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Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation

Episode 23 – Pigeon Island National Park

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Pigeon Island is even more beautiful now

I took over as Park Warden of Pigeon Island National Park on February 1, 2019. Pigeon Island, which became a sanctuary in 1963, was turned into a National Park in 2003 because of its biological importance, including the coral reefs and fish species around it. Tourists arrive to Pigeon Island National Park, which has two islands by boats. The owners of these boats are located in Trincomalee, Alaswatta, Nilaveli, Gopalapuram etc. Apart from this, there is also a boat service operated by the Navy. Pigeon Island National Park is coordinated by two ticket windows and two marinas.

During 2019, boats were run over the coral reefs. There are more tourists from February, March to September, October. About 300 to 400 boats pass over the coral reefs a day. Because of this, the beautiful ecosystem with coral reefs and fishes is destroyed. Researchers, local and foreign tourists and conservationists accused the department of not protecting coral reefs.

Although, provisions had been allocated for the conservation of coral reefs since 2018, the conservation work had stalled as it was not enough. After I arrived at Pigeon Island National Park as a Park Ranger, coral reef conservation became a priority. We wanted to put a buoyancy line to protect and develop the existing coral reefs.Accordingly,  we created a union. The villagers, environmental organizations, boat owners, divers, hotel owners and volunteers were involved in the association. I told the society that we will provide technology and labor from the Department and they should provide provisions and other requirements. The union agreed for my suggestion. Director General ChandanaSuriyarachchi approved it and Director ManjulaAmararatne gave necessary instructions. ChannaSuraweera is the head of the Marine Division at that time. Lalith Kumara is the Assistant Director in charge of Trincomalee Region.

Floating plastic balls are positioned on a buoy for the aim of long-term conservation. They should have concrete blocks underneath them. A concrete block with the dimensions 1 ½ * 1 ½ * 1 ½ feet and weighting roughly 250 kg, and having a handle on top. The block is lowered into the sea by attaching a rope to the handle. By fastening a rope to the handle, the block is lowered into the water. Divers carry out this task with the use of GPS technology. Typically, concrete blocks are dropped from a height of 20 meters. Each concrete block is then connected to a vertical beam. Both sides have fixed corners. Every two meters along here, plastic balls are tied. Once a buoy line is attached, it transforms into a boundary.

50 concrete blocks were made by the society under my supervision. 10 mm thick wire was laid to strengthen the concrete blocks. The 16 mm thick wire was used for the handle and covered with PVC to prevent eroding from sea water.

The society produced 50 concrete blocks under my direction.To make the concrete blocks stronger, 10 mm thick wire was installed.The handle was made out of 16 mm thick wire that was wrapped in PVC to stop eroding from seawater.The concrete blocks needed to be moved to the beach and the to the designated spot.We loaded it onto the tractor because we don’t have any equipment and drove it to the beach where we loaded it onto the boat.Every task was completed by hand.The three people loaded these onto the tractor and the boat while standing on either side of an iron pipe.

A boat can carry only one or two concrete blocks. After loading the block into the boat with difficulty, we carry it for 3 kilometers. Concrete blocks were placed in 10-15 feet shallow water. The empty barrels were placed in the water and the concrete blocks were placed in them. This work helped our divers as well as the divers who volunteered. 12 mm nylon cords were tied to the frame.

We set the buoy about a kilometer away. Lines were laid on both sides of Pigeon Island. There was a way to ‘snorkel’ in the middle. We worked very hard for this work. 2 separate concrete blocks were placed to ‘anchor’ the boats. In addition, it was proposed to build a floating jetty, but it could not be done yet.

But eventually the boats were kept their limits. Coral reefs were protected and preserved. Pigeon Island was beautiful to see around. Visits of tourists increased and received an income of 30-40 lakhs per day.

I would also like to mention the Department staff who worked with me. Site Assistant JanakaChaturanga, Wildlife Warden ChinthanaDasanayake, Senior Assistant K. Nagalavan, Field Assistants ChaturangaPerera, Jayasekara, AjithAmarasinghe, AsankaKarunaratne, Dharmatunga, Sisira Kumara and Development Officer WasanthaDharmasena who supported office work should also be mentioned.

