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Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation

Episode 36 – Somavathiya National Park

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Somavathiya National Park, is located centrally bordeing the Kaudulla National Park, Flood plain Valley National Park and Trikonamadu National Park while surrounding the historical Somavathiya sacred site.Somavathiya National Park with an area of 37645 hectares located in Trincomalee and PolonnaruwaDistricts, was upgraded to a National Park on September 02, 1986.


While on the way from Dambulla via Habarana junction, it is possible to enter Somavathia National Park by traveling along Kantale road from Habarana junction towards Polonnaruva, turning from Minneriya town and via Higurakgoda.


Since there is no separate park headquarters for Somavathiya National Park, conservation work is carried out by the site beat offices at Kantale and Sungawila, and the area adjacent to Kawdulla National Park is supervised by Kawdulla National Park. The constant attention of the officers of Kawdulla National Park Headquarters as well as the officers of Midrigiriya Beat Office was directed towards Somavatiya National Park, because of its unique ecological importance and due to the fact that more attention had to be paid to curb unauthorized activities.


Therefore, as soon as I got some freedom, I and most of my staff were very keen to visit to Somavatiya National Park. Among them, officers including Wildlife Guard, Chatura Gunaratne and Wildlife Guards, Saminda, Indika, as well as Asitha, Nimal and Sanjeeva of the Civil Defense Force worked with great enthusiasm in this regard. Even though he is not alive now, field assistant Kekulandara must be appreciated for his efforts in the conservation of Somavathi.


Among the unique places of Somavathiya National Park, the Villu system in and around Beruwila area was the most interesting place for all of us. From theKawdulla Park headquarters, through the park to Madrigiriya, and from there towards Somavathiya, meet the Ali Oluwa junction. It may have been given that name because a skull of a dead wild elephant was placed in the middle of the junction. We all used to stop the vehicle and walk from there as a vehicle could not travel on the very difficult and narrow road.Somavathiya National Park, full of streams, wild animals, and forests along the Mahaweli River, is one of the most interesting places among the forests I have walked.

About 12 years ago, when I came to work in Kawdulla National Park, the first patrol in Somawathiya National Park was planned shortly, because of the desire to walk in Somawathiya National Park rather than to investigate illegal activities.


After lunch that day, as previously planned, our group left for Somavathia with the necessary supplies in cab PA-2058 from Kawdulla Park Headquarters via Medrigiriya. Entering Somavathiyatired of walking, we came across a big dilapidated two-storied bungalow in the Beruwila area, which seemed like a living example of a haunted old bungalow that we had created in our minds when we were children.


As planned it was a great relief for us,as we were looking for a place to spend the night before the fall of darkness. As we peered into it, a stout elderly man with grown hair and a beard got up from where he was sitting and took a step forward towards us with a somewhat timid demeanor. It only took him a moment to recognize us. It might be because the wildlife officers were a familiar group of people he met frequently in his life.


“Are there any elephants around here?” we started the conversation.


“Yes sir, stay here today, you can’t go beyond here, there are elephants.”


He replied. We all sat down on the wall in the room on the lower floor of the building which was covered with moss. We gave him a portion of the bread that had been taken for dinner while resting, and prepared to share the rest between us. Because there was no way to cook dinner. But the smell of fish broth spread. Our guest served some of the fresh water fish that was cooking on the fireplace and entertained us. We had the opportunity to taste a piece of bread with hot fish gravy. It was a surprise because we did not expect such treats at this time.


“This is the place where former Prime Minister D.S Senanayake stayed when he visits here at that time”

He resumed speaking. We did not stop him from continuing the story and the darkness closed in on all sides and we did not hear any other sound except the sounds of the wild animals and his voice.

“Sir, my name is Victor. I used to kill animals. At that time my job was hunting. But now I am not doing those sinful acts. One day I was caught by wildlife officials while killing an animal. That gentleman is like a god. When his junior officer tried to hit me, he did not let him to hit me. I was advised not to engage in such activities.  I have not killed animals since then. I don’t even think about them now.”


He continued. “The only thing we do now is catch fish. All of us who were attracted to his interesting stories spent that night in that deserted bungalow. The next day, after washing our face in a well near the abandoned bungalow, when we got ready to start our scenic tour and patrol, Victor said goodbye to us and left for his fishing job, causing a bit of a sad feeling in all of us.


