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 the Indian ocean, the territory of Yala bears 980 square kilometers representing 1.5 % of the country’s landmass. Park consists of five main blocks. Two of them are opened to the public at present named Ruhuna national park ( block 1) and Kumana national park ( block 2). Yala was first designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900 taking into consideration its rich biodiversity. Park is ample with a 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 wildlife sanctuaries. The biggest among them is known as Lunugamvehera national park. It is located towards the inland of the vicinity making it a dry-semi arid climatic region. Park represents a variety of Ecosystems from moist monsoon forests, dry monsoon forests, semi-deciduous forests, thorn forests, grasslands, marshes, freshwater & 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 most importantly, Yala park is the world’s most dense leopard habitat. Thousands of waterfowls 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 as 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 the sea right in front of Yala beaches. Traders around the world have believed in bringing the Indo-Aryan civilization to the island. Although now covered with dirt and thick forest, Yala territory bares a large number of ancient dis-repaired tanks providing evidence of a rich agricultural and hydraulic civilization.
In modern history, the 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 Buddhism in the country. The Kingdom of Ruhuna reigned ever since over 1,500 years and played a vital role in the country building Singhalese nation one of the strongest in the South Asian region as well as building deeply rooted Buddhist culture. The region was flourished during the period of the 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 the last 500 years the Ruhuna Kingdom was left alone due to the change of capital as the country was finally united under one flag which caused the leadership to rule the country more centrally. The Flora and Fauna have grown ever since making present-day Yala National park. Even today Yala possesses 2 living historians; “Sithulpahuwa” which was once home to 12,000 enlightened Buddhist monks along with “Magul Vihara” which both were built in 87 BC.