Projects undertaken and/or supported by the Otara Foundation include the following key focus areas:
Embark is an organization dedicated to improving the well-being of street dogs through its rescue, rehoming initiatives whilst managing the population and preventing rabies through sterilization and vaccination programs across the country. Most of the rescues and treating of the injured are focused in the western province of Sri Lanka, but we do try our best to reach as many as we can in other areas. Embark has been at the forefront, influencing policy in relation to animals and playing a vital role in making a significant change in the lives of animals and people alike.
The Otara Foundation continues to prioritise animal rights in Sri Lanka. The Foundation works with the governments, law firms, special interest groups and communities to raise awareness, all encompassed under the overarching mandate of Compassion.
Since its inception, the Foundation has championed the Animal Welfare Bill, much needed legislation that has still not passed into law. Sri Lanka currently has very few laws in place to adequately protect animals in zoos, domestic pets, or abandoned/lost wildlife. A dedicated and public campaigner for effective laws that reflect or advance the values of a progressive society, the Otara Foundation is focused on its vision for animal welfare and the ethical treatment of wildlife in Sri Lanka, driving change on behalf of the voiceless.
Foundation activities that promote Animal Welfare include the following:
- January 2020 – Face the Nation,TV 1, a panel discussion regarding Animal Welfare in Sri Lanka
- May 2019 – Visit to the Attidiya Wildlife Rescue Centre to create awareness on the rescue and rehabilitation of wild animals
- March 2019 – The Otara Foundation builds new Isolation Units for the Donkey Rescue and Education Centre, Mannar
- September 2018 – Feeding of Hungry Street Animals
- June 2018 – Opening of Donkey Clinic and Education, Talaimanar, Mannar
- April 2018 – Article on Barbaric Avurudu Elephant Racing
- March 2018 – Care for the Voiceless C4V Fundraiser
- March 2018 – Carol Buckley Elephant Aid Visit
- February 2018 – Daily Mirror Article on Elephants in Captivity
- September 2016 – Animal Defenders Event 1
- July 2016 – Where is our Compassion Campaign –creating awareness and compassion about animals in entertainment
- July 2016 – The Year of Compassion Campaign – highlighting the ability each of us have to make a difference in the lives of all living beings
- July 2016 – Desctrution of Elephant Habitat, Ehetuwewa, Galgamuwa – no details of Otara Foundation involvement given
- June 2016 – Otara Foundation supports the Environmental Foundation Limited
- February 2016 – Animal Welfare Bill approved by Cabinet
- February 2016 – Time to Care Zoo Campaign
- October 2015 – Animal Welfare Bill Appeal
- September 2015 – Letter to President – intervention against the enslavement of zoo animals
- May 2015 – Earthquake Relief Assistance for Animals in Nepal in partnership with Animal Nepal
- April 2015 – Elimination of Bear Bile Trade with ACRES Wildlife Rescue Centre Singapore
- March 2015 – Elephant Aid International
The Otara Foundation collaborates with its accredited partners to promote large and medium-scale reforestation projects in Sri Lanka.
In addition, because it is the Foundation’s mandate that every life matters and every little effort is a step in the right direction, we support and promote smaller individual initiatives in reforestation and replanting. These include:
- September 2019 – Otara Foundation sponsors the Tree Boot Fundraiser Campaign organized by the SLIIT Business Faculty focused on raising awareness about the consequences of deforestation and the importance of reforestation .
- July 2019 – Visit to the Muthurajawela Wetlands to create awareness on protecting the biodiversity and ecology of the wetlands
- June 2019 – Visit to Wilpattu for the Wilpattu Reforestation Program initiated by the Army
- June 2019 – Otara Foundation donates water tanks to the Sri Lankan Army in an initiative to reforest Wilpattu
- September 2018 – Tree planting event at the Water Treatment Plant in Kandana
- June 2018 – Tree Planting at Viharamahadevi Park
- May 2018 – Tree Planting at University of Colombo, Law Faculty
- February 2018 – Tree Planting Event at Independence Square by Aurora Sri Lanka
- September 2017 – Tree Planting in Wetland Biodiversity Park
- August 2017 – Tree Planting for Otara’s Birthday
- March 2017 – Tree Planting in Kadawatha for World Wildlife Day
- November 2016 – Otara Foundation plants Thimbiri in Thimbirigasyaya in partnership with the Colombo Municipal Council
- October 2016 – Tree Planting at the University of Colombo, Department of Economics in partnership with UDA and Sri Lanka Tourism
- September 2016 – Tree Planting in partnership with Colombo Municipal Council
Otara Foundation’s track record places us in the unique position of facilitating, sponsoring and fund-raising conservation projects throughout the island. To do so, the Foundation works with recognised, respected conservation-based organisations throughout Sri Lanka.
