Wilpattu National Park
(Setting of Wilpattu National Park)
Location of 131,693ha Wilpattu National Park is especially striking: the main block of Wilpattu borders the north-western coast (coastal stretch: 35km) of Sri Lanka to the west resembling the fashion Ruhuna Yala National Park of Deep South borders the south-eastern coast (coastal stretch: 70km) to the south (Patalatupana to Kumana in Yala West & Kumana to Okanda in Yala East) and Bundala National Park (coastal stretch: 20km) to the south
Then the main zone of Wilpattu (Sinhala: land of lakes) National Park is pocketed between River Modaragam Aru (watershed extent: 1142 sq.km) in the north that flows into the sea north of Portugal Bay and River Kala Oya (watershed extent: 2847 sq.km) at the Dutch bay to the south. Across these bays, in the Indian Ocean are the coral reefs of the integrated Tourism Development Project of Kalpitiya peninsula, a nature, beach and marine life destination of serene beaches, off shore Dolphin and Whale watching, picturesque lagoons, popular for shallow sea fishing and prawn farming activities.
The smaller zone of Wilpattu National Park is to the north-east of the main zone, to the interior, with no coastal border. To the north of this block of the park flows River Kal Aru (watershed extent: 277 sq.km); to the west is River Malwathu Oya (watershed extent: 3183 sq.km), which having dissected the sacred city of Anuradhapura (UNESCO World Heritage Site), the northernmost point of Sri Lanka Cultural Triangle to the west, now flows towards the Arripu to conjoin with the Indian Ocean, winding past the valley of Tantirimale, a Sri Lanka Holidays cultural attraction.
Reaching Wilpattu National ParkThe entrance to Wilpattu National Park,185 north of Colombo, is at Hunuwilgama, 8km off the hamlet of Thimbiriwewa. Thimbiriwewa can be reached by travelling from Colombo to Puttalama on A3 main motor road (65km to the north) and then by Puttalama-Anuradhapura A12 main road to motor road. (45km to the north-east).
Distances to Wilpattu National ParkFrom Anuradhapura: 40km
From Puttalama: 51km
From Colombo: to Puttalama -132km; Puttalama to Wilpattu Junction: 43km; Wilpattu Junction to Wilpattu Entrance: 10km
The distinctive topographical features at Wilpattu National ParkWillpattu National Park's (altitude: sea level to 152m) main topographical feature is a wetland system called villus (Sinhala: shallow flat basins of pure rainwater). Though the villus looks like natural lakes, these are similar to fault depressions on the surface of the earth. While 24 of the villus are fresh water, Kokkariya is a sea water villu. The only brackish water villu is Dematavila. Villu areas range from small ponds to large natural reservoirs: 27 villus out of 40 villus at Wilpattu are extensive wetlands.
Equally striking, albeit confined to certain zones of the park, are copper red, loamy soils.
Minor Irrigation reservoirs over the eastern boundary of Wilpattu National ParkTen minor irrigation reservoirs over the eastern boundary were rehabilitated by Sri Lanka Army with the technical collaboration of Department of irrigation, Sri Lanka in the year 2010. Those reservoirs are Persibendi wewa, Palulandagaha wewa and Maha wewa, Maradanmadu wewa, Palukolawala wewa, Walaswala wewa, Manikkapola uttu wewa, Moragolla wewa, Thebipuwewa, Ikirigollewa wewa.
Willpattu National Park's similarities with Ruhuna Yala National ParkThe western zone of Wilpattu National Park resembles Ruhuna Yala national park: deeply forested areas and thorny bushes. Together with Sri Lanka Holidays Ruhuna Yala National Park, Wilpattu National Park are the best wildlife parks to sight the endangered species of Kotiya or Diviya (Sinhala: leopard) Panthera pardus, is a member of the Felidae family and the smallest of the four "big cats" in the genus Panthera, the other three being the tiger, lion, and jaguar. Most leopards are light colored with distinctive dark spots that are called rosettes. Wyagraya (Sinhala: tiger) isn’t found in Sri Lanka.
Climate of Wilpattu National ParkInter monsoon rains: March & April
Rainy season: September to December –northeast monsoon
Extensive drought: May to early September
Annual temperature: 27.2 centigrade
Total annual rainfall: 1000mm
Best time to visit Wilpattu National Park:February to October
Date and History of establishment of Wilpattu National ParkThe area was declared a wildlife sanctuary in the year 1905 and elevated into the status of National Park on 25th February 1938. The adjacent areas along the coast called Dutch Bay and Portugal Bay have been proposed as the marine extension of Wilpattu National Park so that the remainder of almost extinct sea-pig dugong (Dugong dugon), a large marine mammal too, among the Marline Life at Kalpitiya could be protected.
Landscape of Wilpattu National Park (WNP)QUOTE
December 2006 report titled ‘Resource Inventory of Wilpattu National Park by the World Conservation Union (IUCN)
The landscape of WNP primarily comprises dry zone high forest with lianas and thorny scrub interrupted by extensive open plains and sand dunes rimmed water holes known as Villus. The WNP counts most representatives natural habitats of the country in its confines with 13 major habitats under three major ecosystem classifications of forest & forest related ecosystems, wetland ecosystems and costal and marine ecosystems.
Flora of Willpattu National ParkWilpattu National Park, of which nearly 70% is of dense forest and scrub, with open habitat in the rest, is of three types of vegetation.
Closer to the beach, in the areas with water that is shallow enough to admit sufficient light to support rooted vegetation (littoral vegetation) is found salt grass and low scrub in abundance. Still more, a monsoon scrub of very low stature is found in 5-10km of coastal belt. In the inland is monsoon forest with tall tropical trees. Among those are tropical hardwood trees: palu (Manilkara hexandra); satin (Chloroxylon swietenia); weera (Drypetes sepiaria); ebony (Diospyros ebenum) and wewarana (Alseodaphne semecarprifolia).
World Conservation Union (IUCN), 2006
The survey recorded 623 flowering plant species belonging to 123 plant families. Among them, 27 plants were endemic and 21 plants were recorded as threatened. WNP is remarkable live gene bank for a number of economically and scientifically useful plants, e.g. medicinal plants; crop wild relatives; dry timer species.Various pristine habitats of the park provide valuable reference points for understanding and modeling the conservation of various species and habitats throughout Sri Lanka.
Fauna of Wilpattu National ParkQUOTE the report of ICUN compiled in the year 2006
A high diversity of fauna was found due to the high habitat diversity within the WNP. 284 faunal species belonging to 101 families were recorded during the survey period among which there were 21 endemic and 30 nationally threatened species.
Mammals in Wilpattu National ParkMammals in Wilpattu are most often found in the zones where the forest, scrub and grasslands converge to the west of the park. Mammals can also be viewed in the villus (Sinhala: shallow flat basins of pure rainwater). Among the 31 species of mammals in Wilpattu National Park are elephant (Elephas maximus), sloth bear (Melursus ursinus), leopard (Pathera pardus kotiya) and water buffalo (Bubalus bunalis) and spotted deer (Axis axis ceylonensis)
Birdlife at Wilpattu National ParkThe villus support an array of resident and migratory aquatic birds: large populations of painted stork (Mycteria leucoephala) and open billed stork (Anastomus oscitans) are seen. Among the other aquatic birds found in the villus of Wilpattu are garganey (Anas querquedula), pintail (Anas acuta), whistling teal (Dendrocygna javanica), spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), white ibis (Threskiornis melanocephalus), large white egret (Egretta alba modesta), cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis), Indian darter (Anhinga melanogaster) and purple heron (Ardea purpurea). Common in the vicinity of villus of Wilpattu are white-shafted little tern (Sterna albifrons), gull billed tern (Gelochelidon nilotica), whiskered tern (Chlidonias hybridus), great stone-curlew (Esacus recurvirostris), black winged stilt (Himantopus himantopus) and red wattled lapwing (Vanellus indicus).
Forest and scrub birds in Wilpattu National ParkAmong the forest and scrub birds are greater racquet-tailed drongo (Dicrurus paradisceus), Asian paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone paradise), crimson breasted barbet (Megalaima haemacephala), brown headed barbet (Megalaima zeylanica), Malabar pied hornbill (Anthracoceros coronatus), little green bee eater (Merops orientalis), Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), nightjar (Caprimulgus macrurus), and fish owl (Ketupa zeylonensis).
Southwest of the sacred bo-tree, on the shore of the Tissa Wewa tank, are several other interesting monuments.
