Saturday, August 1, 2009

Sri Lanka's largest and most famous National Park, Yala, renowned for its variety of wildlife ....!!!

Hot under the sun, Yala wetlands protect fauna

I wonder whether she said ,”Every Rose Has It’s Thorn,” or did she say that plants that have thorns are less poisonous......?

Sri Lanka's largest and most famous National Park, Yala, renowned for its variety of wildlife is currently attracting hundreds of tourists and local visitors on a daily basis.

One of the world's highly rated and visited biodiversity hot spots to have shut its gates to the world due to terrorist problems , is now open to local and foreign visitors. Now, botanists, journalists, entomologists, mammalogists , naturalists and generlogists to name a few, they all visit the park and visitors to Yala national Park are on the increase.

According to Wildlife Department sources , more than 28,000 people have visited the Park during the period of January up to June 30 this year . The number of visitors to the Park during the same period last year was 15,000.The foreign nationals visiting Yala has also increased from 7532 visitors in the last year 2008 to 10,939 visitors this year, the sources said.

The Zone One of Yala National reserve covering an area of over 1400 hectares of the Park's entire expanse of 100,000 hectares is now accessible without any risk or danger from terrorist attacks.

If fishes were pelicans, the dinner is nigh...

So is Lunugamveherera National Park which serves as a link between the Yala Protected area complex on the east side and Udawalawe National Park to its west .

Meanwhile, the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry is planning to open Zone two and five of Yala National Park. Environment Minister Champika Ranawaka said , developing National Parks in the country would be their priority now that the problem of LTTE terrorism has been decimated and removed out of the Park.

There were ADB funds available to the Environment Ministry to develop the country's National Parks, but the Ministry could not use these funds to achieve its desired goals due to terrorist problems that existed in the country,the minister said and added," we are now in a position to make use of these funds to restore the pride of our forest reserves."

We were a team of journalists representing various print and electronic media driving through Yala sanctuary on the invitation of Wildlife Department to observe the Park's current disposition and how much development had gone into preserving its fauna and flora and basic infrastructure by the Department of Wildlife.

‘Are you trying to pooh pooh me ?’

With us were officials from Willdlife Department, among them Yala Park Warden W.AA.D.U.Indrajith, and Wildlife Ranger K.Janaka Shanthakumara. For these rangers the Park is pretty much their backyard.

Park Warden Indrajith said that the department had carried out Invasive Species Eradication and Habitat Enrichment Projects in Yala to protect its native plants and wildlife habitat.

Habitat enrichment
"Invasive plants negatively impact on wildlife and ecosystems degrading habitat and recreation opportunities by replacing land and water quality," he explained.

The Department of Wildlife Conservation has taken out invasive alien plant species such as Lantana camara, Opuntia dillennii and Chromlaena odorata covering an area of 50 to 60 hectares from in and around the waterholes, rocky pools and lakes, which are found on the park's main area, Block One. This has favorably impacted on Block one's fauna habitat, he went on.

Poker faces

Water holes keep animals together l

As we drove steadily but not rapidly on the dusty and gravel road of the park we could observe spotted deer, elephant ,wild boar, sambar, wild buffalo, sloth bear, jackal, mongoose, pangolins either side of the road.

There were many crocodiles to be spotted in the Yala Park near its many waterholes and tanks. The opportunistic predators were basking in the sun or submerging their bodies in the water. They rarely bask in groups. Of the 14 crocodile species in the family Crocodylide, two are found in Sri Lanka, the marsh or mugger crocodile(Crocodylus palustris) and esturine or saltwater crocodile ( Crocodylus porosus). The other thing about crocodiles is that they are at their best when they play cards for they have thick skins and poker faces.

As two crocodiles lay in the sun on the flat rock, some monkeys were playing gleefully around the crocodiles on it unaware of their dangerous predator. This is wildlife, and you are advised not to get down from your safari jeeps in the Park.

Keep your teeth together until it’s too hot. (a reptile quote )

There are about 32 species of mammals 125 species of birds and many reptiles and lagoon fauna species in the Yala sanctuary. There are six Wildlife Bungalows run by Wildlife Department currently under renovation. A new Information Centre is also to be constructed in the Park.

