I was appointed to Ampara on January 4, 2022, as the Assistant Director in charge of Ampara-East. At that time, my service period was 23 years. Ampara East has a substantial extent of forest, including three National Parks and four significant sanctuaries.
The three National Parks are MaduruOya, Kumana and Lahugala-Kitulana. The four main Sanctuaries are Kudumbigala, Sagama, Buddhangala and Ampara Sanctuaries. Kudumbigala sanctuary is located near the National Park. Sagama Sanctuary is located near the Lahugala National Park.Buddhangala Sanctuary is located closer to Ampara Sanctuary. Buddhangala Forest is located inside the Buddhangala Sanctuary. The Ampara sanctuary is the same Galoya Sanctuary Northeast. Most of Ampara city area belong to this Sanctuary. Elephants cross to Buddhangala and Vellaveli in Batticaloa through the AmparaSanctuary .
This sanctuary starts from the North-eastern corner of Galoya Park and an electric fence has been installed there to prevent elephants from entering into to the village. But the elephants come from the NamalOya direction very trickily and sneak through the electric fence from eastern side. Ampara main road runs throughArantalawa area.
We were especially concerned about the herds of elephants that come out of the forest during children sitting for exams. This was the time the advanced level examination was held in January 2023. The Director General had also sent us a letter asking us to keep an eye on wild elephants.
Anyway, when children go for high school exams, they leave home early in the morning. On 23rd January, several of our mobile groups leave to check the situation in different places. I also left in a cab with our group around 4 a.m in the morning. I was accompanied by Wildlife Warden Vishmitha, Field Assistant Ashan and Driver UpulShanta.
It was dark even at six in the morning in those days of the year. It was a dangerous day as several herds of elephants came out of the jungle. We saw a herd of 6 to 7 elephants and two male elephants together. Male elephants together are dangerous. After a while we heard the sound of elephant gunshots in the distance. That’s our other team. They had shot elephants to drive away the herd.
It’s almost five o’clock then. The children who are going to the exam are almost coming to the road. Our vehicle started at NamalOya lake embankment and went near Inginiagala about half a kilometer. A single big elephant ran towards the forest almost hitting our vehicle. Those elephants that came out now running to inside of the jungle.
By around 5.15 in the morning, our teams were able to chase all the elephants into the forest. Then there was a relief.I think we did a great service that day. we could save lives of children. If a single child is attacked by an elephant, it will be a big offence. When I remember that day, I feel a great satisfaction.
Mr. Prashantha Lakpriya Wimaladasa joined the Wildlife Department on 09.11.1998 as a Science Graduate Staff Officer.
Initially, he was employed in Yala National Park. After working there for 4 years, he worked as a park warden at Hikkaduwa, Maduru Oya, Lunugamwehera, Udawalawa, Kaudulla National Parks, Bellanwila Atthidiya Sanctuary and Giritale Training Field.
In 2011, from 2017 to 2019 served as an Acting Assistant Director in charge of 2 zones in Uva Province. He fondly remembers joining the Hambantota Elephant Relocating Mission in 2006.
Mr. Prashantha Wimaladasa is a science graduate from Ruhunu University. He has pursued a Post Graduate Diploma in Wildlife Management sponsored by the Department of Wildlife in the University of Colombo and a Diploma in Wildlife Management in India.
At present, Mr. Prashantha has written for the final examination of the Master’s Degree in Environmental Science at the Open University.
Mr. Prashantha’s wife Mrs. Utpala Nilawala is a science teacher at Kegalle College. Their son, Pulmed Chandika Wimaladasa is an 8th year student at Kegalu Vidyalaya.
His address is Kanda Pitiya Watta, Molagoda, Kegalle.
There are several National Parks and Sanctuaries under the management of the Department of Wildlife Conservation within the Ampara District of the Eastern Wildlife Zone, which was declared under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance. Among them, Maduru Oya, Kumana and Lahugala-Kitulana are National Parks.Kudumbigala-Panama, Buddhangala, Galoya Northeast Ampara, Sagamam etc. are sanctuaries. The plant community in these areas is dry mixed evergreen forest and plants like Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Hedge Box wood (Drypetes sepiaria), Divul (Limonia acidissima), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Satin wood (Chloroxylon swietenia) are the dominants. Medicinal plants like Aralu (Terminalia chebula), Bulu (Terminalia bellirica), Nelli (Phyllanthus emblica) and Gal siyambala (Dialium ovoideum) are not found in these forests. A specialty of the forests is the presence of small grasslands known as ‘Palassa’. Mana (Cymbopogon confertiflorus), Guinea grass (Megathyrsus maximus), Illuk (Imperata cylindrica), and Pohon (Pennisetum polystachion) are the main plants of the grasslands.Shrubs like Lime (Citrus sps.), Kukurumana (Caturunaregam spinosa), Conker (Carissa carandas) are abundant and their fruits provide tasty food for birds. Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), Sambar (Cervus unicolor), Spotted deer (Axis axis ceylonensis), Spotted chevrotain (Moschiola meminna), Barking deer (Muntiacus muntijak), Wild boar (Sus scrofa), and Porcupine (Hystrix indica) are abundant mammals. There are traces like footprints of Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) in these forests but no one has reported seeing leopards.
There are legends that dwarf human community called ‘Nittheva’ lived here.
About 80 species of birds live in this area. Spot-billed pelican (Pelecanus philippensis), Heron family (Ardeidae Sps), Cormorant (Phalacrocorax Sps.) as well as Sri Lanka Gray Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis), Blue-faced malkoha (Phaenicophaeus viridirostris) can be observed living near the reservoirs. But migratory birds cannot be commonly observed. Among such migrants, Blue tailed bee eater (Merops philippinus), can be seen only rarely.
About 15-20 species of butterflies can be found in these forests and Estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), Sri Lankan flapshell turtle (Lissemys ceylonensis), Indian black terrapin/turtle (Melanochelys trijuga) and Star tortoise (Testudo elegans) are common reptile species.
Many reservoirs are located in the forest. A small amount of fresh water fishing is done in connection with that. Introduced fish like Tilapia Tilapia are common in these reservoirs.
In these sanctuaries, people cultivate paddy fields in an amazing way. The main corridors through which wild elephants travel are through rice paddies. Wild elephants should pass from Galoya area through Sagamam sanctuary and pass Buddhangala sanctuary and then Samanthure and Walasapitiya areas. These areas are paddy cultivation areas. While going to Lahugala via Dighavapiya, one has to pass Akkareipattu and Tirukkovil which are paddy growing areas. These wild elephants pass through paddy fields only after harvest.Then the weeds in the fields are their food. Realizing the migration of elephants to start successful crops, the farmers first plant rice near the sanctuary and then those far away from the sanctuary and harvest accordingly. With that method, it is possible to protect the plantation and give it to the elephants in the stubble. Since the paddy fields are cultivated under the Gal Oya project, the farmers have been able to take water and harvest the crops using the guard system.The wild elephants have had the opportunity to eat Ipanella in an area of about 300-400 acres in the harvested areas. The months of February, March, April, July, August and September are the times when wild elephants can be observed eating the Ipanella after finishing the harvest. Around 30 elephants can be seen on both sides of Akkareipattu, Nedavur, Karthivu, Samanture roads during these periods.
1. Panama-Kudumbigala Sanctuary
Located close to Sri Lanka’s famous Kumana National Park, Panama-Kudumbigala Sanctuary is a place of natural beauty. Covered with lush vegetation and greenery, the sanctuary is home to a variety of birds and animals. Kudumbigala Sanctuary is a wonderful place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and spend time closer to nature. This holy place is considered as a blessed place where many great arahants have touched.
This was published by Gazette No. 1433/3/79 dated 20th February 2006 and covers an area of 6533.91 hectares. Kudumbigala Arama Bhumiya located in this sanctuary is situated on a beautiful rock in the middle of a Nature Reserve, about 22 km from Yala Kumana National Park and about 22 km from Pothuvil in Ampara.It has the sacred Kudumbigala Monastery on the top of the hill and the road leading to it is quite steep but gives you an opportunity for a challenging climb. However, all the efforts will be worth it in the end as beautiful scenaries will greet you upon reaching the top.
Established as a refuge for Buddhist monks who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the cities, it is home to meditative yogi monks. A shrine that must be visited at least once in a lifetime. The Chethia Pabbata temple, which is believed to have been offered to the Maha Sangha during the reign of King Kavantissa, is located in the Kudumbigala Tapovana sanctuary.It is acknowledged that it was later restored by General Nandimitra who contributed to the unite of the country with King Dutugemunu. The distance between Colombo and Kudumbigala Sanctuary is 350 km. It is not advisable to visit after 5 pm as the wild animals roam freely here in the evening.
Stone mountains like Kudumbigala bring a strange charm to the forest. A unique area; its geological, biological and archaeological features are yet to be properly explored. Important archaeological sites are Kudumbigala Pagoda, Tapo Forest and Murugan Temple. A part of this forest including these places has been designated as an archaeological reserve. A major geological feature of the sanctuary is the picturesque lagoon near its border. It also has several geologically unconformable sand dunes with unique biodiversity.
2. Galoya Northeast or Ampara Sanctuary.
Galoya Northeast or Ampara sanctuary was declared as a sanctuary on February 12, 1954 by the gazette numbered 10640. Later again it was renewed on 11.06.1998 vide Gazette No. 1031-12. The area covered by this sanctuary is 124.32 hectares. This is a watershed as well. Ampara Lake, Ponduvatwana Lake, Thero Durawa Lake and Namal Oya Lake which is at the edge of Gal Oya National Park are the main lakes located here.
The main transit route for elephants from Gal Oya National Park to Batticaloa passes through the Ampara Sanctuary. Through this sanctuary, wild elephants travel freely to Mangala village, Arantalawa, Uhana road to Vellavali and Shantamale areas of Batticaloa.
3. Buddhangala Sanctuary
This sanctuary located in the Ampara area is a sanctuary with an area of 1841.3 hectares which was announced by Gazette No. 136 on 01 November 1974. One of the four protected areas that make up the Galoya National Park, the Buddhangala Sanctuary has a stupa and the remains of other buildings are dating back to the 2nd century BC.The ruins of this forest are spread over an area of 200 acres. It is believed that Lord Buddha visited this place during his last visit to Sri Lanka.
A serene beauty pervades this forest. The trees of the dry mixed evergreen forest are also more closely spaced. Also, ‘Palasi’ is located in the South East area. Thesepalasis are used by elephants to travel Walanapitiya area through Buddhangala. Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Hedge Box wood (Drypetes sepiaria), Malittan (Salvadora persica), Divul (Limonia acidissima), Kukurumana (Caturunaregam spinosa) are commonly found in Buddhangala Sanctuary. Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna) and Mee (Madhuca longifolia) are scattered in the sanctuary. About twenty forest-dwelling monks live in the Buddhangala Forest Senasana, and devotees regularly come to the Buddhangala Forest to make offerings.
4. Sagamma Sanctuary
Sagamam Sanctuary is another sanctuary located in Ampara district. A sanctuary with an area of 616.4 hectares was declared on 21.06.1963. It is a forest with its own unique beauty. Two main elephant corridors are fallen across the Sagamam sanctuary. Wild elephants coming from Galoya National Park travel to Batticaloa and wild elephants from Buddhangala to Lahugala use these two trails.
Axis axis ceylonensis
Panthera pardus kotiya
இலங்கை சாம்பல் இருவாய்ச்சி
Sri lanka Grey Hornbill
වත නිල් මල් කොහා
நீல முகச் செண்பகம்
Blue – faced malkoha
පෙඳ නිල් බිඟුහරයා
Blue tailed bee eater
கொண்டை பாம்புண்ணிக் கழுகு
Crested serpant eagle
Sri Lankan flapshell turtle
Indian black terrapin/ turtle
|වීර||வீரை||Hedge Box wood|
|ගල් සියඹලා||பட்டு புளியம்பழம்||Gal siyambala|
|ගිනිග්රාස්||கினியா புல்||Guinea grass|
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 by– Hasini Sarathchandra, Chief Media Officer, Department of Wildlife Coservation (DWLC), Mahesha Chathurani Perera ,Development Officer, (DWLC)
Tamil Translations– A.R.F. Rifna, Development Officer, MAWFRC
English Translations – Asoka Palihawadana, Translator, MAWFRC
Web Designing–N.I.Gayathri, Development Officer,MAWFRC -C.A.D.D.A. Kollure, Management Service Officer, MAWFRC
Photography– pictures are from internet.
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