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Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation

Episode 4 – Yala National Park

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TERROR AT THE PARK

This incident I am about to tell you occurredon the 15th of October 2007. I waseleven years into my career, having started out in 1996 as a Wildlife Guide, and now a Second-GradeRanger stationed atthe ‘Palatupana’ center atYala National Park.

Every year, it is conventional practice to close Yala National Park to the public from the 1st of September to the 15th of October due to the drought season. Yet, officials are kept busy with themaintenance of ponds and roads, renovations and refurbishments of the several tourist bungalows situated in the park and conducting raids for poachers and other no-do-wells.

Since the park was to be reopened to the public the following day, we left Palatupanacenter to restock the tourist bungalows. We set out on a ‘Land Rover Defender’, numbered 57-1462, as a small posse of five, consisting of Ranger Mr. AsankaGunawardana, Wildlife Guard Mr. MahendraGamage, Finance Assistant Mr. B. M. J. Lakmal, Driver Mr. H. A. P. Chandana, and myself.

We stopped by the ‘MahaSeelawa’ tourist bungalow and the ‘NawaButhawa’ tourist bungalow and finally set out for the ‘Thalgasmankada” tourist bungalow.At around 6:00 p.m., we were nearing our destination, having justpassed by the tank known as ‘DarshanaWewa’ (also known as ‘KotaBediWewa’), when we got word of a probable ambushat the bungalow by insurgents of the ‘LTTE’ (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam).

As soon as we turned the vehicle around to flee, we were peppered with a barrage of gunfire, followed by indistinguishable shouting from both us and our attackers. As myeyes adjusted to the creeping darkness around the thick forest, I was able to determine the obscure outlines of about 10 –12 militants. Fortunately, we were able to reach the center office despite the gunfire. We got out of the Rover to find 13 bullet holes in the vehicle, but every one of us was alive and had managed to escape without any serious bodily harm.

Our relief in escaping a sure death was soured as we received information of the militants having murdered eight soldiers. They had also burned down the keeper’s house of the ‘Thalmasgankada’ bungalow, but both the keeper, Mr. K. L. Chandrasiri and assistant keeper, Mr. JagathThemiyapala, had managed to escapeby hiding in the dense, dark forest.

We counted our blessings for surviving this traumatic episode,but this attack was one of several the LTTE had executed in the Yala National Park over the years, until the end of the nearly 30-yearlong, brutal civil war in May 2009.

As the war reached itslong-awaited end, I transferred to the legal section of the Colombo head office at the beginning of 2009.To this day, I still count my blessings, forit is nothing short of a miracle that I survived.

Dilip Dilantha Samaranyake

Mr.Dilip Dilantha Samaranayake is currently working as the Park Warden of the Kumana National Park. He has worked in various National Parks in Sri Lanka. Yala, Udawalawe, Lunugamvehera, Wasgamuwa, Legal Division of the Head Office, Walawa Left Bank are some of the places where he has worked.

Mr.Dilip Samaranayake is a loving father of two sons, resides at Wellapitiya, Horana.

Yala National Park

Renowned as a wildlife paradise, Yala National Park is one of the oldest wildlife sanctuaries in Sri Lanka. Although this park with an extent of 126786 hectares is less in size than Wilpattu Park, it is a land rich in biodiversity. Located in the southeastern part of Sri Lanka, Yala National Park is bounded on the north by the Uva Range, on the east and south by the Indian Ocean, on the West by a tributary of the Menik River and on the Kataragama mountain Range. Yala Sanctuary became a National Park on 25th February 1938 under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance.

This national park is divided into five zones for administrative convenience.

 Part 1 – 14101Hectares     – belongs to Hambantota District.

 Part 11 – 9931 Hectares    – belongs to Hambantota District.

Part 111 – 40775 Hectares   – belongs to Monaragala District.

 Part 1V – 26418 Hectares   – belongs to Monaragala District.

 Part V – 6656 Hectares   –   belongs to Monaragala District.

In addition to these 5 sections, the Yala Strict Nature Reserve consists of 28905 hectares.

A scenery from Yala Buthawa Bungalow

The National Park which is located in two districts has diverse in annual rainfall and in the third, fourth and fifth zones belong to the Monaragala district receive rainfall of 550-775 mm whilst temperature there is 23 to 32 degrees Celsius. The first and second zones of the Hambantota district receive an annual rainfall of 400-500 mm.

The months from May to September are dry months, when the animals run out of water and food. During this time, wildlife is in dire need of rest, and during the peak of the drought, September to October period, the park is closed to visitors.The park is generally known for its wet monsoon and dry monsoon forests and thorn bushes. Ecosystems include freshwater and marine wetlands, mangroves, and marine ecosystems such as coral reefs. Located in the lowest plains of the island, some parts of the park are as high as 100 m to 125 m above sea level. The Menik Ganga and KumbukkanOya, the 11th and 12th longest streams in Sri Lanka, also flow through the Yala Park. Several tanks including VilapalaWewa, GonagalaWewa, MandagalaWewa, UraniyaWewa, MahaseelawaWewa, Heenwewa and KorawakkaWewa are found there.