The Foundation’s interests in conservation take a two-fold approach:
Conservation is a science – and Sri Lanka is fortunate to have some of the world’s experts working for change in this island rich in bio-diversity. Collaborating with many and working in the areas of Human Elephant Conflict (HEC), National Park protection, opposing deforestation and standing up against irresponsible development in sanctuaries, strict nature reserves and protected areas throughout the island, the Foundation maximises its impact through the strategic allocation of its resources.
Collaborations and partnerships in Conservation projects include:
- The cleanup of the Attidiya Wildlife Sanctuary together with youth led environmental organizations
- Collaborations with EFL
The Foundation confirms funding and support of the following investigations, projects and legal actions by EFL:
- Loluwagoda Dendro Power Project
- Metal quarrying at Korathota
- Illegal felling of trees in Anuradhapura
- Gravel mining in Panirendawa
- Maha Oya – Sand mining permits
- Illegal construction in Kandalama
- Nilgala forest boundary issue
- Garbage issue in Thalangama
- Illegal garbage dump at Manelgama, Kelaniya
- Illegal construction within the Mahawewa tank reservation
- Construction of a road through the Walawwewatta Waturana EPA
- Complaint on Gregory Lake N’Eliya – Hotel Construction
- Complaint on noise pollution within a residential area in Colombo 03
- Inquiry on quartz mining within the Kotikanbokka Forest
- Complaint on noise pollution caused by an aluminium factory in Colombo 14
- Housing project within an elephant corridor in the North Central Province
- Investigation into illegally constructed electric fence blocking elephant corridor in Ehetuwewa
- Mini-hydro Power Plant at Getambe & translocation of Labeo fisheri
- Public nuisance case in Matara
- Inquiry into Mini-hydro Power Plant project in Kitulgala
- Investigation into the Sampur Coal Power Plant Project
- Investigation of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant
- Proposed wind farm in Mannar
- Gravel mining at Thambagalla
- Illegal quarry site at Kekirawa
- Impacts of tourism on the Kelani river at Kitulgala
- Illegal construction in Nallathanniya
- Illegal clearing close to Sinharaja
- Complaint on a proposed hotel at Unawatuna
- Complaint on deforestation at Kotiyagala
- Complaint on air pollution within a residential area in Wellawatta
- Illegal extraction of water for the Sithulpawwa temple from the Menik river within the Yala National Park
- Kumbukkan Oya Reservoir Project Investigation
- Investigation on the Pallekandal Church situated within the Wilpattu National Park
- Greater Kurunegala Water Supply & Sewerage project
- Metal Quarry issue in Pitumpe, Meepe
- Sand mining at Suduwella
- Deforestation North of Wilpattu National Park
- Inquiry on ground mounted solar power projects
- Kehelgamu Oya Phase II Mini Hydro Power Plant
- Collaborations with Rainforest Protectors of Sri Lanka
The Otara Foundation confirms funding and support of the following investigations, projects and legal action by Rainforest Protectors Sri Lanka:
Muthurajawela Direction Action Campaign to conserve Muthurajawela Wetland
The organization spearheaded a campaign with other environmental groups, religious leaders and villagers to stop the continued filling of Muthurajawela.
Action against Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest Deforestation
Successful legal action and negotiation resulted in local authority decision to halt all human activities within 500 meters of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest.
Campaign against Palm Oil Plantations
Community awareness and empowerment initiatives in Kegalle, Galle, Matara, Ratnapura and Kalutara Districts regarding environmental and social impact of expanding palm oil plantations resulted in discourse with Divisional Secretariats, Pradeshiya Sabhas and Divisional Secretariats. Campaign utilised media to spread awareness and counter misinformation received by local farmers.
Oil Palm Goes Rancid
Protecting the Last Two Elephants of Sinharaja World Heritage Rainforest
Nochchiagama Andarawewa Forest Reserve – Action against Deforestation
Illegal construction activity within Nochchiagama Andarawewa Forest Reserve in Anuradhapura District was causing wild elephants to move to surrounding villages increasing HEC.
Puttalam Lagoon – Community action & Campaign against dumping garbage
Campaign and action against the Sri Lanka’s Government plan to dump Colombo’s garbage in the ecologically sensitive Wilpattu Buffer Zone and subsequently bordering Puttalam Lagoon.
Sinharaja Rainforest – Action against destroying Core Zone
Successful National Media Campaign to stop destruction carried out by the Forest Department using JCB machines within core zone of Sinharaja Rainforest to create a road for tourist vehicles thereby devastating the sensitive ecosystem.
Protection of private land on Sinharaja Buffer Zone – 4 acres of riverine forest
Mapping and identification of unprotected privately-owned forest land in Sinharaja buffer zone, including assessment of properties suitable for acquisition and permanent protection under Rainforest Protectors Trust. Coordination of acquisition related tasks in Sinharaja Buffer Zone.
