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October 23, 2017
First ever complete Photographic Field Guide to the Bird of Sri Lanka
A Photographic Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne was launched at the British Bird Watching Fair. Although a number of photographic books and guides to the birds of Sri Lanka have been published, this is the first guide to all 462 species of birds recorded in the country. It was written by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne who was also the principal photographer. It uses additional contributions from over fifty photographers from around the world to compile the 850 plus images used in the book.

The contribution from overseas photographers was especially needed to illustrate the 100 species of birds which are vagrants to Sri Lanka. Some species have been recorded in Sri Lanka only once. The field guide's text is oriented towards identification with the species accounts having distribution maps and where helpful more than one image of the bird to show different plumages where differences arise due to age or sex. This enable beginners and experienced birders to have in one book the key information they need for field use. It also contains introductory information on the key wildlife sites in Sri Lanka and a useful list of specialist wildlife tour operators.

The book launch was preceded by a talk by Gehan in the Author's Forum. The author is a wildlife celebrity in Sri Lanka and British TV Naturalist Bill Oddie has stated no individual has done as much as Gehan to brand a country for wildlife. Gehan spoke about why Sri Lanka is super-rich for wildlife and provided comparisons of the species per unit area of Sri Lanka with Borneo, Madagascar and New Guinea. He also spoke about the wildlife highlights such as the Elephant Gathering, Leopard Safaris, Best for Whales and the biggest Sperm Whale super-pods, stories which he had played a lead role in researching and branding. He also spoke of the Sinharaja Bird Wave, the largest and longest continuously studied bird wave in the word.

The Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau (SLTPB) participated at the Bird Fair and attended the book launch and had a range of material on display for visitors to the Bird Fair, the biggest wildlife events of its kind in the world. Nalin Perera from the SLTPB who has exhibited at the Bird Fair for a number of years commented that the book fills a significant gap which existed in the Sri Lanka wildlife literature. He observed that Sri Lanka's popularity as a wildlife destination continues to grow. The talk was followed by a book signing which attracted a number of buyers who were buying the book with a birding and wildlife holiday in mind.

John Beaufoy and Rosemary Wilkinson from John Beaufoy Publishing (JBP) also attended the event. John Beaufoy commented that JBP have already received favourable comments on the book which they believe is the easiest to use field guide for Sri Lanka's birds. John Beaufoy Publishing have emerged as a leading British publisher of natural history books. Other titles they have published on Sri Lanka include 'Wild Sri Lanka' as well as pocket photographic guides to Birds, Reptiles and a title covering Butterflies and Dragonflies. The book is available on Amazon and other online sites and in high street bookshops in the UK and Sri Lanka.

About the Author: Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne has played a pivotal role in branding Sri Lanka for its wildlife. He has had over 15 books and over 330 articles published. In the words of widely travelled British TV wildlife celebrity Bill Oddie, no single individual has done so much to publicise a country for its wildlife.

Gehan has broken some of the country's biggest wildlife stories (some of international significance). He was the first to publicise Sri Lanka as being 'Best for Blue Whale' (May 2008) and led a strong international media campaign to publicise Sri Lanka as a destination for whale watching. He was also the first to realise and publicise that the greatest gatherings of Sperm Whales occurred off Sri Lanka. He led the publicity campaign that Sri Lanka was the best for seeing super-pods of Sperm Whales on a commercial whale watch (August 2012). His field work and publicity also explained why Kalpitiya is the country's third whale watching hotspot (March 2010). He was also the first to recognise and develop the island's potential for leopard safaris and commercially brand Sri Lanka for leopards and Big Game Safaris and publicise the claim that Sri Lanka was the best for Big Game Safaris outside Africa.

He branded the 'Elephant Gathering' and explained and publicised that the largest recurring gathering of wild elephants takes place in Sri Lanka. All of these stories have subsequently been the subject of many film documentaries by producers from all over the world. Gehan was also the scientific consultant for the three-part blue chip natural history documentary Wild Sri Lanka produced by Mike Birkhead Associates which drew heavily on his book Wild Sri Lanka published by John Beaufoy Publishing.

He also popularised the study of dragonflies by instigating the coining of English names and developing a series of affordable, simple, pictorial photographic guides (in print and with free online pdfs), culminating in the first photographic field guide to the dragonflies of Sri Lanka (together with Matjaz Bedjanic and Karen Conniff). He also re-kindled interest in butterfly watching through the same formula of simple, pictorial, photographic guides in an affordable printed format as well as free online pdfs. The first combined photographic field guide covering the commoner butterflies and dragonflies was authored and photographed by him. He also authored and photographed the first modern photographic field guide to mammals which continues to be reprinted. He has also authored and photographed books that provide overviews of the natural history of Sri Lanka.

For four years, he chaired the Nature Photographer of the Year Competition, which with wide national publicity and a first prize of unprecedented amount in local photographic competitions created a step change in the approach to wildlife photography. It gave many Sri Lankan photographers who were category winners the confidence to go on to publish their own books and stage exhibitions. He has had a big societal impact on how Sri Lankans view the country's wildlife, both from a sense of aesthetic appreciation and its commercial potential and was in the country at a time when he was able to complement the efforts of people such as Rohan Pethiyagoda who created a renaissance in scientific biodiversity exploration.

In 1999 when Gehan returned to Sri Lanka from London it was difficult to find anyone (local or international) involved in Sri Lankan wildlife conservation or in tourism who believed that Sri Lanka could be commercially successful as a Big Game Safari destination or be branded as a top all-round international wildlife destination. Through field work, carefully researched evidence-based articles, books and other media material and commercially oriented media engagement, he convinced both Sri Lankans and international audiences that Sri Lanka was a top wildlife destination.

He has shown the tourism industry and the public that Sri Lanka can be marketed as a multi-day safari and an all-round wildlife destination. Much of Sri Lanka's rapidly growing modern wildlife tourism industry has its roots in his pioneering efforts and he paved the way for the many Sri Lankans who now pursue full time careers in wildlife tourism. In 2010, after a decade of creating prominence for Sri Lanka as a wildlife destination he returned to London. He remains involved in writing on and photographing Sri Lanka's fauna and flora and is a wildlife celebrity in Sri Lanka.

He is presently the Chairman of the London Bird Club (a section of the London Natural History Society). He has been making the case that London can be marketed as a wildlife destination. He was one of the key photographic contributors to the London Bird Atlas and took a key role in the administrative work to steer it to publication.

A listing of Gehan's books on Sri Lanka can be seen on his Amazon page, on the link below.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne

About the Publisher: John Beaufoy Publishing
John Beaufoy was for 20 years the MD of New Holland UK. New Holland (with offices in South Africa, Australia and the UK) is one of the largest international publishers. New Holland had one of the largest natural history lists amongst publishers which it has sold off during a re-structuring. John Beaufoy who left New Holland, went on to establish the eponymous John Beaufoy Publishing in 2008 with a focus on travel and natural history. They have over a hundred titles in their list so far of which around a third are natural history titles.
Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne, Sheena Harvey (Editor BBC Wildlife) and
Nalin Perera (Sri Lanka Tourism Promotion Bureau) at the launch of the book at Bird Fair 2017
Nalin Perera, Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne with publishers Rosemary Wilkinson
and John Beaufoy at the launch of the book at Bird Fair 2017.
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