41 species of mammals, 133 species of endemic birds and 27 species of migratory birds have been recorded in the Yala National Park. Wild elephants, wild buffaloes and spotted deer can be easily spotted here. Wildlife is mostly found in the marine areas of the first zone. Zones 1 and 11 of the park are a leopard paradise.

 Bears, sambar, mouse deer, small Indian civet, foxes, wild cats, monkeys and palm civets are some of the other animals that can be seen in this park. Close to the ocean star tortoise,lizards such as the oriental garden lizards, common green forest lizards, and near rivers and streams, salt water and marsh crocodiles  can be found.

Elephants
Spotted deer
Bear
Black necked stork

There is no shortage of water in this forest which has an environment conducive to the occasional nesting of migratory birds. There are about 20 lakes and lagoons avail here for aquatic birds and other animals. From September to March of this year of the following year, the migratory birds lodge in the surrounding and nearby sanctuaries.

Some migratory bird species make a permanent home here, such as the Black-necked stork. Black-necked stork  is the largest bird among the ‘Top 7 Wild Sri Lanka’ animals published in Sri Lanka.

During the migratory periods, the common sandpipers, forest wagtails, flamingoes, black tailed godwits, Indian pittas, and the golden plovers are found. Spot billed pelican, Ceylon Jungle fowl, Srilankaspur fowl, lesser adjutant, pheasant tailed jacana,woolly necked stork, painted stork and several species of herons, bitterns and egrets can also be seen here.

4 sutikka

Blue tailed bee eater

Pea cock

The second zone of the park has the least coverage of forest, but all other zones are covered with forests. The flora of Yala Park includes dry or semi-evergreen or thorny forests, wet deciduous forests, mangroves etc. Palu, Veera, Lunuwarana  are the predominant plants and Ehela, Ranawara, Kohomba and wood apple plants are also widespread. Other species include Andara, Kukuruman, HeenKaramba, Eraminia, Hirasa, KiriVel, Wild Pichcha and Asparagus. About 300 species of plants have been identified in the first zone of the park alone.

It has been established that there were settlements associated with this forest in the past. The Pothana, Palatupana, Helawa, Okanda areas are villages where people lived in the past. Over time, these settlements became forests and became paradise of wildlife. There is a statue of the lord Buddha in a rock cave at the top of the hill belonging to the MagulMahaVihara near Palatupana. There is also evidence that ancient Buddhist shrines were in a very advanced state at that time, according to ancient pottery ruins, Brahmi script, inscriptions, Buddha statues, etc. Inscriptions related to the reign of King DutuGemunu have been found near the SithulPawwa sacred ground. Pimburagala Kanda, Gona Gala, AkashaChaitya, ViharaGodella, SithulPawwaRajamahaVihara where the Arhat monks lived and the rock caves and MagulVihara are still places of worship within the park. There are many historical stories and legends associated with Yala. Meanwhile, the stories related to Andre are very interesting.

Yala entrance at Palatupana
Yala New Buthawa Bungalow

Divided for ease of administration, Yala Park has road facilities for tourists to visit. You have to enter Palatupana to watch the first part of Yala. This park is managed by the Park Headquarters located at Palatupana. 9.5 km from Tissamaharama town on the Colombo-Kataragama main road past Kirinda at the Palatupana main entrance is located . It is about 40 km from Kataragama to Katagamuwa, Sithulpawwa to Palatupana via Bambawa. Tourist lodges with all facilities have been constructed for tourists and accommodation should be reserved from the Department of Wildlife Conservation in Colombo. A tourist information center is also located at the entrance of the Yala National Park and a leopard Observation Center has recently been established in the park.