Koskulana, Kitulgala & Seethawaka Ganga – Action against Mini Hydro Projects
Media campaign and negotiation with Government authorities against the ecologically destructive Koskulana, Kitulgala and Seethawaka Ganga mini-hydro projects included education and awareness for local communities on the importance of catchment areas for sustainability.
Norochcholai Coal Plant – Media campaigns to expose malpractice and Sulphur Dioxide Pollution
Community Based Environmental Organisations – Initiation
In 2018 alone, 7 local, community-based environmental organizations have been initiated/set up by Rainforest Protectors of SL to environmental/ecological issues caused by Palm Oil, Deforestation and MiniHydro and to safeguard the water rights of villagers and all species.
- Naththandiya Parisaraya Surakeeme Sanvidhaanaya
- Dehiowita Jana Ayitheen Surakeeme Sanvidhanaya
- Kegalla District Parisara Sanvidhana Ekamuthuwa
- Katupol Virodhee Jaathika Sanvidaana Ekamuthuwa
- Daduruoya Surakeeme Sanvidhaanaya
- Koskulana Parisara Surakeeme Sanvidhaanaya
- Nature Friends Sri Lanka
Further, 2 dormant local community based environmental organizations were reactivated under this initiative.
- Kalawana Paarisarika Padanama
- Sinharaja Sumithuro – Rakwana
- Collaborations with Reforest Sri Lanka
The Otara Foundation confirms its investment and support in the following initiatives:
Karuwalagaswewa HEC Mitigation and Community Empowerment – 2018
Long term project to help mitigate Human Elephant Conflict, re-green the area, resuscitate lakes for wildlife and support the local economy.
Planting saplings in Atthidiya Bird Sanctuary – 2018
In collaboration with the Department of Wildlife Conservation, this initiative to included the planting of 1200 endemic trees to renew bio diversity (project ongoing).
60 Kumbuk Saplings along Kalu River
2018 Project in collaboration with the Kandana Water Board – August 30, 2018
Kottawa Highway Interchange
Tree planting initiative.
Over 500 Kumbuk Saplings planted
- Additional Projects supported by Otara Foundation include:
Sponsorship of Runakanda Rainforest Freshwater Fish Project
Social Media broadcast of interview with eminent conservationist Rukshan Jayawardene on Irrigation and Water Conservation systems in Sri Lanka.
Social Media broadcast of interview with Jayantha Wijesinghe of Rainforest Protectors
Social Media broadcast of interview with eminent conservationist Rukshan Jayawardene on Irrigation, the Environment and Sri Lanka’s diminishing water resources.
Media broadcast of Visit to Runakanda Rainforest Conservation Centre to commemorate International Day of Forests and discussion with Udaya Chanaka
Otara Foundation along with the Species Conservation Centre of Sri Lanka conducted and published research on small scale garbage dumping sites frequented by elephants.
Climate Change March 2015 – The Otara Foundation was a leading campaigner in Colombo.
Kwita Izina Gorilla baby naming ceremony
Kwita Izina is a traditional naming ceremony introduced in 2005 to raise awareness on conservation efforts, as the Government of Rwanda, through the Rwanda Development Board has achieved great success in protecting the endangered mountain gorilla population and has worked diligently with conservation partners, the private sector and the community to conserve their natural habitat.
As a result of Kwita Izina and other conservation efforts, the population of the endangered mountain gorillas had increased to 604 in 2016 in comparison to 480 in 2010 and the region’s low of 242 in 1981.
Otara Gunewardene was invited as an honorary guest by the Rwandan Government, as one of 25 international celebrities, to name a baby gorilla at the national Kwita Izina naming ceremony, to celebrate the importance of conservation and the role of sustainable tourism in protecting Africa’s rare and endangered wildlife species.
Health & Nutrition
The Otara Foundation has become increasingly concerned as to the nutritional health of the general population of Sri Lanka. Too often, the general public’s source of information on nutrition originates from the misleading mass-media marketing strategies of processed food manufacturers. Therefore, the Otara Foundation has invested substantially in infomercials and programming that promotes a natural, localised diet. The Foundation uses its social media reach to broadcast the numerous health benefits of living in tropical paradise, offering a real education on the multitude of ‘superfoods’ and nutritious local produce available in Sri Lanka.
The Foundation does not encourage the consumption of animal products, in line with progressive global thought that recognises livestock manufacture as the primary cause of environmental destruction, the inhumane nature of factory farming, the regulated and unregulated use of hormones and antibiotics in food and many other reasons. The Foundation bases its position on health with Founder Otara’s acceptance of ‘mindfulness’ and empathy as a way of life; that all animals fear suffering and death and therefore, this Organisation will not contribute to that end, for any animal.
