Sting in the tale: Naming of Sri Lankan geckos sparks uproar

COLOMBO (AFP) – A team of Sri Lankan scientists caused uproar in Parliament and sparked a police probe after they used the names of mythical heroes and national figures to name six newly discovered species of gecko.

Two of the new species – discovered on the Indian Ocean island in 2017 and revealed in August – were named for warriors loyal to a first-century BC king, while the others were given the names of 19th Century rebels against British rule.

But the association with the diminutive reptiles so infuriated Wimal Weerawansa, an ultra-nationalist MP, that he brought the matter up in Parliament.

“Our heroes are not geckos,” he thundered to lawmakers. “If you touch a gecko’s tail, it snaps. Our heroes are not like that.”

However, a police spokesman told AFP on Wednesday that they could not proceed with the complaint as there was no grounds for a criminal investigation.

“If anyone feels slighted, there could be civil action, but there is no criminality here,” spokesman Ruwan Gunasekera told AFP.

Environmental activist and lawyer Jagath Gunawardana said Weerawansa’s objections underscored his ignorance.

Gunawardana said a researcher unknown to him had named a new frog species after him in 2013 because of his work for environmental protection.

“Just because a frog is named after me, people don’t call me a frog,” Gunawardana told AFP. “I don’t feel insulted, I actually feel very honoured.”

The naming of six newly discovered species of gecko after national heroes prompted uproar in Parliament and a police probe. PHOTO: AFP