Yala National Park
Yala National park ( Singhalese : යාල ජාතික වනෝද්යානය – Yala Jathika Vanoudyanaya ) is the second largest forest reserve( Largest game park in Sri Lanka – Wilpattu National Park), but first ranked most visited and famous game park in Sri Lanka. Yala National park is located in the southeast region of Sri Lanka. Bordering to Indian ocean, territory of Yala bears 980 square kilometers representing 1.5 % of the country’s land mass. Park consists with five main blocks. Two of them are opened to public at present named as Ruhuna national park ( block 1) and Kumana national park ( block 2). Yala was first designated as a wild life sanctuary in 1900 taking in to consideration of its rich bio diversity. Park is an ample with variety of bird species and embellishing major roles such as Elephants and Leopards.
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Flora of Yala is a collection of 3 national parks and 3 wild life sanctuaries. Biggest among them is known as Lunugamvehera national park. It is located towards inland of the vicinity making it dry-semi arid climatic region. Park represents variety of Eco systems from moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi deciduous forests, thorn forests, grass lands, marshes, fresh water & marine wetlands to sandy beaches.
Fauna of Yala is one of 70 IBA’s ( important bird areas) in Sri Lanka. Yala harbors 215 bird species including 7 endemic birds. There are 44 species of mammals counted within the borders. And mostimportantly, Yala park is the world’s most dense leopard habitat. Thousands of water fowls flock to lagoons of Yala during the northeast monsoon. Around 125 to 135 Leopards, 300 to 325 Elephants are estimated to roam in the five blocks of the park. However these two including Sri Lankan sloth bear and water buffalo are identified threatened mammals in the country.
Though Yala is covered with thick Jungles at present, the area had once been the center for past civilizations. Legendary King Ravana ( 2554 to 2517 BC; approx 4500 years ago ) is believed to have established his mighty Kingdom here in “Ravana Kotte” now submerged in sea right in front of Yala beaches. Traders around the world have believed bringing the Indo-Aryan civilization to the island. Although now covered with dirt and thick forest, Yala territory bares large number of ancient dis-repaired tanks providing evidences of a rich agricultural and hydraulic civilization.
Modern history Ruhuna Kingdom also located centering the Yala vicinity founded in 200 BC by King Mahanaga, the brother of King Devanampiyathissa, first Buddhist King of Sri lanka and pioneer member of establishing the Buddhism in the country. Kingdom of Ruhuna reigned ever since over 1,500 years and played a vital role in the country building Singhalese nation one of strongest in the South Asian region as well as building deeply rooted Buddhist culture. The region was flourished during the period of Ruhuna Kingdom with Agriculture and Mineral industries. Ports of Ruhuna Kingdom said to be Jammed with trading ships from all over the world such as India, Persia, Italia and Ethiopia. Within last 500 years Ruhuna Kingdom was left alone due to change of capital as country was finally united under one flag which caused the leadership to rule the country more centrally. The Flora and Fauna has grown ever since making present day Yala National park. Even today Yala possess 2 living historians; “Sithulpahuwa” which was once home for 12,000 enlightened Buddhist monks along with “Magul Vihara” which both were built in 87 BC.