Sunday, October 15, 2017

Wildlife Sighting Report- Jetwing Lake, Dambulla

On 1 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake

Birds:-black headed ibis,little egrets,cattle egrest, Little cormorant, , common myna,black-hooded oriole,Indian Peafowl Butterflies:-Indian crow,  and  many glassy tigers.Mamals:- Gray languras ,toque monkeys and giant squirrel. Monkeys and Languras were spotted in the morning around block C building. Peafowls and butterflies spotted around the vegetative area of the lake.



On 2 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake

Birds:-Little cormorant, Indian Peafowl,yellow billed babblers, red ventered bulbul, common iora, green bee eater. Common Iora. Buttterflies Three spot grass yellow butterfly and many glassy tigers.

On 3 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake

Birds:- white throated kingfisher and white bellied fish eagle, yellow-billed babblers, spotted doves, red-vented bulbuls,Rose ringed parakeets, common myna and crow,   headed barbet Butterflies:-common jezebel butterfly. Fish eagle flew over the lake at 10.00am; More birds can be seen in the forest patch f in the morning 6.00am-9.00am and late afternoon.


On 4 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:- little cormorants/indian peafowls , White bellied fish eagle. Butterflies:- Common morman, and many grass yellows

On 5 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:- Purple -rumped sunbird, Asian paradise flycatcher, small minivet,Malabar pide hornbills, Reptiles:-Monitor lizard/ common lizard, Kobara/ Rats snake beside poolMammals:- Monkeys,
On 6 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-White-Breasted water hens,Red -wattled lapwings, openbills,black headed ibis,little egrets,cattle egrest, Fish eagle, Asian Koel, spotted dove Mammals:-Monkeys.



On 7 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-white throated kingfisher and white bellied fish eagle,Little cormorant, Indian Peafowl,yellow billed babblers, red ventered bulbul, common iora, green bee eaters. Buttterflies Three spot grass yellow butterfly and  Indian crow. Mammals:- Toque monkeys,giant squireel and few plam sqireels.  Green bee eaters spotted in the forest area behid the spa building at 6.20 am, two white bellied fish eagles seen flying above the E -building making loud noice.

On 8 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Little cormorant, Indian Peafowl,yellow billed babblers, red ventered bulbul, common iora, green bee eaters Buttterflies Three spot grass yellow butterfly and  Indian crow Mammals:- Toque monkeys,giant squireel and few plam sqireels.


On 9 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
 Birds :-Gray hornbills, Indian peafowl. Endemic sp. Regular visitor to the forest patch beside entrace road.

On 10 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds :-White-browed bulbuls,brown headed barbets,Indian pitta,Rock pigeons, openbills, rose ringed parakeets, common kingfisher. Indian pitta seen in forest area on of the beautiest migrant bird coming for india, Rock pigeons were often seen on building roofs tops.

On 11 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-White-Breasted water hens,Red -wattled lapwings, openbills,black headed ibis,little egrets,cattle egrest, Fish eagle, Asian Koel, spotted dove Mammals:-Monkeys  due to dry conditions lake water level has gone down, more waders coming in to the lake.



On 12 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:- Geater flameback woodpeckers, Painted storks, Spot bill pelicans, openbills, comorants Flock of beautiful painted storks seen in the lake with few pelicans and comorants, Indian scop owl found in the chinese restaurant area.

On 13 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds: - Painted storks, Spot bill, pelicans, openbills, comorants and Indian scop-owl. Mammals:-monkeysIndian scop owl seen on a tree, infornt of the spa building it becoming a regular visitor there, in the evenings can hear its call around block C (spa building).

On 14 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-White-browed bulbuls,brown headed barbets,Spotted dove.red ventered bulbuls, purple sunbirds. Spotted doves seen often in farm area.



On 15 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-little cormorant,Jacana,White-breasted waterhen,common iora,common mynas, purple sunbird,Coppersmith barbet,brown headed barbet,spotted dove,rock pigeon, Rose ringed parakeets, emeral doves Mammals:-palm squirrel,Toque monkeys. Three coppersmith barbet spotted on dead barnch of a damuna tree near the lake.

On 16 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Painted storks, Spot bill, pelicans, openbills, comorants monkeys flock of spot bill pelican spotted in the lake. Shallow area of the lake spreding due to the drought condition. More waders and water birds can be seen.

