveys have been carried out since. As a result, members of Typhlopidae in Sri Lanka have been listed as ‘data deficient’ in the National Red List of Threatened Species.

So far the HFS has collected data on the occurrence of Typhlops from approximately 169 locations on the island; 23 from the intermediate zone, 86 from the wet zone, and 60 from the dry and arid zones. However, the Herpetological Foundation is convinced of the possible occurrence of several more species of Typhlops in Sri Lanka.

Habitat loss and deterioration as a result of the expansion of agricultural land and human settlements; mortality related to man-made forest fires; application of agrochemicals; road kills and predation by farm animals (poultry) are listed as possible threats to the Typhlopidae in Sri Lanka by the Foundation. Since these fossorial reptiles prefer to live in moist soil with organic matter and leaf litter, a rise in atmospheric temperatures related to global warming too could also pose a threat to these sensitive reptiles.

Conservation is one of the main aims of this research project undertaken by L.J. Mendis Wickramasinghe, the principal investigator and founder of the Foundation.

The HFS also said that it hopes to name one of the new species to be discovered after Commercial Bank according to the International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) of fauna. 

Commercial Bank’s diverse portfolio of CSR commitments includes support to a project of the Department of Wildlife Conservation to replant coral in the Walduwa area of the Hikkaduwa Marine National Park using techniques perfected in the Philippines.

The only Sri Lankan bank to be ranked among the Top 1000 banks of the world for seven years consecutively, Commercial Bank operates a network of 261 branches and 767 ATMs in Sri Lanka. The bank has won more than 30 international and local awards in 2016 and 2017 and has over the years received multiple awards as Sri Lanka’s Best Bank, Best Trade Bank, Strongest Bank and Most Respected Bank from a number of local and international institutions and publications.

Commercial Bank’s overseas operations encompass Bangladesh, where the bank operates 19 outlets, Myanmar, where it has a Representative Office in Yangon, the Maldives, where the bank has a fully-fledged Tier I Bank with a majority stake and Italy, where the bank operates its own money transfer service.

 


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