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Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation

EPISODE 13 – Ritigala Nature Reserve

Content Image

Slipped down the slope

I am W.M.K.S.Chandraratne. Now I am working as an Assistant Director at Polonnaruwa. The incident I am talking about happened at Ritigala strict nature reserve in 2006. Ritigala strict nature reserve is located in Anuradhapura Assistant Director’s zone which is in Kekirawa Divisional Secretariat.

Ritigala strict nature reserveis considered a special ecosystem in a mountainous area. Dry evergreen forests are at the lower level of the mountain and the middle-level wet forests are found. The misty upper area is similar to mountain forests where you can see ‘old man’s beard(Usnea) which is common in the Horton Plains area and also pigmy trees, conspicuous in mountain forests.

In 2006, I started to climb the mountain around 10.30 am,with a group of officers to see the ecosystem’s diversity. Our destination was ‘Wewalthenna”where the official quarters of the former British Government Agent were located. We wanted to find that place.

We climbed the Kodigala rock passing the ecosystems. Kodigala rock is a Trigonometric point. It says in history there was an erected flag on the rock and therefore it was called Kodigala. The Flag has come there because  Survey Department has done a survey and marked it

On that particular day, Mr. Atalugama and Mr. Thennakoon,  two wildlife guards, Mr. Sunil, a range assistant, and Mr. Wasala were there with me on the team. We had our lunch at the top of the rock from the food we had brought.

At the top of the Kodigala. it is fantastic to see the conical of Anuradhapura,  Ruwanweli Seya, in one direction, Sigiriya in just the opposite direction, HuruluWewa in one direction, and Kala Wewa in the other direction. It is a very beautiful place. With the dust, the sun goes away and mist surrounds the rock. Freezing wind flows.

We got down from Kodigala and went to searching for the Wewalthenne area but we couldn’t find it. It was now around 5.30 pm. Area soaked with water because ‘MalwathuOya’commenced from that area.

When we were climbing down, there was a steep slope and I had to place my foot on litter. It made me slip down. Thennakoon who’s following me also met the same situation. Now both of us were going down. Meanwhile, I saw a huge liane, hanging from a tree and was able to catch it. Following me, Thennakoon also hangs on.

We came down with the aid of the liane. If we released the grip at the moment we could have gone down to the end. Fortunately, we could survive, though stones and sand hit on us harshly.

Later we could observe the ancient ruins of Ritigala but could not go to Wewelthanne.

Later, during the habitat mapping under the ADB project, that Agent’s bungalow was found. But it was only the foundation made out of quartzite. There was a pathway towards Ganewela town from the bungalow. It could be the ruins of earlier roads.



Mr. W.M.K.N Chandraratne

Mr. Chandraratne was appointed to the Department of Wildlife Conservation on 09.11.1998 through an island wide examination as a Grade 1 Wildlife Ranger.Mr. Chandraratne’s first service was as the Parks Warden of the Wilpattu National Park.

In January 2003, while serving as the first Park Warden at Kaudulla National Park, he had to go abroad in August 2003 to pursue a postgraduate course in India. After returning to Sri Lanka in June 2004, he worked for three months as a Grade One Wildlife Ranger in the Elephant Conservation Division of the Head Office.

Mr. Chandraratne, who has been working at the Giritale Training Center since January 1, 2009, was promoted to the Zonal Office, Puttalam on 09.11.2015 as the Assistant Zonal Director. This is a promotion confirming the coverage of the duties of the Zonal Assistant Director with effect from 01.01.2012. He has been serving as the Polonnaruwa Zonal Assistant Director since January 2020.

Mr. Chandraratne received his junior education from Aswadduma Primary School, Kuliyapitiya and his senior education from Kuliyapitiya Central College. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Kelaniya and a Masters Degree in Science and Environmental Management from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. He has also completed several Diploma Certificate Courses including the Diploma offered by the Department of the University of Colombo.

Mr. Chandraratne’s wife is a teacher at the Roman Catholic College, Kuliyapitiya. The two sons are still in school. His address is Ratnapaya, Jayasiri Place, Udubaddawa.

Ritigala Nature Reserve

The Ritigala Forest Reserve occupies a prominent place among the Forest Reserves in Rajarata, where hundreds of great tanks and dagobas were built. Ritigala hill is located between the two ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the North Central Plain bordering Palugaswewa and Kekirawa Divisional Secretariat areas. Ritigala Nature Reserve is one of the three Strict Nature Reserves (SNR’s) in Sri Lanka and Strict Reserve is primarily designated for research, conservation and protection purposes. The primary purpose of such areas is to protect biodiversity while conducting essential scientific research and ecological monitoring.