The Organisation remains concerned with general inaccessibility to scrutinise the operations of Sri Lanka’s livestock trade. The Animal Welfare Bill championed by the Otara Foundation contains provisions that regulate the livestock trade, but lobbying by vested interests continue to delay its passage to law.
Benefits of local leafy greens
Sri Lanka has a national waste management crisis. While the Otara Foundation has been funding, sponsoring and participating in beach ‘clean-ups’ throughout the island on a regular basis, we believe this ‘damage control’ measure fails to address the overall problem of poor waste management practices, particularly in rural areas.
The Otara Foundation’s focus is to find and support effective recycling processes, while it investigates the accountability of industries indiscriminately creating non-biodegradable waste.
Following the 2017 Meethotumulla Tragedy the Foundation notes with considerable concern the significant biological and storage problems of other landfill sites in Karadiyana and Muthurajawela.
A global problem, evidenced easily on Sri Lanka’s beaches, protected areas and places of worship, the Otara Foundation calls for better practices to manage Sri Lanka’s Waste more effectively.
- January 2018 – Garbage Cleanup Program, National Program for 7 Days of Rest
- July 2016 – Mount Lavinia Beach Cleanup
- June 2016 – Arugam Bay Beach Cleanup
The Foundation invests in supporting locally manufactured art, craft, clothing and lifestyle accessories. Through the retail reach of 12 (and expanding) Embark stores islandwide, the Foundation features and sells local craft and sustainable design – increasingly moving toward an entirely ‘Made in Sri Lanka’ platform.
Deploying Founder Otara Gunewardene’s wide social media reach, the Foundation draws attention to national disaster, and undertakes emergency relief wherever possible, collaborating with experienced aid organisations on the ground.
- December 2022 – RARE Sri Lanka webinar on Captive Elephant Welfare in Sri Lanka, Life in Chains in Paradise
- January to December 2022 – Volunteer Programs with AISEC | Volunteer Program with American National College Psychology Club | Volunteer Program with Interact Clubs of North Colombo and DS Senanayake College
- September 2017 – Distribution of Dry Rations to Drought-affected Families in Mahavilachchiya
- August 2017 – Trip to Mahavilachchiya Anuradhapura to visit drought-affected communities
- March 2017 – Otara visits Drought-stricken Gampaha Community
- July 2016 – Visit to Norochcholai Power Plant and the neighboring communities affected by it
- June 2016 – Flood Relief Work in partnership with Best Care Animal Hospital
- May 2017 – Flood relief work in Baddegama for communities affected by the floods
Emergency Relief Operations by Embark:
Aranayake Relief Support
Embark, together with Best Care Animal Hospital carried out a vaccination and treatment program in Aranayake from the 21st to the 27th of July. The programme was funded by the Fondation Brigitte Bardot. The team was able to vaccinate 2000 plus owned and roaming street dogs and provide treatment for more than 200. We are thankful to the government officials – The Regional Director of Health Services, The MOH and the PHI’s – of the area, for supporting us in making the programme a success.
Sri Lanka experienced a torrential downpour on the 15 th of May, which left many parts of the country adversely affected: houses destroyed, lives lost and people and animals stranded. While the army personnel worked on rescuing the people, Embark, Best Care Animal Hospital and a few other rescue organisations worked on saving the lives of animals. We were able to rescue 35 dogs and pups. They were later reunited with their owners. The
rescues were carried out in Kaduwela, Angoda, Wellampitiya and Kotikawatte areas
The Foundation believes in the talented human resources of Sri Lanka. We support and encourage start-ups and sustainable, environmentally sensitive businesses. Otara Gunewardene is often celebrated as Chief Guest, recognised for her entrepreneurial spirit and consequently spends much time speaking publicly and inspiring the next generations as to responsible business development and opportunity in Sri Lanka.
- August 2019 – Educational session at MerlionKids International Preschool
- August 2019 – Educational session at Kidsdom Preschool.
- January 2019 – Chitra Lane School IT Exhibition
- July 2018 – Chitra Lane School World Environment Day Exhibition
- February 2018 – Launch of the Chitra Lane Way
- November 2017 – Science Day at Maliyadeva College
- October 2017 – University of Colombo, School of Computing Q&A
- September 207 – Exploration of the historical site of Kongrayan Kulama, Thathrimale
- July 2017 – A Journey to Yala: A Responsible Adventure organized by Saraii Village
- October 2016 – Animal Defenders Event 2 organized to educate children on the importance of protecting wildlife
- October 2016 – Born Free to Live Free – Education on the Dehiwala Zoo for the students of Lavanya Pre-school
- August 2016 – Setting up of a Medicinal Plant Garden at the Horana Thakshila School in partnership with the Committee for Popularization of Science (SLAAS)
- July 2016 – Discussion at the Elizabeth Moir International on the plight of the animals at the Dehiwala Zoo