Monday, October 15, 2007

National Parks of Sri Lanka

The long awaited day is here at last. Today (Oct 15th) is Blog Action Day, where bloggers worldwide unite and write for a common cause, the environment.

Our environment is an essential part of our lives, without it we can not and will not survive. This fact seems to be lost on many people today. Rampant destruction of the environment is slowly killing off the planet.

Well I’m not going ramble on about the causes and effects of environmental destruction. You can find more than enough articles about it on the net and other media. Instead I’m going to put the spotlight on the National Parks of Sri Lanka, which are playing an important role in nature conservation and protecting whatever wildlife that is left from total destruction.

Although we are only a tiny island with only 65,610 sq. km of solid ground to stand on, we can proudly say that we have set aside 12.4% (8135.64 of that land mass as protected areas. That may not be much, but considering the land area and the population, it is significant. With the growth of the population, this is also getting threatened.

All of these protected areas are administered by the Department of Wildlife Conservation, which was set up just for this purpose. There are 18 such national parks established up to now. These are from a range of ecological zones and they are designed to preserve and protect a variety of flora and fauna that is unique to these particular areas.

Conservation of nature has been a part of our tradition, since the ancient times. We should be proud that one of the world’s first wildlife sanctuaries was established in Sri Lanka, as far back as the 3rd century BC. This was established by King Devanampiyatissa, during his reign. It was during his reign that Buddhism was introduced to the country.

The first legal provision to protect wildlife through the establishment of wildlife sanctuaries was the Forrest Ordinance, enacted in 1885, during the colonial period. The Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance of 1937 abolished game sanctuaries. This ordinance also introduced 4 categories of national reserves.

1. Strict Nature Reserve
2. National Parks
3. Nature Reserve
4. Sanctuaries

Presently there are 18 national parks established around the country. They are as follows:
(Please note all area values are approximate)

Ruhuna (Yala) National Park

This park consist of 5 blocks.
Block I – est. 25th February 1938
Block II – est. 3rd September 1954
Block III – est. 28th April 1967
Block IV – est. 9th October 1969
Block V – est. 5th October 1973

The total area covered by this park is 960, but only 138 sq km is open to the public.

More Details

Yala East National Park

Consists of two blocks

Block II – est. 26th December 1969
Block I – est. 2nd January 1970

Total area covered is 178 sq km

Udawalawa National Park

Declared as the 5th national park in the country on 30th June 1972
Total area cover 302 sq km

More Details

Willpattu National Park

One of the oldest parks in the country, it was established as a sanctuary in 1905 and upgraded to national park status on 25th February 1938. Willpattu North Sanctuary was declared on 7th November 1947.

Now there is also a marine extension to the park with the Dutch and Portugal Bay areas also declared as protected under the reserve.

Total area of the park is 1290 sq km

More Details

Wasgomuwa National Park

This park probably has the least amount of human disturbance and infrastructure, being isolated by large rivers on all sides except one. It probably has more wildlife and diversity among the wild fauna and flora in any park.

This was originally established as a game sanctuary in 1902 and part of it declared as a strict nature reserve in 1938 and the rest as an intermediate zone in 1945. These two areas and additional areas ware brought together and decaled as a national park on 7th August 1984.

Total area of the park is 385 sq km

More Details

Somawathiya Chaitiya National Park

This park has the largest concentration of wild elephants in the country, together with the adjacent Flood Plains National Park.

This was initially designated as a sanctuary on 9th August 1966 and declared a national park on 2nd September 1986. it was later extended on 12th May 1987 with the addition of Block II.

Total area of the park is 370 sq km

Flood Plains National Park

This park was created along part of the River Mahaweli, the largest river in Sri Lanka, with the river flowing along the middle of the park. Its importance is because it creates a link between the Wasgomuwa National Park and the Somawathiya Chaitiya National Park, providing a safe corridor of passage for migrating wildlife, especially elephants between the two parks.

Declared as a national park on 7th August 1984

Total area of the park is 170 sq km.

