Yala is undoubtedly one of the most exotic wildlife destinations in the world, and home to rare leopards (for which it is famous). One of the major issues with Yala in the recent past was the unprecedented visitor influx and huge congestion inside the Park. Our staff photographer Susantha Wijegunasekera who on a visit to the Park recently, observed that park rules and regulations are being implemented and there’s much focus on conservation plans, gives us an overview with pictures.
It was late evening when we reached the Yala Sanctuary. As we waited for the arrival of the officer-in-charge D.P. Siyasinghe, we observed that an E-counter and a number of other facilities for tourists had been provided for at the Sanctuary. OIC Siyasinghe detailed a well experienced guide to accompany us on our tour and we set out for the HeenWewa Circuit Bangalow, which is about 20 kilometer away.
When we approached the entrance of the bungalow, it was around lunch time.
The meal prepared by the caretaker was simple but delicious. We resumed our journey after about an hour’s respite.
Heen Wewa, Gonagala Wewa, Rajamalwala, Sathwila, Pemdaswila and Gallukadawewa are real gifts of nature. We drove through the Park in all eagerness, with our cameras poised to capture as many shots as possible. We were privy to witness a leopard savouring its victim – a wild buffalo calf. A safari jeep that passed by deprived the leopard of its meal when it gave up its victim and sought refuge in the thick jungle.
Most of the safari jeep drivers traversing the Park came in for serious criticism, especially by the foreign tourists. The drivers had scant regard for the welfare of neither the animals nor the environment. Political interference was also a handicap for the efficient functioning of the Sanctuary. There were instances when the reckless behaviour of the safari jeep drivers resulted in many animals suffering bodily injuries. The dust, noise and high speed of the jeeps disturbed the solitude of the jungle, and the animals through fear would take to their heels. When tourists enter the Sanctuary in their hundreds - 500 to 600, naturally it causes congestion.
The Yala Sanctuary management has taken many progressive decisions in the interest of the visitors. Boards depicting one-way drive and speed limit, has helped curtail vehicle emission and big noise which is injurious to animal life in a sanctuary. However, the lack of staff is a hindrance in carrying out the development measures taken by the management.
We learnt that plans are afoot to educate Tamil pilgrims of the North crossing the thick jungle (entering at Okanda Devala and exiting at Kuman) on their way to Kataragama Devala to participate in the annual procession, on the importance of protecting the environment. Especially, staff proficient in the Tamil language have been deployed to facilitate communication.
We came back to our circuit bungalow to spend the night. Even in our sleep, we were constantly disturbed by the scampering monkeys.