On 17 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-geater comorants, Painted storks, Spot bill, pelicans, openbills, Little comorants, Mammals:-monkeys, Reptiles:-green Vine snake. Well grown green vine snake spotted on a tree behind the front office turfing area  in the morning around 9 am. Flock of greater comorant spotted on dead tree closer to the lake dam.


On 18 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Green bee eaters,White throated kingfisher,Painted storks, Spot bill, pelicans, openbills, comorants Mammals:-toque monkeys. Availability of easy food (fish) in the lake due to low water level, more waders and water birds seen in and around the lake area.

On 19 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-red watteld lapwings,Painted storks, Spot bill, pelicans, openbills, comorants , Brahminy kites,white rumped munias, Mammals:-toque monkeys and gray languars. Troop of gray laguars spotted on tall kone trees beside the main entrance road. And few bush birds seen in the vegetative area of the lake.

On 20 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-geater comorants, Painted storks, Spot bill, pelicans, openbills, Little and greater comorants, Mammals:-monkeys.

On 21 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Little cormorant, Indian Peafowl,yellow billed babblers, red ventered bulbul, common iora, green bee eater. Common Iora.Rose ringed parakeets, little barbet, pale billed flower peckers Buttterflies Three spot grass yellow butterfly and  many glassy tigers, Indian crow Mammals:- giant squireel and few plam sqireels.Reptiles:-green Vine snake, monitor lizard, Green vine sanke spotted on a tree at 9.30am near the nature room.


On 22 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-  little cormorant, little egrets, cattle egrets ,Indian comorant, white throated kingfisher, Jacanas, yellow-billed babblers, spotted doves, red-vented bulbuls,Rose ringed parakeets, common myna and crow, Iora, Asian paradise flycatcher, Butterflies:- Grass yellows and common jezebel  utterfly. Mammals:- Toque monkeys, plam squireel, Reptiles- Land monitor, common lizard. Two Shamas see in the forest patch. Male bird dancing around female.

On 23 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-little cormorant, little egrets,cattle egrets ,Black-winged stilt, gray heron, Indian Peafowl,White-breasted waterhen, rock pigeon,Indian coucal, white-throated kingfisher,and common mynas. Indian coucal and the kingfisher spotted in the farm area

On 24 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Malabar Pied Hornbills,greater egret, indan pond heron, cattle egrets , greater comorants, white breasted waterhens, Black-rumped flameback woodpecker,common kingfisher, whiskered terns. Two woodpeckers seen on a dead tree infront of Block C  at 8.30am. Flock of Malabar pied hornbills spotted on a tree beside lake. Few oriental white-eyes seen in the forest patch. Spotted few terns flying above the lake water surface. They are common migrants.

On 25 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Indian pea fowl,Little egret, great egret,Open bills, common iora, Magpie robin, sottered dove, longbilled sunbird, red wattled lapwing, brown headed Barbet, yellow billed babblers,scaly, Rock pigeon, palm swifts and brahmini kite Mammals:-palm squirrel,giant squirrel, toque monkeys.
        

On 26 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Little egret,great egret, sottered dove, red wattled lapwing, brown headed Barbet, common kingfisher, Caspian tern, white-bellied sea eagle      White-bellied fish eagle flew over the lake around 2pm, few water birds also there, it was raining.

On 27 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Indian pea fowl,Little egret,great egret,Open bills, common iora,Magpie robin, sottered dove, longbilled sunbird, red wattled lapwing, brown headed Barbet, yellow billed babblers,scaly-breasted munias Mammals:-palm squirrel,giant squirrel, toque monkeys Butterflies:- three spot grassyellows, Dragonflies:-spine-stufted skimmer.
         
On 28 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-white throated kingfisher, Little cormorant, Indian Peafowl,yellow billed babblers, red ventered bulbul, common iora,Rock pigeons, Asian koel, Spotted dove,Buttterflies :-Indian crow,Lineblue, Lemon emigrant,Mammals:- Toque monkeys,giant squireel,Palm squrieel    few common ioras and yellow billed babblers seen in front of spa building making very loud nice at 7.30 am.