Minneriya National Park

This covers an uninhabited area of the country’s most diverse natural systems. The park basically covers the Minneriya Tank (Reservoir) and the surrounding areas. This tank was built during 3rd century AD by King Mahasen.
The Minneriya – Giritale area was initially declared as a sanctuary on 29th July 1938 and declared as a national park on 12th August 1997

Total area of the park in 87 sq km

More Details

Lahugala Kitulana National Park

One of the smallest parks in the country, it is in the basin of the Heda Oya (River). It covers three tanks (reservoirs) Lahugala, Kitulana and Sangamuwa.

Initialy declared as a sanctuary on 1st July 1966 and upgraded to national park status on 31st October 1980.

Total area of the park is 15 sq km

Maduru Oya National Park

Created to protect the catchment areas of five reservoirs of the Mahaweli Project.

Declared as a national park on 9th November 1983.

Total area of the park is 576 sq km

More Details

Gal Oya National Park

Established to protect the catchment areas of the reservoir Senanayaka Samudraya on 12th February 1954.

Total area of the park is 253 sq km

More Details

Horton Plains National Park

Probably the most scenic of the park and is situated in the hill country. It covers the Horton Plains and the surrounding forest and Peak wilderness, which has the county’s most important catchment areas of almost all the major rivers of the country.

Initially declared as a sanctuary on 5th December 1969 and upgraded to a national park on 16th March 1988.

The altitude of the park ranges from 1800 m to 2400 m from sea level, and the plateau at 2100 m is the highest in the country.

More Details

Bundala National Park

An important wetland for birds and one of the most important wintering areas for migratory shore birds.

Initially declared as a sanctuary on 5th December 1969 and declared a Wetland of International Importance on 15th October 1990, during the time of Sri Lanka ratifying the Ramsar convention.

Total area of the park is 60 sq km.

More Details

Lunugamvehera National Park

This is the immediate catchment area for the Lunugamvehera Reservoir and provides a link between the Yala National Park and the Udawalawe National Park, for safe passage for migrating Elephants.

Established on 8th December 1995.

Total area of the park is 198 sq km

More Details

Kaudulla National Park

Recently created by covering the Kudulla Tank and surrounding areas. This tank is one of the oldest in the country.

Established on 1st April 2002.

Total area of the park is 70 sq km

More Details

Horagolla National Park

The youngest and the smallest of the parks, it was established on 28th July 2004 and cover only 33 acres.

More Details

Hikkaduwa National Park

One of the two marine parks of the country, it protects the coral reefs along the western coasts Hikkaduwa area.

Created as a marine sanctuary in 1979 and upgraded to a national park on 19th September 2002.

Total area of the park is 0.5 sq km in the sea.

Paravi Dupatha National Park

This covers part of the Indian Ocean on the Eastern coast of Sri Lanka, near Trincomalee

Established on 4th June 2003.

Total area of the park is 4.6 sq km.

With the growth of the population, the battle between humans and the wilderness is on the increase. The need for land for agriculture and human habitation is taking away whatever wilderness that is left. The aim of these nature reserves is to protect at lest some of these wilderness areas from total destruction. This way we can ensure that future generations too can enjoy the beauty of the wonderful fauna, flora and the wilderness of the beautiful island we call home.

Sorry can’t provide any good online links since I sourced the details from a book

Source: A Guide to National Parks of Sri Lanka
Published by: Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka

Other Links

Nature Reserves - Wikipedia
Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka
National Parks - InfotravelSriLanka
Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society


Outstander said...

Whooow! Best post from you so far! It's timely, rich and so informative as always. Thank you and honor to you for posting about such a good fact. I'm with you on this "Blog Action Day".
Will try to post something about this today, Hopefully. :D

dramaqueen said...

nice one, Az. I know so much more now.
Well done, and happy blog action day!

Lady divine said...

wow! brilliant post!!!

John said...

woah! long post man. Blog Action Day sounds serious. Setting apart more than 10% of a country as reserves is quite a good decision. So unlike our politicos :)

Azrael said...

Thanky y'all kindly :D

Emily said...

Its great that Sri Lanka has made conservation a priority! But what about the Wanniyala-Aettlo (Veddah) people's indigenous land rights in Maduru National Park?

Lali said...

Good for people to know.

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