The world’s first recorded wildlife and natural preserve was established in Sri Lanka around 247 BC by King Devanampiyatissa. He forbade the capture, the killing or trafficking of any animal, fish or bird within the city limits.
There are 15 national parks in Sri Lanka maintained by the Sri Lankan Wildlife conservation department, totaling approximately 8% of the Sri Lankan land mass. Yala is the largest and the best known of the National Parks. It is located in the deep south of the island. Wilpattu is the other known park, located in the northern part of the country. If you are visiting these parks, One must obtain a permission and a guide provided by the park.
The parks are :
- Yala National Park : The park is famous for its elephant population, seen in small and large herds. Spotted deer, Sambhur, Barking deer, Monkey, Wild Buffalo, Wild bear, Sloth bear, endemic and migratory birds especially Peacocks.
- Yala East National Park: Also known as Kumana National Park. Kumana is one of the most important bird nesting and breeding grounds in Sri Lanka. 255 species of birds have been recorded in the national park.
- Gal Oya National Park: Elephant, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Muntjac, Water Buffalo, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Leopard, Toque Monkey and Wild Boar can be seen. More than 150 species of birds have been recorded in the area.
- Wilpattu National Park: The park is the domain of the exclusive leopard. Bear and herds of deer and sambhur are common.
- Wasgomuwa National Park: visitors can observe herds of elephants, leopards, fishing cats, sambar deer, the endangered rusty spotted cat, sloth bear and birds.
- Flood planes National park: It has been estimated that around 75 species winter in the swamps of the flood plains. Frequently seen residents are Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Asiatic Golden Plover, garganey, osprey, and Black-tailed Godwit. Common residents are eastern large egret, Cattle Egret, Painted Stork, Pond Heron, eastern grey heron, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Purple Coot, Indian darter, Little Cormorant, Indian Shag, Indian Cormorant P, Brahminy Kite, Painted snipe, Black-winged Stilt, and Red-wattled Lapwing.
- Bandala National Park: This park is a paradise for birds. Wetland birds, forest birds, scrub land birds and grassland birds can be seen here.
- Horton Planes National Park: The plains are beautiful and silent. It has excellent walks. The most famous and stunning feature is the World’s End, where the southern Horton Plains come suddenly to an end and drop almost straight down for 700 metres. It’s one of the most spectacular sights of Sri Lanka.
- Madura Oya National Park: Providing a sanctuary to wildlife, especially for elephants. Other animals such as spotted dear, water buffalo and sambar and many more can be seen in the park.
10. Kadulla National Park: Sambar Deer, Axis Deer, Chevrotain, Wild boar, Leopard, and Sloth Bear are other mammals found here. This is also one of the sites in which the Gray Slender Loris is reportedly found.
11. Udawalawe National Park: This Park is world famous for its large elephant populations. In this park visitors can observe elephants at any given time of the day. There are water buffalo, spotted & barking deer, wild boar, sambhur, jackal & ruddy, grey & striped necked mongoose are also found in this park.
12. Lahugala National Park: One of the smallest parks in Sri lanka. Endemic Toque Macaque, Tufted Gray Langur, Sloth Bear, Golden Jackal, Rusty-spotted Cat, Fishing Cat, Sri Lanka Leopard, Wild boar, Indian Muntjac, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Indian Pangolin and Indian Hare are the other mammals found in the park.
13. Somawathiya Chaitiya National Park: Mammals include jackal, fishing cat, rusty-spotted cat, leopard, wild boar samber, water buffalo, porcupine, and black- napped hare can be seen here.
14. Lunugamvehera National Park: The national park is an important habitat for water birds and elephants. Water buffalo, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Wild boar, Sri Lankan Spotted Chevrotain, Grizzled Giant Squirrel, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, and Asian Palm Civet are the some of the common mammals recorded in the park.
15. Minneriya National Park: Visitors can see elephants on the Habarana road, leopards, fishing cats, sambar deer, the endangered rusty spotted cat, sloth bear. Cormorants, grey herons, spot-billed pelicans, painted storks, Sri Lankan hanging parrot & crimson-fronted barbet.
The department of wild life conservation has established few guidelines regarding the park ethics:
* National parks are the home of animals and you must remember that you are a visitor.
* There are guides at each national park entrance. You must accompany one of those guide for each excursion. They will provide you with all the information you need.
* You must stay on tracks and remain in your vehicle during your excursions.
* Maintain a fair distances between vehicles at all times.
* You do not have the right away. When animals are crossing the road, let them go by stopping the vehicle. You would be able to observe the animal’s behavior thoroughly. You must keep a safe distance with wild Life.
* Avoid making noises or disturb the animals because most of the animals has a keep sense of Alien odor and sense.
* Avoid feeding animals during your trip.
* Avoid using any electronic devices. The forest has its own sounds. Listen to them.
* Avoid using flashed photography. You may disturb the animal life in the park.
* Avoid smoking. The forests are vulnerable to fires especially during the dry seasons.
* Do not dispose of litter inside the park or the proximity. Ask your guide for instructions.
* It is forbidden to collect, or destroy wild life in the park.
* Pets and firearms are not allowed in the park area.
Parks open from 6.30 am to 6.30 pm. The entry fee to the parks varies, available to purchase at the gate. Tourists always pay a higher fee than the locals.
If you desire to stay at bungalos, reservations should be made in advance by contacting the department of wildlife conservation.