On 29 Sep 2017 at Jetwing Lake
Birds:-Indian pea fowl,Little egret,great egret,Open bills, red wattled lapwing, yellow billed babblers,scaly-breasted munias Mammals:-palm squirrel,giant squirrel, toque monkeys Reptiles:- common lizard, green garden lizard Butterflies:- Crimson rose,Indian crows and grass yellows. In the afternoon, many cattle egrets (20-30) spotted in front of pool area due to grass cutting and weeding, giant squirrel is also a regular visitor around block C , can see it 8.00am to 10.00am, many indian crow butterflies spottered at 10.20am furfed  area below the extended bar.

By Nayanapriya Wijaya Bandara

Sunday, October 8, 2017

The tale of Leopard Chase! By Charukesi Ramadurai

Charukesi Ramadurai stalks the Sri Lankan leopard at Yala national park. Despite its high numbers, sightings are tricky. Call it the thrill of the chase!

Sri Lanka is the kind of place we call ‘same but different’. Everything feels familiar: the lush paddy fields swaying in the afternoon summer breeze; the good-natured grins that locals flash without a hint of self-consciousness; the neat line of colorful auto rickshaws along the roads; and the mad whir of the safari jeep as drivers rush to overtake others just to get a hundred meters ahead.
Yet everything feels off, ever so slightly. For a start, the roads are super smooth, with not a single pothole in sight. And the drivers, who whiz purposefully, my own included, slow down immediately with a sheepish look on their faces, as if guided by an     invisible hand. In this land of gentle people, cutting lanes is as unacceptable a concept as speaking loudly or frowning at visitors.
The forests of Sri Lanka have the highest concentration of leopards in the world, and sighting then is a matter of near certainty. Add to it the fact that in this habitat, leopards are the apex predators, unlike in Indian forests where tigers rule, forcing leopards to play down their prowess. I have read all this before, and am repeating it mentally right now for reassurance.

Our local guide-driver Sumanth is a bundle of  optimism, brandishing his mobile phone and swearing solemnly to show us leopards. Not just many leopards in Yala, he tells us comfortingly, but they are also used to human movement. And so, we enter the gates of Yala National Park for our first safari just before 3 pm, eyes peeled and cameras at the ready.
The first sighting of the day is a gang of wild pigs, mummy and daddy herding a dozen little ones across the mud tracks. The babies freeze and move, freeze and move, clearly not yet fully trained in forest road rules, before disappearing from sight. As we peer into the bushes behind them, we catch sight of a couple of elephants frolicking in the mud, tearing up bamboo shoots for a mid-afternoon snack.

Although the Sri Lankan elephant has been declared an endangered species by the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature), their numbers have slowly been increasing over the last few years. And Yala, with its semi-arid climate, presents a perfect home for these mammoths. As we watch in fascination, they continue to play a leisurely pachyderm game of catch between the trees, in the process scaring away the painted storks from the nearby pond.
Sumanth then gets a call on his mobile phone and we suddenly move ahead at great speed, leaving a cloud of red dust in our wake. A few hundred meters ahead, there is a long line of jeeps. A couple of local guides are standing by the side of the mud track pointing into the thickets, tourists from the jeeps craning their necks and torsos. Our pulse quickens. This can mean only one thing.
Each jeep gets a few seconds to look and take photos before moving on and letting the next one take its place, the entire process smoothly and efficiently managed by the locals. Just before it is our turn—when we are, say, two jeeps shy of the spot—one of the guides walks up to brief us on where to look and what to see. Turns out, it is of no help at all. All my husband and I can see are the brown trees and the even browner rocks. The entire territory is dry and sepia-toned, and if there is indeed a leopard sleeping behind that large boulder amid those tall trees, it would take a mini miracle to spot it.

The rest of the safari goes by in a blur of bird sightings—dozens of blue-tailed bee-eaters, photogenic Asian paradise flycatchers, glorious yellow orioles, migratory grey herons and purple herons, and a couple of those quintessential sunbathers, oriental darters. As the sun begins to go down and the bright light of the day begins to fade, the chatter of birds breaks the silence in the forest. Not surprising, given that Yala National Park has over 215 species of birds, seven of which are endemic to Sri Lanka.
As it happens, Sumanth is not particularly tuned into the alluring sound of birdsong in the air, or into the promising lead of leopard pugmarks down on the soil. His sole tracking device is his mobile phone, with which he communicates with his loyal companions on other jeeps.
Given my fascination with leopards’ dozens of trips into Indian forests have offered up exhilarating tiger sightings—I am determined to go all out in search of these shy and elusive creatures. But on this safari and the one the next morning, for which we leave the hotel at 5 am, there is no purposeful attempt to stalk them. We just drive up and down the same set of muddy roads, exchanging disappointed looks with other tourists in the same jeeps over and over again, till it is time to leave the forest. I learn later that Sumanth himself is an embodiment of the mess around the Yala safari scene, with hundreds of untrained locals just given a jeep and sent out into the forests by rich owners.

