It has been revealed that smugglers have started breaking swiftlet nests found inside the Hatton-Singamale railway tunnel to sell them to tourist hotels in various parts of the island.
Singamale railway tunnel, situated approximately one and half a kilometres from Hatton railway station, is currently Sri Lanka’s longest railway tunnel. It is nearly one kilometre in length.
A large number of people are travelling through the tunnel daily, and it is the shortest path to enter the tea estates beyond the tunnel.
People who are travelling through the tunnel claim that the smugglers are engaged in the swiftlet nest racket without being noticed by law enforcement agencies.
The Singamale tunnel is situated in Singamale Reserve, and hundreds of thousands of swiftlet nests have been built inside of it. Swiftlets spend the night inside these nests.
It can be easily observed that the swiftlet nests inside the tunnel have been destroyed using sharp objects and ladders made of bamboo tree.
Smugglers take only the swiftlet nests, and baby swiftlets and eggs are usually dumped on the railway track. Smugglers come to the Hatton area from other areas to buy nests at a high rate.
This racket happens near every railway tunnel found on the hill country railway track, not only inside Singamale railway tunnel.
Certain tourist hotels make a special soup with these swiftlet nests. It is very expensive and has a high demand from tourists.
Swiftlets have been declared as a protected bird through the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, and several types of swiftlets currently reside in Sri Lanka, wildlife officers said.
Swiftlets build nests using its saliva once a year, and lay 1 – 3 eggs at a time.
Swiftlets are considered as very innocent birds, and build nests at very high places.
Even though villagers requested law enforcement agencies to catch the smugglers, responsible parties remain silent.