One night after about a week, I received a call from an unknown number, and I was surprised because it was Victor’s voice. After that Victor called me frequently and it was not difficult to know that most of them were during his drunken nights. In the meantime, he did not forget to share with me his illnesses, needs as well as interesting experiences. A few months later, he made a phone call and said that what was said in Beruwila that day touched his heart and that he had left the fishing job and turned to farming.


Although, I didnot call him, he used to talk on the phone continuously for years. It might be because he understood that I was the happiest because of his change. As time goes by, I still donot know why I havenot received phone calls from him for about four years.


However, on my first appointment, Victor, who I met as a guest, was impressed by the fact that he stopped killing animals completely because of the wildlife officials. This is how the memory of him was marked in my mind.




Mr. Eranda Gamage


Mr. ErandaGamage is a graduate of the University of Colombo. He has completed Post Graduate Diploma and Master Degree in Information Technology from the Department of Information Technology of Colombo University.He has also pursued a Post Graduate Diploma in Wildlife Management in India.

As at now,  Mr. ErandaGamage has been working in the Wildlife Department for more than 20 years, working at the Planning and Information Technology Division in 2004, Giritale Wildlife Training Center in 2012, Natural Management Division from 2013 to 2018 as well as Kaudulla National Park and the Puttalam Wildlife Zone Office.

ErandaGamage’s phone number is 0714465420.


Somavathiya National Park

Somavathiya National Park, located in the east of Sri Lanka, south of Trincomalee, was declared a National Park on 12 September 1986 under Gazette No. 417/5. Earlier, it was designated as a sanctuary on August 9, 1966. Somavatia National Park extends to the eastern and northern provinces and has an area of ​​37645.5 hectares. Somavathi Park is located in the Mahaweli territory bordering Koddiarpattu in the Trincomalee district of the Eastern Province and EgodaPattu in the Polannaruwa district of the North Central province. The fact that the historical Somavatichaitya is situated in the Somavati National Park may have led to the name of this national park.

The ruined Somavathiya temple within the Somavathi sanctuary was rediscovered around 1940. Located near the left bank of the Mahaweli River, the historic SomavathiyaChaitya is said to be named after Princess Somavati, who was the sister of King KavanTissa and the wife of the local ruler Prince Abhaya. Also, it is mentioned in the inscriptions that this stupa was built by Prince Abhaya to reposit the right tooth of the Buddha which belonged to MihinduMaharahat. The names of many kings who had done repairs to the Somavatistupa between the first and fourth centuries are recorded in the inscriptions.



Somavati National Park is one of the four National Parks declared in 1984 under the Mahaweli Development Project for the protection and safeguard of displaced wild animals. Wasgamuwa National Park, MaduruOya and a floodplains Valley are other national parks that have been declared as such. This Somavathiya National Park is an area with Villu grasslands adjacent to the Flood Plain National Park and the Trikonamadu Nature Reserve. There are more than 20 reservoirs surrounded by rivers and streams. Beru, a favorite grass of elephants, is also found in these grasslands. Such lakes along the Mahaweli Rivers have become the safe habitat of many herbivores living in the vicinity.

Somavathiya National Park is located 20 km north-east of Polonnaruwa and 266 km north-east of Colombo. The roads leading to Somavathiyastart commence from Polonnaruwa and also from Minneriya. Both access routes meet at Sungawila. The way that can be reached from the Colombo is Colombo – Kurunegala – Habarana – Polonnaruwa-Hospital Junction-Sungawila. The distance is approximately 165 miles.


This park is flooded twice a year by the river water caused by the north-east and south-west monsoons. Water tolerant grasses and aquatic plants are abundant here. Among these are aquatic species such as Mukunuwenna (Alternantherasessilis), Kankun (Ipomoea aquatica), Diyahabarala/Jabara (Monochoriahastata). The most widespread grass species are Diya-thna-kola (Brachiariamutica), Seahorse Paspalum (Paspalumvaginatum) and Yellow water crown grass (Paspalidiumflavidum). In slightly deeper water, there are floating aquatic plants. Blue water lily (Nymphaeastellata) and submerged aquatic plant. Among the flora are Kumbuk (Terminaliaarjuna), Mee (Madhucalongifolia), Diya-midella (Barringtoniaasiatica), Halamba (Mitragynaparvifolia), Erabadu (Erythrina variegate).



The environmental importance of the park is mainly due to the abundance of animal species such as elephants. About 100-150 elephants live in Somavatiya National Park and they can be seen roaming in small groups and in groups of three or four. Other notable mammal species include Golden jackal (Canis aureus), Fishing Cat (Prionailurusviverrinus), Rusty-spotted cat (Felisrubginosa), Wild Boar (Susscrofa), Sambar (Rusaunicolor), Water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis), Spotted deer (Axis axisceylonensis) etc.

