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Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation

Episode 17 – Delft National Park

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Lonely horses on Delft Island

Delft is a small Island where there are about 4,000 to 5,000 people live. It is also Divisional Secretariat area called Delft itself.

There are horses on Delft Island which were brought in to haul goods during Dutch era. Now they have adapted to native conditions in the Delft. It is estimated that there are about 400 to 500 medium sized horses live here.

This horse population is controlled naturally. The Delft region experiences a drought from June to September. With this drought, old animals and their young are died whilst the strong animals are survived. The Department of Wildlife bowsers supply water to tanks built in the park. However, during this period animals are died.

From Kalpitiya to Jaffna the sea is shallow. There are dugong mammals in this sea. They feed on sea grasses. The sea grasses grow from Jaffna to there in the bottom of the shallow sea. One dugong species is endemic to the area. Dugong is an endangered species as well.

There is a special tree called ‘Baobab’ on this Delft Island. This is a tree introduced from South Africa. There is a similar tree in ThalaiMannar as well. Sri Lanka has only these two trees.

Tourists are also visit to the island. They have private boats to travel. The Wildlife staff report to work in a boat belonging to the Wildlife Department. In addition, a boat which can carry about 100 people belongs to the Road Development Authority arrives on the island at about 8.00 am. You can travel on that boat for free of charge. The boat is operated by the Navy.

Migratory birds also visit Delft Island. It is not a special case for the Delft Island, but it may have been a pleasure for the birds to be a part of it after the war, when the environment returned to normal.

Mr. G. U. Saranga

Mr. G. U. Saranga joined the Wildlife Department in 1983 as a Ranger and he was fortunate to work in various National Parks and Sanctuaries. He received his basic training at the Yala and Wilpattu Sanctuaries. He was in charge of the Sigiriya Sanctuary and later worked at the Minneriya National Park and then at the Wasgamuwa National Park for seven years. He also served as Park Warden at Horton Plains National Park from 2004-2005 and 2009-2002. Mr. Saranga was later promoted to Assistant Director and was in charge of the Kilinochchi area and later the Ampara area. He is currently in charge of the Vavuniya region.

Mr. Saranga completed a 9-month Diploma course awarded by the Department of Wildlife in 1995 and trained for three months at the Wildlife Institute in Dehradun, India. He has also completed short training courses in countries such as Korea, the Philippines and Thailand.

Mr. Saranga’s house is located in Katugastota, Kandy.

Delft National Park

Delft Island is located in the northwestern part of the country and south of the Indian Ocean, far away from the inhabited islands of Sri Lanka.  Delft Island is an island with a long history which is fascinated by the natural beauty of the Jaffna Peninsula and shaped by the ruins of historic buildings.

Map of the Delft National Park

This island belongs to the Jaffna Administrative District of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. An area of 1846.2 hectares on Neduntiv (Delft) Island has been declared as a National Park, in accordance with the provisions of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, by a special gazette notification dated 22nd June 2015.

Located 35 km southwest of Jaffna, the oval-shaped island covers an area of ​​50 square kilometers while the maximum length is 8 km and the width is 6 km. Delft Island, located at the western tip of the Jaffna Peninsula, 80 km off the Indian mainland, 42 km from Talaimannar and Rameshwaram, situated in the middle of the Palk Strait, is the second largest island in Sri Lanka.

All over Delft Island there are the ruins of the Portuguese and Dutch colonial era and the Buddhist ruins dating back to erlier times. The history of the island dates back to the Chola dynasty, about 1000 years ago, and ancient stupas can also be seen on the west coast of the island. The island became more famous during the Dutch era and is home to the only colonial fortress, the Mekhanam, which was used by the Portuguese and later by the Dutch. The Queen’s Tower, a simple lighthouse built by the Dutch on the south coast of Delft Island.

Mekhanam fortress
Ruins Buddhist stupas
Ruins Buddhist stupas
Queen's Tower

The specialty of this park is that you can see wild horse type endemic to Delphi which are not found in other parks in Sri Lanka. The wild horses found in the park were brought from Arabia by the Portuguese in the 16th century and later bred by the Dutch and sold to ships passing through the seafront across Delft. After the Dutch left the country, these horses gradually became wild horses. These horses in Delft are often referred to as “ponies”.

A shallow coastal region, the rainy season lasts from October to February, but there are also days when the sky is blue throughout the rainy season. Annual rainfall is about 750 mm, and generally during the dry summer months of the northern hemisphere, this area receives a total lack of rainfall. Annual rainfall is very low and shows semi-arid zone characteristics. In the center of the island are two lakes, VeddukKulam and Periya Kulam.

Plants adapted to dry climates and Porous coraline soils set up in the area can be found in the garden. Early settlers seem to have fully exposed it, and local weather conditions seem to be at a standstill due to the harsh weather and grazing of herbivores. Among the identified species are 209 species of flowering plants, 29 species of shrubs, 67 species of non-flowering plants and about 70 species of herbs. The palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer) is abundant throughout the island. The garden plant Baobab (Adansonia digitata) is a species native to Ethiopia in tropical Africa. This plant is believed to have been planted here by Arab traders. The trunk of this plant has a large hole in it that is large enough for several people to easily stand on. The trunk is about 12 m high and 15 m in circumference.

                                                                                                                          Baobab Tree

Palmyra Palm

Among the reported flowering species are the endangered Fimbristylisdipsacea, five endangered species of Ipomoea coptica, Cocculushirsutus and Peplidiummaritimum, as well as 11 endangered species. Among the marine plants, Sargassum and Caulerpa algae species are abundant. Among the animal species found in the park, there are 11 species of mammals, one species of amphibian, 08 species of reptiles, 101 species of birds, 15 species of butterflies and 10 species of dragonflies.

The Delph Pony (wild horse) or Equus caballus is the predominant mammal in Delft National Park. About 1000 of them live in the park. Also, small mammals include the Brown Mongoose (Herpestesbrachyurus), Gray mongoose (Herpestesedwardsii), Black naped hare (Lepusnigricollis), and Flying fox (Pteropusgiganteus).

                                                                                                                                    Wild horse

Black naped hare
Flying fox

Reptile species include the saw-scaled viper (Echiscarinatus), the common garden lizard (Calotesversicolor).

Saw-scaled viper
Common garden lizard

The park shows more bird diversity and is also a great resting place for many migratory birds. Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus), Little ringed plover (Charadriusdubius), Kentish plover (Charadriusalexandrinus), Silverbill (Lonchuramalabarica), Gray francolin (Francolinuspondicerianus), Eurasian collared dove (Decoptera) , Black-crowned night-heron (Nycticoraxnycticorax) are some of the bird species found here.

Common kestrel
Little ringed plover
Eurasian collared dove

Butterfly species include Crimoson rose (Pachliopta hector), Striped pierrot (Tarucusnara), Small samonarab while (Colotisamata) and Pruinosedbloodtail (Lathrecistaasiatica) are the common dragonflies in here.

Visitors from Colombo can reach Jaffna via the Kurunegala-Dambulla-Medawachchiya-Vavuniya-Kilinochchi-Elephant Pass-Kayts Road and the total distance from Colombo is 389 km. From there you can reach reach the Kurikattuwan Naval Jetty of the Kayts Road for by travelling 31 km. More than a hundred people are transported to the island at one time by two large Navy-controlled boats, the Vadataraki and the Kumudini, used by the Road Development Authority to reach Delft National Park from the jetty. Starting at around 8.30 am, there will be about five boat trips, including these two boats. Delft Island can be reached after a 14-kilometer voyage of about an hour by sea. A bus service is in operation on the island. Accommodation and tourist centers run by the Northern Provincial Council are also in operation for tourists visiting the island.

The developed area of ​​the island, which suitable for the plant growth and not subject to flooding is about 1/4 of the total land area whilst the remaining is reserved for wildlife. The total population is approximately 5,000 persons.