As with rapidly growing enthusiasm to see wild animals and splendor of the forest's beauty , the the photographers in our van had started thronging themselves upon the van's open windows to transcribe the panorama to metal plates of their cameras. They occasionally bulged on to those who sat next to them as the van drove through the forest.

The Park's access roads and branching roads have been reconstructed recently. A lot of work had gone into restoring the Park's infrastructure during the time the park was closed to the public, said Park Warden Indrajith.

Every Rose...
We stopped our drive when we saw a giant shadow that slowly moved away in the brushes . We took time to dispel our doubts. It was a huge tusker eating branches from a tree. The Rangers asked our group to refrain from speaking if we wished to see the tusker at close range. .

Oh Obelix, definetely not in Yala

We kept quiet as we watched the majestic presence of the mammal, whose kith and kin are constantly in conflict with those villages bordering the forest. .

When it comes to plants, elephants have tasted most of them. An elephant eats more than a hundred species of plants, but they eat only a little from any one plant because they have poisons.

A female elephant might tell her mate," Every Rose Has It's Thorn." and then add on in the same breath," But the plants that have thorns is less poisonous than other plants."So the elephants eat more of these plants that have thorns..

As put it by Wildlife Department officials , the best time to visit Yala is during the dry season as animals come out in the open and cluster round those waterholes in the Park to get their fill.

The elephant, the bear, the dear, the monkey, they all come to get their share of water to the waterholes. The presence of these mammals stands out as testimony to the splendor of Wildlife in Yala. The population of mammals have become dense because of the availability of water in Park. The need does not arise for the animals to leave their range when the water is around, so they do not migrate to other forest lands or wetlands.

It was evident to us that development activities had gone unabated in Yala despite the closure for the public for sometime. The Wildlife Conservation Department and Irrigation Department have built four artificial tanks in the Park to feed the animals. Two water browsers have been deployed to fill water into them throughout the Day.

We reached Kotigala area in the Park toward the end of the afternoon where the lepards live on the rocky outcrops of the prairie. Leopards generally do not come out in the open until it is dark in the forest. It has been graded as a near endangered specie. And Yala is known as one of the best National Park s in the world to observe and photograph leopards. The population of Leopards in Yala has however incresed from 30 to 40 leopards.

Where am I do you think..... Alice in wonderland?

One has got to have some luck to get a glimpse of this nocturnal carnivore even at a distance, the Rangers told us. The van moved slowly as we chatted along , sometimes mocking and other times jesting. Besides we had many things to say about the wildlife and the scenic beauty of the Park, its horizon less terrain with glittering waterholes, shrubs, rocky outcrops and trees.

We have become somewhat noisy and restless by the time. In the meantime, It was about time to leave the park with abdominal gases wanting to digest a well deserved full-scale meal. And a pair of food chain just ran away at full gallop in front of us crossing the road. Two wild boars disappeared into the prairie as Obelix was after their trail.

We were eager to see a leopard. We even complained it to the Park Warden. Do you see....over there ? There goes one ..". The Warden said as he signalled us to survey the flat stretch of land closely.

As we impatiently gazed through the window we could embrace the sight. A leopard indeed. A massive cat with an elongated body with dark spots was moving through the brushes.It was just about 700 or 800 kilometres away from us. It walked slowly with sure steps and it did not show a sign of getting dismayed by the presence of safari jeeps.

The largest of all leopard types in the cat family , the Sri Lankan Leopard, panthera pardus kotiya was gladsomely pacing in the Yala National Park.

Lo ! The versatile hunter was being followed by a deer, one of our perplexed colleagues shouted. "How can leopard and dear walk hand in hand.

"Who is the prey ? Who is the predators?"

And then this happened. The leopard stopped a few paces away from the stag and stared at it briefly. The stag was set aback. And the leopard would not pounce at it. The stag disappeared into a thicket as the leopard continued its walk. I wondered whether the leopard said this to the stag.

" Are you trying to pooh pooh me. You are supposed to run away when you see my kind. You , one lucky son of a stag, I do not hunt today in this territory because I plan to hunt in the open grass land beyond the gravel boarder."

The leopard tiptoed up to the gravel boarder, which is the road we were on and crossed it with few paces displaying its magnificence and strength. He was least concerned of the safari jeeps on the strip of gravel land. What showmanship!

1 comment: