In a study of Asian countries, he stated that Sri Lanka ranks first in a category termed observability. This implies that seeing wildlife in Sri Lanka is incredibly simple, and we can start seeing animals within a few minutes of entering a Sri Lankan park. Sri Lanka also ranks first in wildlife tourism potential, according to Pilapitiya, which suggests that the assets we require are ample, as well as several unique resources that we can brand and promote.
Table of Contents
- Sri Lanka’s overall wildlife tourist potential
- Trips to Yala National Park in Sri Lanka
- Yala National Park trips from Colombo
- Yala, leopard country
- What is the current state of Yala National Park?
- The effects of stress on animals
- What are the challenges that require immediate attention?
- Can this tendency be reversed?
Yala National Park has captivated both locals and tourists and has been visited numerous times. But the question is, will there be a Yala park in a few years?
Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, an environmental scientist and former Director-General of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, recently addressed the WNPS monthly lecture about the impending destruction of Yala, which Sri Lankans should address as soon as feasible.
Sri Lanka’s overall wildlife tourist potential
“Wildlife tourism could be the most important driver of tourism growth in Sri Lanka,” Pilapitiya added. He cited several countries, including South Africa, where tourism has a direct economic impact of ten billion dollars each year. He said that desiring to encourage wildlife tourism and being able to do it are two entirely different things. In a study of Asian countries, he stated that Sri Lanka ranks first in a category termed observability.
This implies that seeing wildlife in Sri Lanka is incredibly simple, and we can start seeing animals within a few minutes of entering a Sri Lankan park. Sri Lanka also ranks first in wildlife tourism potential, according to Pilapitiya, which suggests that the assets we require are ample, as well as several unique resources that we can brand and promote.
Trips to Yala National Park in Sri Lanka
Yala is a national park frequented by a significant number of local and international travellers, as well as those from the surrounding area. The majority of tour itineraries available in Sri Lanka include a Yala National Park safari. Sri Lankan south coast tours, Sri Lankan adventure tours, and Sri Lankan nature vacations may include a Yala safari. It is widely regarded as one of the finest tourist destinations in Sri Lanka’s southern region. Dr. Sumith Pilapitiya, an environmental scientist and former director-general of the Department of Wildlife Conservation, recently spoke at the WNPS monthly lecture about the imminent destruction of Yala National Park and the urgent need for Sri Lankans to take immediate action to avert it.
Yala National Park trips from Colombo
Yala National Park is accessible via Sri Lanka tour packages from Colombo and the majority of Sri Lankan beach resorts on the west and south coasts. Seerendipity Tours and other tour operators offer day trips to Yala National Park from Colombo. If you have ample time for sightseeing excursions in Sri Lanka, you can choose between a 2-day or 3-day tour of Sri Lanka. These programmes enable you to visit Yala National Park as well as numerous other fascinating places in Sri Lanka.
Yala, leopard country
According to him, the best sites in the world to watch leopards are Yala and Wilpattu. He also stated that Yala National Park is home to over 40 mammal species and 215 bird species, including six endemic species. He also referenced award-winning photographer Angie Scott, who stated, “If God created a patch of land for leopards on Earth, it must be Yala.” Similarly, Pilapitiya stated that Yala National Park is the world’s only national park with an albino elephant in the wild.
What is the current state of Yala National Park?
According to Pilapitiya, tourist numbers surged by approximately 1,000% between 2008 and 2017, and the Department of Wildlife Conservation or any other agency would be unprepared to handle this increase.
He added that the administration had no choice but to authorise Safari jeeps to transport guests inside the park without a tracker. “Before 2008, every Safari jeep had a tracker to accompany them,” Pilapitiya explained. However, due to overcrowding and a lack of qualified trackers, this has altered.
Pilapitiya mentioned some of the effects of over-visitation at Yala National Park, such as road kills.
He described a horrific incident in which leopards were killed due to traffic within the National Park. “Never take photographs at the expense of animals,” Pilapitiya said.
Other effects of this issue include pestering wildlife upon sightings, feeding wildlife, and modifying their behaviour. In addition, lack of park protection and management, a fall in wildlife population, and major habitat challenges are all common at Yala.
The effects of stress on animals
Pilapitiya showed how elephants feed less when they are surrounded by automobiles because they are in protective mode and are constantly stressed out in a study conducted at Uda Walawe. He also referenced a study that implies human presence can modify leopard movement patterns and behaviours, thus harming their health, reproduction, and survival. “I’m not saying we should stop visiting; all I’m saying is that we give the animals some space,” he explained.
Pilapitiya questioned if a natural environment could withstand such assault and still achieve its goals.
What are the challenges that require immediate attention?
Pilapitiya identified three main issues that must be addressed in order to avert this impending calamity. Aside from disciplinary issues with safari drivers and passengers, high speed and reckless driving, vehicular congestion, over-marketing Yala as a leopard-sighting destination, a lack of adequate staff and facilities such as patrol vehicles, and poor nature interpretation services provided by the Department of Wildlife Conservation are all critical issues that must be addressed. Pilapitiya also stated that one of the most critical concerns that must be addressed is the continuing political meddling that results in the DWC’s lack of independence in regulating tourism within Yala.
Can this tendency be reversed?
Pilapitiya noted that limiting the number of vehicles allowed into Yala is easier said than done because the park has over 700 jeep drivers. If we put a restriction on it, we will suddenly face a lot of political pressure from the jeep drivers’ and hotel industry’s livelihoods.
Pilapitiya, a former wildlife manager, indicated that he realised a lot of problems emerge with putting these boundaries in place. Instead of immediately imposing restrictions on the vehicles, he emphasised the significance of disciplining the jeep drivers, both private and safari, as well as the passengers in the vehicle.
He also stated that it is critical to immediately set limits on all of the country’s non-overcrowded parks before they become like Yala.
Pilapitiya also stated that we should prioritise quality above quantity. He added that most tourists complain about not learning anything during their park visits and that they demand appropriate natural explanation.
This can be accomplished by developing a strategy for transforming Yala into a high-quality wildlife tourist destination, which includes enhancing both driver and visitor discipline.
Pilapitiya quoted Aldo Leopold, saying that while we can’t affect human occupancy right now, we might be able to save Yala by developing a deeper understanding of the degree of that influence and a new ethic for its governance.
“The majority of tourists come to learn something, but we don’t give them that; we just show them the animals,” Pilapitiya explained. He stated that in order to preserve our natural resources, we should strive to make Sri Lanka a land in peace with nature.