                                                             Ritigala Nature Reserve

Ritigala area has been declared on 7th November 1941 as a Strict Reserve covering an area of ​​5.29 sq. Km (1528 ha) under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. This is a strictly reserved national reserve for the survival of wildlife and natural ecosystems, with no access to tourism facilities or any human activity. Scientific research can only be carried out in a strict nature reserve with the special permission of the Director General of Wildlife.

This unique place is located in the North Central Arid Zone of Sri Lanka and has a long history with the human history of the island. Ritigala, which now dates back to about 2434 years, was a battle front of Prince Pandukabhaya even before Anuradhapura, the first kingdom in the history of the country. This land was the center of his battle with his uncles. It is well known that in ancient times kings such as Pandukabhaya, Suratissa and Lajjatissa used Ritigala for military purposes and for protection. The significance of Ritigala in modern times is further enhanced by its Brahmi inscriptions. The Ritigala inscriptions are of similarly important as the cave inscriptions found at Mihintale and Vessagiriya. The value of this place further increased with the attention of scholars such as Sir Senarath Paranavithana, a pioneer in the study of inscriptions in the country. Abundant with 152 inscriptions, 74 caves and 140 archeological sites found at Ritigala, the remains of an ancient Ayurvedic hospital, walkways and winter chambers remain in this cultural heritage.

                                                                                                       Ancient cultural ruins at Ritigala

This mountain range consists of three types of forests. The lower part of the range is a dry mixed evergreen forest, the middle part of the range is the tropical highland forest and the highest is the highland forest. Mount Ritigala was formed by 2000 million years of climate change. Although the surrounding area was eroded and turned into a plain, Ritigala was not, as it was composed of hard rock, quartzite, and marble, which are resistant to erosion.

In terms of climate, this mountain is located in the low plains of the dry zone. However, Ritigala is characterized by its own climate type. Although the surrounding plains have a very hot climate, Mount Ritigala has a very cold climate. Ritigala receives rainfall from the Northeast and Southwest monsoon winds. Annual rainfall is around 1482 mm and the region experiences a very humid climate during the months of October-November and a severe dry climate during the months of June-September. The average temperature is 28 0C.

10% of the total plant species found Sri Lanka is spread over in this land which is 0.0237% of the total area of the country. This small mountain has an ecological characteristic that allows the origin of plant species and animal species that do not exist in any part of the world. Legend has it that part of the medicine rock that Hanuman had brought from India to heal Rama during the Rama-Ravana war had fallen on Ritigala. It is also said that there are various fruits such as Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Weera (Drypetes sepiaria), pineapple (Ananas comosos), lime (Citrus species), orange as well as rare medicinal plants such as Iruraja (Zeuxine regia), Sandaraja (Fittonia verschaffeltii) and Bim Kohomba (Munronia pinnata) all over Ritigala.

About 100 species of birds such as Sri Lanka Jungle fowl (Gallus  lafayettii), Sri lanka Spurfowl (Galloperdix bicalcarata), Crimson-Fronted Barbet (Psilopogon rubricapillus),  Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis), Blue – face malkoha  (Phaenicophaeus viridirostris), Sri Lanka Black – capped Bulbul (Pycnonotus melanicterus), Sri Lanka Myna (Gracula ptilogenys) Malabar pied hornbill (Anthracoceros coronatus), Sri Lanka Spot-Winged Thrush (Geokichla spiloptera) live in this forest.

Also mammal species like Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Sloth bear (Ursus ursinus), Leopard (Panthera parduskotiya), Wild Boar (Sus scrofa), Spotted deer (Axis axis ceylonensis), Barking Deer (Muntiacusmuntijak), Sambar (Rusa unicolor), Porcupine (Hystrix indica), Common langur (Semnopithecus entellus) Toque Monkey (Macaca sinica), jackal (Canis aureus), Gray Slender Loris (Loris lydekkerrianus), Fishing Cat (Prionailurus viverrinus) Rusty- spot (Prionailurus rubiginosus)  as well as many other wildlife that live here.

About 50 species of colorful butterflies, 20 species of fish, 16 species of reptiles and 16 species of snails have been recorded in here.

