Yala National Park authorities are to restrict the use of mobile phones at the peak hours of 6-9 am and 3-6 pm at Sri Lanka’s most frequented wildlife part in the south, as it is affecting animals and causing other problems, the Government said on Monday. As a prelude to such a move, the Department of Wildlife Conservation has through the Director General of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Sri Lanka requested service providers – Dialog Axiata, Mobitel, Hutchison and Etisalat to suspend their services at the park at these times during the following periods: 20 –26 July, 3–9 August, 17–23 August and 31 August–6 September. This it was stated was in order to carry out an assessment on the impact of mobile phone services in the park. “These operators have kindly agreed to comply with this request,” Monday’s announcement said. The department said many complaints had been made that when a leopard or other interesting sighting is made by one vehicle, the “news is rapidly transmitted by means of mobile phones, attracting large numbers of vehicles to the site, causing severe congestion and spoiling the experience for everyone. In the rush to reach the site quickly, many vehicles travel at excessive speed and fail to obey road rules. This is a danger both to the park’s animals and to its visitors, and prevents law-abiding visitors from enjoying their visit”, it said. During this period (20 July to 13 September), an assessment will be made on the impact of the mobile communications suspension on visitor behaviour. At the same time, a study will be made also of the movement of selected vehicles in the national park using GPS tracking. The results of these studies will be used for future policy-planning purposes, the department noted. The department said it recognises the importance of mobile phone services not only to visitors to the park but also to the hotels, businesses and residences around the park that may be affected by this programme. “Any inconvenience caused by this suspension is sincerely regretted. It is hoped that all stakeholders will recognize that with over 100,000 visitors per year, Yala is not only Sri Lanka’s busiest national park but also a unique conservation site for leopards and other threatened fauna and flora. Its sustainable management is therefore a matter of national importance,” it said.
Via Sunday Times