For such a small country, Sri Lanka has no less than 26 designated national parks. Yala is the second largest and most popular, for two reasons: proximity to the buzzing beach zone of the south and the known density of wildlife, especially leopards. Although there are no definite census records, estimates of leopard numbers in just Block 1 range from 45 to 60. However, as my experience shows, there is an urgent need to regularize safari activity and establish training procedures for guides and drivers.
Having said that, Yala is one of the most spectacular national parks I have ever been to. Spread over 1,200 sq km, it is an attractive mix of landscapes: a combination of lush thickets, dry grasslands, freshwater ponds and brackish lagoons. Many of the inner roads are lined with bare and desolate trees, giving the entire landscape an eerie touch in the soft glow of the fading evening light.
Most fascinating for me is the fact that this is a coastal forest, the Indian Ocean bordering it on one side. There is a local legend that the animals here are so tuned into nature that during the tsunami, they all went into a safe hiding place well before it hit. And when the massive flooding stopped and the waters finally receded, there was hardly any damage to wildlife detected.

Back at the Jet Wing Hotel in Yala, I am trying to drown my disappointment in a bowl of Sri Lankan dal curry and spicy coconut sambol to go with the fluffy idiyappam (string hoppers). That is when I chance upon the hotel naturalist Chamara Amarasinghe, and wrangle a trip with him into the forest. This afternoon drive would be my last safari at Yala on this trip, and even if leopards fail to make an appearance, I want to see more of this forest than the five main roads we have been crisscrossing earlier.
Chamara comes bearing two pairs of binoculars, several chilled water bottles and a shining ray of hope. All along the way, he carries on a conversation, but keeps his eyes and ears open, often identifying the names of birds from their calls and pointing out fresh pugmarks on the mud tracks. And we know that finally we are in the presence of someone who really knows and understands the forest.
We have turned off the main road as soon as we are inside the forest gates, and I am seeing new areas and landscapes, and not a single tourist vehicle. With Chamara at our side, we also discover the other fauna that had perhaps been right under our noses all along—the wild buffalos with their curved horns (formidable but lacking the majesty of the Indian gaur); a family of elephants, the mother shielding the baby from our intrusive cameras; frisky herds of spotted deer; the ruddy and Indian brown mongoose; and a black-naped hare who poses prettily for a few startled seconds.

These sightings are joyous, but Chamara can see the “where is the leopard” question in our eyes, even though we know he is trying his best. As we turn a sharp corner, driving slowly to make sure we miss nothing, a blurry figure jumps across the road ahead and merges into the shrubbery. “Leopard!” we gasp in unison. A cub. Immediately, another one bounds along the same route, following the little one into its hiding place. The mother. We pull up at the side of the road and stare into the area where the two leopards had headed just a moment ago. There is no further movement; either this is one extremely quiet family or they have long vanished into the dense scrubs. Either way, we are ecstatic.
“See, I told you to keep the faith,” says Chamara with a touch of smugness. Yes, often that is all it takes inside a forest. Faith. And perseverance.

By Charukesi Ramadurai

Friday, October 6, 2017

Wildlife sighting report- Jetwing St. Andrews in Nuwara Eliya

Report by Jetwing St. Andrew's Naturalist Ishanda Senevirathna 

On 5-Sep-17 between 6.30 am to 8.00 am at Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Sri lanka Yellow eared Bulbul- Endemic
  2. Sri lanka Dusky blue flycatcher- Endemic
  3. Sri lanka White Eye-Endemic
  4. Sri lanka bush warbler- Endemic
  5. Grey Headed canary Flycatcher-Resident
  6. Common Mynah- Resident
  7. Pale-billed Flowerpecker- Resident
  8. Oriental Magpie Robin- Resident
  9. Spotted Dove-Resident
  10. Purple Rumped Sunbird-Resident
  11. Velvet fronted Blue Nuthhatch-Resident
  12. White breasted Water hen-Resident
  13. Indian Pond Heron-Resident
  14. Cattle Egret-Resident
  15. Rose-ringed Parakeet-Resident
  16. House sparrow-Resident
  17. Jungle crow -Resident
  18. Shikra-Resident
  19. Bar- winged Flycatcher shrike-Resident
  20. Red vented Bulbul-Resident
  21. Ashy Prinia-Resident
  22. Dark fronted Babbler-Resident
  23. Tailor Bird-Resident
  24. Great Tit-Resident




On 7-Sep-17 between 7 pm to 8.00 pm at Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Montane hour-glass tree frog (Taruga eques)-Endemic
  2. Common house toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)-Resident
  3. Montane frog (Fejervarya greenii) -Endemic
  4. Horton plains shrub frog (Pseudophilautus alto)- Endemic
  5. Small eared shrub frog (Pseudophilautus microtympanum) –Endemic




On 13-Sep-17 between 7 pm to 8.00 pm at Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Montane hour-glass tree frog (Taruga eques)-Endemic
  2. Common house toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)-Resident
  3. Montane frog (Fejervarya greenii) -Endemic
  4. Horton plains shrub frog (Pseudophilautus alto)- Endemic
  5. Small eared shrub frog (Pseudophilautus microtympanum) –Endemic

On 14-Sep-17 between 7 pm to 8.00 pm at Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Montane hour-glass tree frog (Taruga eques)-Endemic
  2. Common house toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus)-Resident
  3. Montane frog (Fejervarya greenii) -Endemic
  4. Horton plains shrub frog (Pseudophilautus alto)-      Endemic
  5. Small eared shrub frog (Pseudophilautus microtympanum) –Endemic
  6. Leaf nesting shrub frog (Pseudophilautus femoralis) –Endemic

On 15-Sep-17 between 6.30 am - 8.00 amat Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Sri lanka Yellow eared Bulbul-Endemic
  2. Sri lanka Dusky blue flycatcher-Endemic
  3. Sri lanka scimitar babbler-Endemic
  4. Sri lanka White Eye-Endemic
  5. Bar- winged Flycatcher shrike-Resident
  6. Red vented Bulbul-Resident
  7. Ashy Prinia-Resident
  8. Dark fronted Babbler-Resident
  9. Tailor Bird-Resident
  10. Great Tit-Resident
  11. Grey Headed canary Flycatcher-Resident
  12. Common Mynah-Resident
  13. Pale-billed Flowerpecker-Resident
  14. Oriental Magpie Robin-Resident
  15. Spotted Dove-Resident
  16. Purple Rumped Sunbird-Resident
  17. Velvet fronted Blue Nuthhatch-Resident
  18. White breasted Water hen-Resident
  19. Indian Pond Heron-Resident
  20. Cattle Egret-Resident
  21. Rose-ringed Parakeet-Resident
  22. House sparrow-Resident
  23. Jungle crow -Resident
  24. Common emerald dove        -Resident
  25. Oriental white-eye-Resident
  26. Shikra-Resident

On 15-Sep-17 between 7 pm - 8.00 pm at Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Montane hour-glass tree frog (Taruga eques)-Endemic
  2. Common house toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) -Resident
  3. Montane frog (Fejervarya greenii) -Endemic
  4. Horton plains shrub frog (Pseudophilautus alto) -Endemic
  5. Small eared shrub frog (Pseudophilautus microtympanum) -Endemic

On 16-Sep-17 between 7 pm - 8.00 pm at Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Montane hour-glass tree frog (Taruga eques)-Endemic
  2. Common house toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) -Resident
  3. Montane frog (Fejervarya greenii) -Endemic
  4. Horton plains shrub frog (Pseudophilautus alto) -Endemic
  5. Small eared shrub frog (Pseudophilautus microtympanum) –Endemic

On 17-Sep-17 between 7 pm - 8.00 pm at Jetwing St. Andrew's wetland and bottom of the Mount Piduruthalagala  (Cloud Forest )
  1. Montane hour-glass tree frog (Taruga eques)-Endemic
  2. Common house toad (Duttaphrynus melanostictus) -Resident
  3. Montane frog (Fejervarya greenii) -Endemic
  4. Horton plains shrub frog (Pseudophilautus alto) -Endemic
  5. Small eared shrub frog (Pseudophilautus microtympanum) –Endemic
  6. Schmarda’s shrub frog (Pseudophilotes schmarda)-Endemic
  7. Leaf nesting shrub frog (Pseudophilautus femoralis) –Endemic

On 19-Sep-17 between 6.30 am - 8.00 at Bomburu Ella
  1. Sri lanka Yellow eared Bulbul-Endemic
  2. Grey Wagtail-Migrant
  3. Bar- winged Flycatcher shrike-Resident
  4. Red vented Bulbul-Resident
  5. Ashy Prinia-Resident
  6. Dark fronted Babbler-Resident
  7. Tailor Bird-Resident
  8. Great Tit-Resident
  9. Grey Headed canary Flycatcher-Resident
  10. Common Mynah-Resident
  11. Pale-billed Flowerpecker-Resident
  12. Oriental Magpie Robin-Resident
  13. Spotted Dove-Resident
  14. Purple Rumped Sunbird        -Resident
  15. Velvet fronted Blue Nuthhatch-Resident
  16. White breasted Water hen-Resident
  17. Indian Pond Heron-Resident
  18. Cattle Egret-Resident
  19. Rose-ringed Parakeet-Resident
  20. House sparrow-Resident
  21. Jungle crow -Resident
  22. Common emerald dove        -Resident
  23. Oriental white-eye-Resident
  24. Shikra-Resident
  25. Brown-capped babbler -Resident


Monday, October 2, 2017

The Greater Yala Complex

An Informative Article written by a young Sri Lankan wildlife enthusiast, John Wilson (30.09.2017)

To an average local or foreigner, “Yala National Park” is the place to go to see the “highest density of leopards on the planet”. However, any such safari will almost always take place in Block I of Yala National Park. Consequently, Block I has become an overly travelled, overcrowded, polluted block, with little to no control regarding vehicle numbers, vehicle types, visitor numbers, as well as regular occurrences of civil disobedience/flaunting of established rules. Yet the reality is that there is so much more to the Greater Yala Complex (a term I coined recently), than Block I or “Yala National Park”. This will be detailed below in two separate sections. My reason for writing this article, is to try (in some small way), to relieve some of the human induced pressure placed upon Block I, especially with the recent opening and discovery of Blocks III, IV and V by both locals and tourists alike. Also, I feel that it’s about time that a more comprehensive, informative article was produced on the Greater Yala Complex, in order to properly educate both locals and foreigners alike. It is interesting to note, that the total hectarage of the three national park sectors of the Greater Yala Complex, is 139,520.07 (or 538.69 square miles/1395.20 square kilometres), a figure which increases with the inclusion of the complex’s sanctuaries. 

As far as wildlife is concerned, the Greater Yala Complex is home to over 50 species of mammal, over 40 species of reptile and close to 300 species of avifauna (Yala National Park has been identified as one of Sri Lanka’s Important Bird Areas or “IBAs”). Over 30 species of amphibians inhabit the complex, while different varieties of dry – zone vegetation (an estimated 500 species) cover the entirety of the complex.





Credits for this map goes to Damitha Pandithage (his own work)

National Parks

1.     Yala National Park

·   Block I – also known as “Ruhuna”, accessed through either the Palatupana or Katagamuwa Entrances, and famous for its “high density of Sri Lankan Leopards”. Also the home of several of the Greater Yala Complex’s Famous Named Tuskers (including Gemunu, Anuradha, Nalaka and Short Tusker). Dominated primarily by semi – arid scrubland/xeric shrub land and large rocky formations (also known as outcrops). Many of the herbivores and carnivores however have fled to the neighbouring blocks, due to the overcrowding of vehicles and unregulated visitor numbers (500 vehicles or so on peak days). To put this into perspective, visitor numbers to Block I (between 2008 and 2015), have skyrocketed by over 1000% (from 48,368 – 545,007 per year). Additionally, rampant corruption within the Palatupana and Katagamuwa Offices has seen the entry of Sri Lanka Transport Board or “SLTB” vehicles into Block I (in direct violation of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance – 2009). Several instances of road kill (within Block I) have been attributed to safari jeep drivers, who (upon learning about possible Sri Lankan Leopard/Sloth Bear sightings), travel across the block unchecked, and in violation of designated speed limits. Other factors, such as political interference have caused several resignations, including that of Dr Sumith Pilapitiya (former Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation). Block I is 14,101 hectares (or 54.44 square miles) in size, and was officially declared as “Yala National Park” in February 1938, (later as “Block I”).