Asian elephant (Elephas maximus)

Spotted deer (Axis axis ceylonesis)

About 75 species of migratory birds are found in the wetlands. Common migrants include Garganey (Anasquerquedula), Marsh sandpiper(Tringastagnatilis), Wood sandpiper (Tringaglareola), Pintailed snipe (Gallinagostenura), Black-tailed godwit (Limosalimosa). Resident birds include Painted stork (Mycterialeucocephala), Openbill Stork (Anastomusoscitans), Little Egret (Egrettagarzetta), Sri Lanka junglefowl (Gallus lafayetill), Little Cormorant (Phalacrocoraxniger), Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), Black Headed Ibis (Threskiornismelanocephalus), and Black – wined stilt (Himantopus Himantopus), Crimson – Fronted Barbet (Psilopogonrubricapillus), Malabar pied hornbill (Anthracoceroscoronatus). Both Flood Plain National Park and Somavatiya National Park are extremely important parks for migratory and resident waterfowl.

Although an overall system plan for protected areas was in place within the Mahaweli region, the area remained largely unmanaged and unprotected until it was included in the Mahaweli Environment Project.As people moved in with their cattle, the forested part of the area was cleared for cultivation.Deforestation has become more widespread since the mid-1970s.With the declaration of the park, illegal logging, tobacco cultivation and the presence of cattle gradually declined.



The harm caused by elephants to the people living in the Somavatiya area continues to this day.One of the reasons is the arrival of animals in search of garbage left by pilgrims.

සෝමාවතීජාතිකඋද්‍යානයපිළිබඳව විස්තරයේ ඇති සතුන්ගේ නම් ලැයිස්තුව

சோமாவதிய தேசிய பூங்காதொடர்பான விளக்கத்தில் காணப்படும் விலங்குகளின் பெயர்ப் பட்டியல்

List of animals in the Somavatiya National Park

Sinhala Names

Tamil Names

English Names

Botanical Name



Golden jackal




Fishing Cat



துரும்பன் பூனை

Rusty- spotted cat



காட்டுப் பன்றி

Wild Boar





Rusa unicolor



Water buffalo



புள்ளி மான்

Spotted deer 

Axis axisceylonensis


சீலச் சிறகி




சின்ன பச்சைக்காலி

Marsh sandpiper



பொரி உள்ளான்

Wood sandpiper



ஊசி வால் கோரை உள்ளான்

Pintailed snipe



கருவால் மூக்கன்

Black-tailed godwit



மஞ்சள் மூக்கு நாரை

Painted stork



நத்தை குத்தி நாரை

Openbill Stork



சின்னக் கொக்கு

Little Egret




Sri lankajunglefowl

Gallus lafayetill


சின்ன நீர்க்காகம்

Little Cormorant



உண்ணிக் கொக்கு

Cattle egret

Bubulcus ibis


இந்திய வெள்ளை அரிவாள் மூக்கன்

Black Headed Ibis



நெடுங்கால் உள்ளான்

Black – wined stilt



இலங்கை குக்குறுவான்

Crimson – Fronted Barbet



மலபார் கறுப்பு வெள்ளை இருவாய்ச்சி ஆகும்

Malabar pied hornbill



සෝමාවතී ජාතිකඋද්‍යානයපිළිබඳව විස්තරයේ ඇති වෘක්ෂයන්ගේ නම් ලැයිස්තුව

சோமாவதிய தேசிய பூங்காதொடர்பான விளக்கத்தில் காணப்படும் தாவரங்களின் பெயர்ப் பட்டியல்

List of trees in the Somavatiya National Park

Sinhala Name

Tamil Name

English Name

Scientific Name








Ipomoea aquatica










கடற்குதிரை பஸ்பம்

Seahorse Paspalum



அரிசிப் புல்

Yellow water crown grass


නිල් මානෙල්

நீல அல்லி

Blue water lily










දිය මැඬිල්ල





நீர்க்கடம்ப மரம்






Erythrina variegate

Editor– DammikaMalsinghe, Additional Secretary,Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation, Section, Ministry of Agriculture and Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation  (MWFRC)

Article on park written byHasiniSarathchandra, 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 Designing C.A.D.D.A. Collure, Management Service Officer, MWFRC

PhotographyRohithaGunawaradena, DWLC.