Navy controlling boats

List of animals in the Delft National Park

Sinhala Name

Tamil Name

English Name

Scientific name

කැලෑ අශ්වයා

காட்டுக் குதிரை

Wild horse

Equus caballus

වල් හාවා

காட்டு குழி முயல்

Black naped hare

Lepus nigricollis

බොර මුගටියා

குட்டைவால்  இந்திய சாம்பல் கீரிப்பிள்ளை

Brown mongoose

Herpestes brachyurus

අලු මුගටියා

சாம்பல் கீரிப்பிள்ளை

Grey mongoose

Herpestes edwardsii

මා වවුලා

பெரிய வௌவால்

Flying fox

Pteropus giganteus

ගරා කටුස්සා 

பொதுவான தோட்டப்பல்லி

Common garden lizard

Calotes versicolor

වැලි පොළඟා

சுருட்டை விரியன்

Saw- scaled viper

Echiscarinatus

පොදු උකුසු ගොයා

சாதாரண சிற்றெழால்

Common kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

පුංචි මාල ඔලෙවියා

சிறிய வளையம் கொண்ட பிளவர்

Little ringed plover

Charadrius dubius

කෙන්ටි ඔලෙවියා

கென்டிஷ் ப்ளோவர்

Kentish plover

Charadrius alexandrinus

වී කුරුල්ලා

நெற்குருவி

Silverbill

Lonchura malabarica

අළු උස්සවටුවා

கௌதாரி

Grey francolin

Francolinus pondicerianus

මාල කොබෙයියා

யுரேஷியா காலர் புறா

Eurasian collared dove

Streptopelia decaocto

මහා කොණ්ඩ මුහුදු ළිහිණියා

பெரிய முகடு டெர்டன்

Great crested tern

Sterna bergii

රෑකණ කොකා

கறுப்பு கிரீடம் அணிந்த நைட் ஹெரான்

Black-crowned night -heron

Nycticorax nycticorax

අරූණු සෙව්වන්දියා 

சிவப்புடல் அழகி

Crimoson rose

Pachliopta hector

ඉරි කෝනංගියා

தருகஸ் நாரா

Striped pierrot

Tarucus nara

මලිතරිසියා

சிறிய சால்மன் அரபு

Small samonarab

Colotis amata

කූරන් විශේෂයන්

தும்பி இனங்கள்

Pruinosedbloodtail

Lathrecista asiatica

List of trees in the Delft National Park

 Sinhala Names

Tamil Names

English Names

Botanical Name

තල් ශාකය

ஆசியப்பனை

Palmyra Palm

Borassus flabellifer

බයෝබැබ්

பெருக்க மரம்

Baobab

Adansonia digitata

මල් විශේෂයන්

பூ வகைகள்

 Flower Sps

Fimbristylis dipsacea

මල් විශේෂයන්

பூ வகைகள்

Flower Sps

lpomoea coptica

වැල්  විශේෂයන්

கொடி  வகைகள்

Creeper Sps

Cocculus hirsutus

මල් විශේෂයන්

பூ வகைகள்

Flower Sps

Peplidium maritimum

මුහුදු ශාක  විශේෂ

கடற் தாவர   வகைகள்

Ocean plant Sps

Sargassum

මුහුදු ශාක  විශේෂ

கடற் தாவர   வகைகள்

Ocean plant Sps

Caulerpa

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

Article on park written byHasini Sarathchandra, Chief Media Officer, Department of Wildlife Coservation (DWLC), MaheshaChathuraniPerera (Graduate Trainee), (DWLC)

Tamil TranslationsA.R.F. Rifna, Development Officer, MWFRC

English Translations Asoka Palihawadana, Translator, MWFRC

Web DesigningN.I.Gayathri, Development Officer, MWFC-C.A.D.D.A. Kollure, Management Service Officer, MWFRC

PhotographyRohitha Gunawardana, DWLC