   Credits for the above images go to © John Wilson (myself)
 


    Credits for the above images go to http://luxshmannadaraja.blogspot.co.uk/

·    Block II – commonly mistaken for the Strict Nature Reserve, and only accessible with special permission from the Department of Wildlife Conservation or “DWC” (permits are obtainable only through the DWC Head Office, with the requirement that two licensed/registered 4X4 vehicles are taken into the block, one of which has to have a working winch), due to the condition of the mud/dirt tracks in the Block II. Dominated by open plains (many of which are covered in tall grass), and tall dry – zone riverine forests. Famous for its enormous herds (200 – 300 individuals per herd), of Sri Lankan Axis or “Spotted” Deer, and its large herds of Sri Lankan Wild Water Buffalo (50 – 60 individuals per herd). Accessed through Block I by crossing the Menik Ganga (River) either at the Kosgasmande Bridge or at the Paranaganthota Camp Site Crossing Point (also a designated stopping location in Block I). Block II is 9,931 hectares (or 38.34 square miles) in size (shared with the SNR), and was officially declared as part of the park in 1954.

Block II is often described as “one of the last true, great wilderness blocks in Sri Lanka”, due to 
its remoteness and inaccessibility to the general public. It’s northern boundary borders Yala’s 
Strict Nature Reserve or “SNR” (described further below), while its coastal southern boundary 
borders the Indian Ocean. Several reconnaissance and research flights conducted over Block II’s 
coastline have revealed evidence of numerous Sri Lankan Elephant Herds, many of which
regularly enter the Indian Ocean to bathe and relax in the early evening, returning to Block II’s 
impenetrable forests at twilight (in order to feed and sleep).   




    Credits for the above images go to http://luxshmannadaraja.blogspot.co.uk/

·     Block III – opened recently and dominated by tall, impenetrable dry – zone dry evergreen forests, making sightings difficult. Accessed through the Galge Entrance. Block III (the largest of the park’s five blocks) is 40,775 hectares (or 157.43 square miles) in size and was formally declared as part of the park in 1967.




    Credits for the above images go to © John Wilson (myself)

·    Block IV – opened recently, though still not completely accessible to the general public, due to lack of mud/dirt tracks (many of which are currently being cut) and dominated by tall, impenetrable dry – zone dry evergreen forests (making wildlife sightings difficult). Accessed through the Galge and Buttala Entrances (the latter of which is still under construction). Block IV is immense, at 26,418 hectares (or 102 square miles) in size, and it was officially declared as part of the park in 1969.
  
  
·    Block V – only recently opened, the block that borders Lunugamvehera National Park, and the location of the recently made – famous Weheragala Dam and Reservoir (constructed by Sri Lanka’s Department of Irrigation or “DOI”), due to the ease of Sri Lankan Leopard sightings in the Weheragala Sector of Block V. It is also the home of a notoriously bad tempered “One – Tusk” Tusker, which regularly travels between Block V and Block I (Sithulpawwa). Dominated by both dry – zone dry evergreen forests and natural/man – made reservoirs. Block V has become “the block” to go safari to (during the annual closures of Blocks I and II), and sees between 80 – 100 vehicles (on peak days). Accessed through the Galge Entrance. Block V (the smallest of Yala’s five blocks) is only 6,656 hectares (or 25.70 square miles) in size, and was officially declared as part of the park in 1973.





    Credits for the above images go to © John Wilson (myself)

·  The Strict Nature Reserve (SNR) – strictly off limits to the general public, and accessible only to authorised research personnel/wildlife photographers, who must obtain permission from the Director General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, or “DWC”, and must be supervised by DWC personnel at all times. Rumoured to be the last stronghold of the Sri Lankan Wild Water Buffalo, protecting the remaining wild strain from Domesticated/Feral Water Buffalo. The SNR is 9,931 hectares (or 38.34 square miles) in size (shared with Block II), and was officially declared as part of the park in 1954. No images area available currently of the SNR (due to its extreme remoteness and restricted access levels).