This work was completed on 24.10.2019. The self-satisfaction I got after the successful work was immeasurable. That self-satisfaction was an unforgettable memory of my life.

Mr. Upali Kumaratunga

Mr. Upali Kumaratunga, who passed the  Class 3  recruitment exam held by the Wildlife Department after passing the high school biology subject, was appointed to this job on June 7, 2012. Mr. Upali Kumaratunga received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Peradeniya and his MSc Degree in Forestry and Environmental Management from the University of Sri Jayawardenepura. Then he managed to get an excellent pass and the 3rd place bronze medal in the special Diploma Course on Wildlife Management of the University of Colombo, which is offered by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

Mr. Upali Kumaratunga, who conducted a research in 2017 and 2018 in connection with 50 case files completed in Minneriya National Park and Polonnaru site, made a presentation at the Wildlife Symposium held by the Department of Wildlife and won the certificate for the best presentation, regarding raids by wildlife department and lapses by officials in judicial proceedings.

In addition, Mr. Kumarathunga, who played a major role in gazetting the area as a Reserve to remedy the problems related to land reclamation and biodiversity damage around the Trincomalee lagoon, published the related report in the ‘Wildlanka’ magazine in 2022.

He considers it a victory in his life to be able to stop the construction of an unauthorized hotel in Kaudulla, Minneriya elephant corridor.

Mr. Upali Kumaratunga’s wife quits her job and devotes time to her family. Out of the two daughters, the first daughter is preparing for university entrance in mathematics stream, while the second daughter is studying general education at KurunegalaMaliadevaBalikaVidyalaya.

His address – No. 185/A, Maraluwewa, Kurunegala

Email – kumarathungaupali1972@gmail.com

Pigeon Island National Park

The 17th National Park of Sri Lanka, Pigeon Island National Park, is called Paramalei in Tamil, and the island is named Pigeon Island because pigeons inhabit it. Even today, thousands of pigeons can be seen in this location, which is thought to have been used by pigeons to send messages to ancient kings. Pigeon Island National Park is a scenic island park located within the Valai Ukku Gramseva Division of the Kutchveli Divisional Secretariat in Trincomalee District. It was declared a national park by Gazette No. 1291/16 dated June 4, 2003, and officially opened for tourists on May 28, 2011.

This park consists of 02 islands out of which the larger island is Pigeon Island and the smaller island is called Crow Island. Including these two islands, the Pigeon Island National Park covers an area of 471.4 hectares along with the shallow coral reef. The rest is ocean waters. Larger Pigeon Island has two smaller beaches on the Southwest and North sides of the island. Pigeon Island is surrounded by a coral reef that is 200 meters long and 100 meters wide. Its highest point is 44.8 meters above mean sea level. The small island is surrounded by rocks. The park is of a dry mixed forest type. The mean annual temperature is about 27 degrees Celsius. The annual rainfall is 1000-1700 mm and most of the rain falls during the Northeast monsoon from October to March.

This is an island with a high biodiversity along with a dense forest cover. Around the island there is a mangrove community and in the land area plants such as thorn bushes, tamarind, banyan and rare aquatic plant species are found. A mangrove plant community can also be seen around this island, which shows a relatively low level of biodiversity. Mangrove species such as Black mangrove (Lumnitzera racemosa), Pandanus (Pandanus tectorius), Red mangrove (Rhizophora mucronata), Cerbera manghas, Thela (Excoecaria agallocha) are also found here. Neem (Azadirachta indica), Tamarind (Tamarindus indica), Banyan (Ficus benghalensis) are the tall plant species found in the land area. It shows a diversity of thorny dry zone plants and rare aquatic plant species here.

The shallow seas surrounding this island are home to corals in a variety of colors. This island features a beautiful coral reef that covers a significant portion of the surrounding sea and is rich in marine biodiversity. This coral reef contains over 100 different kinds of coral and about 300 different kinds of fish. Hence, the coral habitat provides tourists with breathtaking views.