List of animals in the yala documentary

Sinhala name

Tamil name

English name

Scientific name

අලියා

யானைகள்

Asian elephant

Elephas maximus

වලසා

கரடிகள்

Sloth bear

Ursus ursinus

ගෝනා

மரைகள்

Sambar

Rusa unicolor

මීමන්නා

சருகு மான்கள்

Mouse deer

Moscheola meminna

කළවැද්දා

ஆசிய மர நாய்கள்

Palm Civet

Hermophroditus species

උරලෑවා

புனுகுப் பூனைகள்

Ring tailed civet

Viverid species

හිවලා

பொன்னிற குள்ள நரிகள்

Golden jackal

Canis aureus

වල්බළලා

காட்டு பூனைகள்

Jungle cat

Felis chaus

වඳුරා

குரங்குகள்

 Toque monkey

macaca sinica

ඉත්තෑවා

முள்ளம்பன்றிகள்

Porcupine

Hystrix indica

තාරකාඉබ්බා

நட்சத்திர ஆமை​கள்

Star tortoise

Testudo elegans

හැලකිඹුලා

சதுப்பு நில முதலை

Mugger crocodile

Crocodylus palustris

ගැටකිඹුලා

உவர் நீர் முதலை

Estuarine crocodile

Crocodylus porosus

ගරා කටුස්සා

தோட்டப் பல்லிகள்

Oriental garden lizard

Calotes versicolor

පලා කටුස්සා 

பொதுவான பச்சை வன பல்லி

Common green forest lizard

Calotes calotes

අලිමානාවා

கருங்கழுத்து நாரை

Black-necked stork

Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus

කැළෑහැලපෙන්දා

கொட்டிக்கால் வாலாட்டி

 Forest wagtail

Dendronanthus indicus

සියක්කාරයා

பெரும் பூநாரை

Greater flamingo

Phoenicopterus ruber

අළුපැස්තුඩුවා

சாம்பல் நாரை

Spot-billed pelican

Pelecanus philippensis

පෙද කළු ගොහොදු විත්තා

கருவால் மூக்கன்

Blak tailed godwit

Limosa limosa

අවිච්චියා

இந்திய தோட்டக் கள்ளான்

Indian pittah

Pitta brachyura

බිඟුහරයා

நீலவால் பஞ்சுருட்டான்

Bee eater                                       

Merops species

මහාරන් ඔලෙවියා

கல்பொறுக்கி

Golden plower

Pulvialis fulva

පාදිලිමානාවා

வெண்கழுத்து நாரை

Woolly necked stork

Ciconia episcopus

ලතු වැකියා

மஞ்சள் மூக்குநாரை

Painted stork

Mycteria leucocephala

කොකා විශේෂ

சாம்பல் நாரைவகை

Heronspecies

Ardea species

කොකා විශේෂ

பெரிய கொக்கு வகை

Egretspecies

Egretta species

කොකා විශේෂ

மஞ்சள் குருகு வகை

Bitternspecies

Ixobrychus species

සැවුල්පෙද දියසෑනා

நீளவால் இலைக் கோழி

Pheasant tailed jacana

Hydrophasianus chirurgus

බහුරු මානාවා

சிறிய பெரு நாரை

Lesser adjutant

Leptoptilos javanicus

වළි කුකුලා

இலங்கைக் காட்டுக் கோழி

Ceylon jungle fowl

Gallus lafayetti

හබන් කුකුලා

சின்னக் காட்டுக் கோழி

Sri Lanka spur fowl

Galloperdix bicalcarata

සිලිබිල්ලා

பொதுவான புள்ளிச் செங்கால் உள்ளான்

Shanka and Sand pipers

Tringa Species

List of trees in the yala documentary

 Sinhala Names

Tamil Names

English Names

Botanical Name

පලු

பாலை

 Ceylon Iron wood

Manilkara hexandra 

වීර

வீரை

 Hedge Boxwood

Drypetes sepiaria 

ලුණුවරණ

மாவிலங்கம்

 

Crateva adansonii subsp. odora 

ඇහැල

கொன்றை

Indian Laburnum,Shower of gold

Cassia fistula

රණවරා

ஆவாரம்

Matara Tea

Senna auriculata    

(Synonym- Cassia auriculata)

කොහොඹ

வேப்பம்

Margosa, Neem

Azadirachta indica 

දිවුල්

விலா

Wood apple, Elephant apple

Limonia acidissima

අන්දර

பனை

      –

Many species under family Fabacea

කුකුරුමාන්

மலை மாதுளை

Spiny randia , Emetic – nut, False Guava

Catunaregam spinosa 

හීන්කරඹ

சிறு கிளா

 –

Carissa spinarum

එරමිනියා

இலந்தை

       –

Ziziphus species

හිරැස්ස

வச்சிரவல்லி

Veld(t) grape

Cissus quadrangularis

කිරිවැල්

வெண் நுனா

 –

Families Apocynacea and Rubiacea species

වල්පිච්ච

காட்டு மல்லிகை

      –

Jasminum species

හාතවාරිය

சாதாவாரி

      –

Asparagus racemosus

Editor – Dammika Malsinghe, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation (MWFC)

Article on park written by- Hasini Sarathchandra, Chief Media Officer, Department of Wildlife Coservation (DWLC)

Tamil Translations- A.R.F. Rifna, Development Officer, MWFC

English Translations (Documents) – Asoka Palihawadana, Translator, MWFC

English Interpretation (Story)-Thanuka Malsinghe

Web Designing- N.I.Gayathri, Development Officer, MWFC

Photography- Rohitha Gunawardana, Mahesha Chathurani Perera (Graduate Trainee), DWLC