Thushan Kapurusinghe
Thushan with a Leatherback turtle in Kosgoda beach Author: Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Project (TCP)
2024

Thushan Kapurusinghe

Marine Biologist and Conservationist

understanding the human side of conservation

meet thushan

Thushan Kapurusinghe is a Sri Lankan marine biologist and conservationist who has committed his life to safeguarding the marine and coastal resources of Sri Lanka. Thushan is the project leader of the Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Project (TCP), established in 1993. He is a member of the IUCN’s marine turtle specialists group and currently serving as the focal person of the Species Survival Commission for Sri Lanka. Thushan led the TCP team to declare Sri Lanka’s first marine turtle sanctuary in Rekawa, located on the Southern coast. Later on, he served as the Tsunami Recovery Program Coordinator for the UNDP/GEF/SGP after the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Thushan received his training from Duke University Marine Lab in the US and completed his postgraduate studies at DICE, Kent University in the UK. 

understanding the human side of conservation
Nominated by: Supraja Dharini, MI'21
Class of 2024 Location Sri Lanka
Follow thushan's work:
Thushan teaching students at Rekawa turtle sanctuary on sea grass
Thushan teaching students at Rekawa turtle sanctuary on sea grass Author: Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Project (TCP)

Sri Lanka, an ocean island abundant in terrestrial natural resources and high marine and coastal biodiversity, faces a challenge where the local population, grappling with poverty, often exploits these resources excessively. This exploitation comes from a lack of awareness regarding sustainable resource use and environmentally-friendly ways to earn a living. 

Currently, the common practice involves using a resource until it’s depleted and then moving to another. When asked about the consequences of depleting resources, locals are ready to move on to new resources. We ask, “What are you going to do after you kill all the sea turtles?” and they reply, “We will start killing buffaloes on the beach.”

We have to understand the human element of conservation, or conservation anthropology.”

- Thushan Kapurusinghe
field training for school
field training for school Author: Sri Lanka Turtle Conservation Project (TCP)

We have to understand the human element of conservation, or conservation anthropology. The people we’ve talked to are destroying nature because they’re poor, they don’t have alternatives, and they don’t know the importance of nature. 

While we can arrest and imprison people for destroying nature, we cannot address their basic needs. My community-based conservation, tourism, and rural development initiatives encourage poor communities to actively participate in conservation while economically benefiting. By introducing community livelihood programs and by educating and engaging communities in conservation and management actions, we can achieve our conservation goals successfully and effectively.

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