No images available currently of the SNR  


Formerly known as Yala East National Park or Block VI, it was designated (alongside the Panama – Kudimbigala Sanctuary) as a Ramsar Listed Wetland of International Importance in February 2011It consists of two blocks (Block I, declared in 1970 and Block II, declared in 1969). Dominated by natural freshwater and/or saline lagoons, pristine marshland and surrounded by dry – zone dry evergreen forests, combined with rocky formations (also known as outcrops). Accessed through the Kumana Entrance. Kumana National Park is 18,149 hectares (or 70.06 square miles) in size, and was officially declared as a national park in 1969, while its name was changed from Yala East to Kumana in 2006. It also one of island’s five ultra long distance national parks.



    Credits for the above images go to http://luxshmannadaraja.blogspot.co.uk/

3.  LunugamveheraNational Park:famous for its large herds of Sri Lankan Elephants (including several herds which have recently fled from Udawalawe National Park, due to the continually deteriorating conditions in that park), and accessed through either the Galge or Kithulkote Entrances. As far as forestry is concerned, Deccan thorn scrub forests and semi – arid scrubland/xeric shrub land cover the park. Lunugamvehera National Park is 23,498 hectares (or 90.72 square miles) in size, and was officially declared as a national park in 1995. The park is dominated by the Lunugamvehera Reservoir, which is 3,283 hectares (or 12.67 square miles) in size and is filled to capacity during the north – eastern monsoons.



   Credits for the above images go to http://luxshmannadaraja.blogspot.co.uk/

Sanctuaries

1.     Weerawila – Tissamaharama Sanctuary (located in the vicinity of Tissamaharama Town).

2.     Nimalaw Sanctuary (located in the vicinity of Kirinda Village).

3.     Panama – Kudimbigala Sanctuary (designated alongside Kumana National Park as a Ramsar Listed Wetland of International Importance in February 2011).

4.     Kataragama Sanctuary (located right in the heart of Kataragama Town).

Friday, September 15, 2017

Farewell Thilak




Thilak” was probably the oldest and largest tusker in The Yala National Park and spent most of his time near the entrance of the park, where he was seen feeding and roaming around. He was a large animal and had pretty impressive tusks for an Asian Elephant. 

Thilak was a widely loved iconic tusker whose familiar face enticed anybody who visited Yala over the past years. This famous tusker was attacked and killed by yet another tusker in the proximity of Attulla lagoon on the 14th of June 2017.

Today we bid goodbye to our dear friend Thilak with a heavy heart. We are grateful to him for the countless times that he drew a smile on our faces and for the beautiful moments he let us capture in our clicks. Thilak has impressed and amused many wildlife enthusiasts. He truly made the Yala experience a memorable one to almost everyone. Yala will never be the same without you.

Adieu big fella! May you rest in peace.

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Use of polythene, rigifoam, shopping bags banned in Sri Lanka


Central Environment Authority (CEA) has banned the use of polythene lunch sheets, rigifoam boxes and shopping bags, with effect from 1st of September.
In a bid to make Sri Lanka polythene-free and find a sustainable solution to solid waste management, President Maithripala Sirisena has announced a number of measures including the ban on the import, manufacture and sale of lunch sheets and a ban on the use of polythene for decorations.
Cabinet approval was granted on Tuesday for a series of measures proposed by the President in his capacity as the Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment to gradually end the use of polythene and thus minimize its environmental impact.
While banning polythene use for decorations the manufacture, sale and use of polythene of 20 microns or less for essential activities on the approval of the Central Environmental Authority (CEA).
The short term measures also include the ban on the manufacture, import or sale of containers, plates, cups, spoons made of polystyrene, the ban on the sale of processed or cooked meals packed in polythene containers and the promotion of paper, cloth or reed bags or biologically degradable plastics for customers when purchasing items in stores, prohibition of burning polythene and plastic in open places introduction and promotion of biologically degradable polythene and plastics.
Tax concessions would be provided to import machinery for the manufacture of biologically degradable plastic and a cess tax of 15% on the import of plastic raw material and goods.
In the long term the use of recycled plastic products would be banned.
Cabinet Spokesman and Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne told the reporters at the weekly cabinet news briefing yesterday that the short term measures will be effective from Tuesday after the proposals were approved by the Cabinet.
The long and medium term measures need legislative approval for their implementation and therefore it takes time.
Responding to a journalist, he said people would go back to good old habits of using perishable lunch wrappers and food containers when the ban of polythene was in place.
Article Written by Sandun Jayasekara
Source: Daily Mirror (12-07-2017)