Sri Lanka's National Parks: Role In Wildlife Conservation

A herd of elephants at the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka.
A herd of elephants at the Yala National Park in Sri Lanka.

A Brief History Of Conservation In Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a history of nature conservation as it is believed that the country's first wildlife reserve was established during the rule of the Anuradhapura Kingdom (377 BC to 1017 AD) by King Devanampiya Tissa (?-267 BC) at some point in the 3rd century BC. Many of the current national parks were well-developed networks of protected places dating back to colonial times or earlier in Sri Lanka's history. The first Forest Ordinance of Sri Lanka was passed in 1885, and two years later, the Department of Forest Conservation was established. The department is responsible for monitoring the forestry activities in the country, with limited policing powers, as a non-ministerial government department.

Sri Lanka's national parks are governed by the 1937 Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance (No.2) and can also only be created, abolished or changed by ministerial order from the government. All national parks in the country are also owned by the state. The first two national parks in the country, Yala, and Wilpattu were both established on February 25th, 1938. In 1949 another non-ministerial government department, the Department of Wildlife Conservation, was established to maintain the national parks, nature reserves and wildlife in the country.

How Many National Parks Does Sri Lanka Have?

Sri Lanka currently has 26 national parks that cover a total of 5,734 square kilometers (2,214 square miles). By far the two largest national parks are the prior mentioned two oldest national parks. The Yala National Park is 979 square kilometers (278 square miles), and the Wilpattu National Park is 1,317 square kilometers (508 square miles) in size. The four newest national parks in the country were all established on June 22, 2015. These are the Adam's Bridge, Chundikkulam, Delft and Madhu Road, all of which are located in the Northern Province. The national parks of Sri Lanka are scattered throughout the country, with at least one being located in each province. These 26 national parks cover an array of different geography and habitats, from mountainous montane forest to Sri Lanka dry-zone dry evergreen forests, grasslands, wetland lagoons and more.

The Importance Of National Parks On Sri Lanka

Visitors to the national parks in Sri Lanka are prohibited from disturbing, hunting, killing or removing any wild animals and also from destroying their nests or eggs. They can also not damage or destroy in any way the flora and fauna inside the national parks. Visitors to the parks are also only allowed to enter with a permit and for the purpose of observing the environment, flora, and fauna. This is done to emphasize the importance of Sri Lanka's national parks to protect the habitats and the many endemic and even endangered species of plants and animals like the Sri Lankan elephant or the flowering plant Calophyllum walkeri.

The other major importance of Sri Lanka's national parks is economical, as eco-tourism has become a significant part of the tourism industry of the country in recent years. This is due to the fact that Sri Lanka is one of Earth's most biodiverse islands and visitors can actually stay in many of the national parks in eco-friendly lodges or hotels. Sri Lanka's eco-tourism sector offers tourists the opportunity to take part in many environment-focused activities like bird watching, whale watching or sea turtle watching. This helps them to learn more about the environments and endangered plants and animals of the country and also draw world attention towards wildlife conservation in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's National Parks: Role In Wildlife Conservation

RankNational parkLocationEstablishedArea (in km²)
2WilpattuNorth Central Province North Western Province25 February 19381,317
3Yala (Ruhuna)Southern Province Uva Province25 February 1938979
4Maduru OyaEastern Province Uva Province9 November 1983588
5SomawathiyaEastern Province North Central Province2 September 1986376
6WasgamuwaCentral Province North Central Province7 August 1984371
7UdawalaweSabaragamuwa Province Uva Province30 June 1972308
8Gal OyaEastern Province Uva Province12 February 1954259
9LunugamveheraSouthern Province Uva Province8 December 1995235
10ChundikkulamNorthern Province22 June 2015196
11Adam’s BridgeNorthern Province22 June 2015190
12Kumana (Yala East)Eastern Province20 January 1970181
13Flood PlainsNorth Central Province7 August 1984174
14Madhu RoadNorthern Province22 June 2015164
15MinneriyaNorth Central Province12 August 199789
16AngammedillaNorth Central Province6 June 200675
17KaudullaNorth Central Province1 April 200269
18BundalaSouthern Province4 January 199362
19Horton PlainsCentral Province16 March 198832
20Horrowpatana6 December 201126
21DelftNorthern Province22 June 201518
22Lahugala KitulanaEastern Province31 October 198016
23Pigeon IslandEastern Province24 June 20035
24UssangodaSouthern Province6 May 20103
25HikkaduwaSouthern Province8 October 20021
26Galway's LandCentral Province18 May 20060.25
27HoragollaWestern Province28 July 20040.13

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