Cabbage corals
Staghorn corals

Several turtle species visit the waters of Pigeon Island National Park and Black tip reef shark(Carcharhinus melanopterus),a shark species is also common here. Hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Olive ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) can also be seen in this National Park.

Butterfly fish species among corals

The Blue Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) that lives exclusively in the park has earned it the name Pigeon Island. Pigeon Island is the surest place to meet  Rock pigeons which have not crossed with common domestic pigeons. The pigeons that live on the island lay their eggs in April. Zoologists indicate that the island is a suitable breeding ground for pigeons, and pigeons have been living here for thousands of years. The park is once a nesting ground for migratory birds.

The shallow, translucent water surrounding the island is home to many coral species that come in a variety of colors. Here, you may also find plenty of corals from the Acropora, Montipora, and Milleporageneras, as well as brain corals (Faviidae), stony corals (Mussidae), and lobe and finger corals (Poritidae). Also visible are places with soft corals including Sinularia, Lobophyton, and Sarcophytongeneras. Many vertebrates and invertebrates find habitat in coral reefs, which also serve as excellent nesting sites. Also, this beach area is an ideal haven for marine life and coral reef researchers and divers, as well as those interested in activities like scuba diving, surfing, and snorkeling.

Scuba diving

For the benefit of the visitors to the National Park, five (05) nature trails have also been constructed. From Colombo, it takes 265 kilometers to get to Trincomalee town through Nittambuwa, Kurunegala, Dambulla, Sigiriya, Habarana, Agbopura, and Kantale. From there, they can travel 15 kilometers to the Nilaveli beach and 2 km by boat to get to Pigeon Island National Park.

Local and foreign tourists visiting the park can purchase tickets from the ticket counter set up at Nilaveli Beach.A private boat service provides transportation from the shore to the park, which is roughly 2 kilometers from Trincomalee’s Nilaveli beach, from 6 am to 6 pm. From May to September, the sea is less choppy, so it is best to visit during that period.

The use of dynamite by fisherman near the coral reefs is currently the largest threat to this lovely island.

List of animals in the Pigeon Island

 Sinhala Names

Tamil Names

English Names

Scientific Name

ගල් පරෙවියා


Blue Rock Pigeon

Columba livia



Hawksbill Sea turtle

Eretmochelys imbricata



Green turtle

Chelonia mydas


ஒலிவ நிறச் சிற்றாமை

Olive ridley turtle

Lepidochelys olivacea


கட்ட சுறா

Black tip reef shark

Carcharhinus melanopterus




A Genus of Scleratinian coral. May exhibit many different growth morphologies with 85 known speices.




Fire coral are a genus of marine organisms that exhibit physical characteristcs similar to that of Coral. Not true corals.




A Genus of small polyp stony coral. Some of its species are known as table coral. Elkhorn coral & Staghorn Coral.


List of trees in the pigeon island

Sinhala Name Tamil Name English Name Scientific Name
සියඹලා புளி Tamarind

Tamarindus indica

නුග ஆலமரம் Banyan

Ficus benghalensis

බේරියා தீப்பரத்தை Beriya

Lumnitzera racemosa

වැටකෙයියා தாழை

Screwpine seashoe pandan

Pandanus tectorius

මහ කඩොල් கந்தல் Mahakadol

Rhizophora mucronata

කදුරු காட்டரலி Kaduru

Cerbera manghas

තෙල தில்லை Thela

Excoecaria agallocha

කොහොඹ வேம்பு Kohomba 

Azadirachta indica

Editor–  Dammika Malsinghe, Additional Secretary,Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation, Section, Ministry of Agriculture and Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation  (MAWFRC)

Article on park written byHasini Sarathchandra, Chief Media Officer, Department of Wildlife Coservation (DWLC) Mahesha Chathurani Perera ,Development Officer, (DWLC)

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

English Translations Asoka Palihawadana, Translator, MAWFRC

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

Photography pictures are from internet.