Ritigala is a mountain range close to Anuradhapura in the dry zone of Sri Lanka. It is located at a distance of about 42 km from Anuradhapura. The distance from Dambulla to Ritigala is 28 km and from Anuradhapura to Ritigala distance is 37 km. The distance from Ganewalpola to the entrance of the archeological site is about 9 km. The easiest way to reach the Ritigala Strict Reserve is near the Bandapokuna.

Mount Ritigala, the highest mountain between the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka and the mountains of South India, is protected and managed by the Department of Wildlife Conservation under strict regulations.

Sources:

Wildlife Magazine 2011

Varana Magazine

Diyadama Magazine 2000

Wikipedia

List of animals in the Ritigala Nature Reserve

Sinhala Name

Tamil Name

English Name

Scientific name

අලියා

ஆசிய யானை

Asian elephant

Elephas maximus

කොටියා

புலி

Leopard

Panthera pardus kotiya

වලහා

தேன் கரடி

Sloth bear

Ursus ursinus

වල් ඌරා

காட்டுப் பன்றி

Wild Boar

Sus scrofa

තිත් මුවා

புள்ளி மான்

Spotted deer

Axis axis ceylonensis

වැලි මුවා

கேளையாடு

Barking Deer

Muntiacus muntijak

ගෝනා

மரை

Sambar

Rusa unicolor

ඉත්තෑවා

முள்ளம்பன்றி

Porcupine

Hystrix indica

අළු වදුරා

சாம்பல் முகக் குரங்கு

Common langur

Semnopithecus entellus

රිලවා

செங்குரங்கு

Toque Macaque

Macaca sinica

හිවලා

நரி

Golden jackal

Canis aureus

උනහපුළුවා

தேவாங்கு

Gray Slender Loris

Loris lydekkerrianus

හඳුන් දිවියා

மீன்பிடிப் பூனை

Fishing Cat

Prionailurus viverrinus

කොළ දිවියා

துரும்பன் பூனை

Rusty- spotted cat

Prionailurus rubiginosus

වලි කුකුළා

இலங்கைக் காட்டுக் கோழி

Sri lanka junglefowl

Gallus lafayettii

හබන් කුකුළා

சின்னக் காட்டுக்கோழி

sri lanka Spurfowl

Galloperdix bicalcarata

මල් කොට්ටෝරුවා

சின்ன குக்குறுவான்

Crimson-Fronted Barbet

Psilopogon rubricapillus

අළු කෑදැත්තා

இலங்கை சாம்பல் இருவாய்ச்சி

Sri lanka Grey Hornbill

Ocyceros  gingalensis

 

වත නිල් මල්

කොහා

நீல முகச் செண்பகம்

Blue – faced malkoha

Phaenicophaeus viridirostris

ලංකා සැළලිහිණියා

இலங்கை மைனா

Sri Lanka  Myna

Gracula ptilogenys

 

පොරෝ කෑදැත්තා

மலபார் கறுப்பு வெள்ளை இருவாய்ச்சி

Malabar pied horn bill

Anthracoceros coronatus

තිප්පි තිරාසිකයා

புள்ளிச் சிறகுகள் கொண்ட த்ரஷ்

Sri Lanka Spot-Winged Thrush

Geokichla spiloptera

List of trees in the Ritigala Nature Reserve 

 Sinhala Names

Tamil Names

English Names

Botanical Name

පලු

பாலை

Palu

Manilkara hexandra

වීර

வீரை

Hedge Box wood

Drypetes sepiaria

ඉරුරාජ

இருராஜ

Iru raja

Zeuxine regia

සඳරාජ

சந்த ராஜ

Sanda raja

Fittonia verschaffeltii

බිම්කොහොඹ

நிலவேம்பு

Bimkohomba

Munronia pinnata

අන්නාසි

அன்னாசி

pineapple

Ananas comosus

දෙහි

எலுமிச்சை

Lime

Citrus species

දොඩම්

–       හීන් නාරං

–       ඇඹුල් දොඩම්

தோடை

– சிறு தோடை

-புளி தோடை

Orange

-Heennaran

– Ambuldodan

 

Citrus crenatifolia

Citrus guramtium

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), Mahesha Chathurani Perera (Graduate Trainee), (DWLC)

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

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

English Translations (Story)-Dammika Malsinghe, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation (MWFC)

Web Designing-C.A.D.D.A. Kollure, Management Service Officer, MWFC

Photography- Rohitha Gunawardana, DWLC