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Yala National Park

Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. Actually it consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public; and also adjoining parks. The blocks have individual names also, like Ruhuna National Park for the (best known) block 1 and Kumana National Park or 'Yala East' for the adjoining area. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies inSouthern Province and Uva Province. The park covers 979 square kilometres (378 sq mi) and is located about 300 kilometres (190 mi) fromColombo. Yala was designated as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900, and, along with Wilpattu it was one of the first two national parks in Sri Lanka, having been designated in 1938. The park is best known for its variety of wild animals. It is important for the conservation of Sri Lankan Elephants and aquatic birds.
There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yala harbours 215 bird species including six endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
The area around Yala has hosted several ancient civilisations. Two important pilgrim sites, Sithulpahuwa and Magul Vihara, are situated within the park. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami caused severe damage on the Yala National Park and 250 people died in its vicinity. The number of visitors has been on the rise since 2009 after the security situation in the park improved.


Yala is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka.[11] Of 215 bird species of the park, six are endemic to Sri Lanka.[2] They are Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood-pigeon, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul, and Brown-capped Babbler. The number of waterbirds inhabiting wetlands of Yala is 90 and half of them are migrants.[3] Waterfowls (Lesser Whistling Duck, Garganey), Cormorants (Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant), large waterbirds (Grey Heron, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Openbill, Painted Stork), medium-sized waders Tringa spp., and small waders Charadrius spp. are among the common waterbirds. Black-necked Stork and Lesser Adjutant are the rare birds that can be seen in the park. The migrant Great White Pelican and resident Spot-billed Pelican are also have been recorded. Other waterbirds attracted to the Yala lagoons include Lesser Flamingo, and Pelicans, and rare species such as Purple Heron, Night herons, Egrets, Purple Swamphen, andOriental Darter. Thousands of waterfowls migrate to the lagoons of Yala during the northeast monsoon. They are Northern Pintail, White-winged Tern,Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Godwits, and Ruddy Turnstone. The visiting species mingled with residing Lesser Whistling Duck, Yellow-wattled Lapwing,Red-wattled Lapwing, and Great Stone-curlew. Rock Pigeon, Barred Buttonquail, Indian Peafowl, Black Stork, Black-winged Stilt, and Greater Flamingoare among the other bird species. Crested Serpent-eagle and White-bellied Sea Eagle are the raptors of the park. The forest birds are Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Hornbills, Old World flycatchers, Asian Paradise-flycatcher, Asian barbets, and Orioles.[10]
Including Sri Lankan Elephant, 44 species of mammals are resident in Yala National Park and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.[12] 25 individual leopards are estimated to roam in Block I. The elephant herd of Yala contains 300-350 individuals. Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, Sri Lankan Leopard, Sri Lankan Elephant, Wild water buffalo are threatened species that Yala is harbouring. Although water buffaloes are indigenous to Sri Lanka, most populations contain genes of the domestic stock or are descended from feral stock. Toque Macaque, Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, and Fishing Cat are among the other mammals that can be seen in Yala. The elephant population of the park varies seasonally.[10]
The reptile fauna recorded from the park is 46 and five of them are endemic. Sri Lankan Krait, Boulenger's Keelback, Sri Lankan Flying Snake, Painted-lip Lizard and Wiegmann's Agama are the endemic species.[2] The coastal line of the park is visited by the all five globally endangered sea turtles(Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Hawksbill turtle, and Green turtle) that visit Sri Lanka.[2][3] The two breeding crocodile species of Sri Lanka, Mugger crocodile and Saltwater Crocodile inhabit the park. The Indian Cobra and Russell's viper are among the other reptiles.[10] There are 18 amphibians species that have been recorded from Yala while Bufo atukoralei and Adenomus kelaartii are endemic to Sri Lanka. In the water courses of Yala, 21 fresh water fishes are found.[2] The fish population in the perennial reservoirs contain mostly exotic food fish Mozambique tilapia.[3] The Stone sucker and Esomus thermoicos are endemic among other species. The Blackspot barb, Olive Barb, Orange chromide and Common Spiny Loach are the common fish species. Crabs and prawns include the fauna in the lagoons of the park.[10] A variety of butterfly species is found here. The Common bluebottle, Common Lime Butterfly, Crimson Rose, Common Jezebel, and Common Mormon are the common species.[2]


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