Galliformes in Wilpattu National ParkGalliformes (an order of heavy-bodied ground-feeding birds) in Willpattu are peafowl (Pavo cristatus) and Sri Lanka jungle fowl (Wali Kukula in Sinhala) also known during the colonial era as the Ceylon Junglefowl (Gallus lafayetti). Sri Lanka jungle fowl is the national bird of Sri Lanka
Common raptors in Wilpattu National ParkAmong the common raptors (Birds of prey that hunt for food primarily via flight, using their keen senses, especially vision) are crested serpent eagle (Spilornis chela), white-bellied sea eagle (Haliaeetus leucogaster) and crested hawk eagle (Spizaetus cirrhatus).
Reptiles in Wilpattu National ParkAmong the most seen reptiles in the villus of Wilpattu Park are common monitor (Varanus bengalensis), common cobra Naja naja, rat snake Ptyas mucosus and Indian python Python molurus, Pond turtle Melanochelys trijuga and soft-shelled turtle Lissemys punctata.
Crocodiles in Wilpattu National ParkWilpattu National Park is home to both species of crocodiles found in Sri Lanka, as Ruhuna Yala National Park is: marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) and estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus). In Sri Lanka, the marsh crocodile is known to withstand concentrations of salt higher than even sea water for a long time. Indiscriminate destruction of the mangroves and marsh vegetation for human habitation and prawn farming have been threatening the Crocodile population in Sri Lanka.
Cultural Heritage of the zone today encompassed in Wilpattu National ParkAssociated with zone of Wilpattu National Park and its coastal belt is the recorded History and pre-history of Sri Lanka. Ruins of Buddhist temples remain overgrown by the bush jungles and engulfed in the dense forests of Sri Lanka Holidays Wilpattu National Park.
According to the historical chronicles of Sri Lanka including Mahavamsa, it was at Kudrimalai Point, in the north-western coastal belt of the park that prince Vijay from Bengal, Eastern India, the founder of the Aryan Sinhalese landed in 543 BC.
A total of 68 archeologically important sites were recorded, four of which Miocene fossil sites. Twelve sites belonging to the prehistoric periods (Paleolithic and Mesolithic) were also surveyed. Several sites represent evidence of both pre-historic and historic periods. Forty two (Black & Red ware pottery sites, Burials, settlements, and monasteries) were identified as a combination of proto-historic and historical sites.
A major finding was the Weeransole runs. This site, located bear the Palu-vilankaduwa tank has not been recorded by pervious researches and consists of three destroyed image houses and Buddha statues including two seated (Samadhi) and one standing statue. One of the destroyed Samadhi Buddha statues seated under the hood of a cobra, is of rare type. This is the fourth known Buddha statue belonging to this posture found in Sri Lanka.
Kudrimalai in Wilpattu National ParkKudrimalai (or in Old Sinhalese- Sindu Kanda: horse mountain) (Greek: Hippuri or Hippuros of Taprobane as Romon historian Pliny recorded), was the location where a freedman (a Roman slave legally made free by his master) of Annius Plocamus, during the reign of Emperor Claudius Caesar (Latin:Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus) (41- 54 AD), during a tax collecting expedition in the Roman colonies around the Red Sea, blown off by monsoon, landed in 47 AD. The Roman records reveal the freedman was received humanly and hospitably and entertained at the courts of King Kutakanna Abhaya aka Gamani Abhaya aka Bhatikaabhaya aka Puakana Gamini Abhaya (reign: 38-66 AD). The son-in-law of King Gamani Abhaya, Raki (Rachias as Pliny recorded) whose name appears in the inscriptions (1) 994 & 1000 (reads: the cave of Princess Abi Anuradhi, daughter of the great king Gamani Abhaya, the friend of the gods, and wife of the Chief Raki; the cave of the chief Raki, son of the chief... is dedicated to the Sanga), carved on drip ledges of two cave cells (of over hundred therein) at Seseruwa close to Sri Lanka Holidays Aukana Avukana), led an embassy from Sri Lanka to Roman Empire. Raki was received at the courts Emperor Claudius Caesar in Rome.
Pomparippu pre-historical burial site in Wilpattu National ParkPomparippu, a pre-historical (pre-Vijayan: prior to the arrival of Prince Vijaya in 543 BC) archeological site, a Stone Age graveyard unearthed sealed urns containing human remains: 14 burials containing the skeletal remains of about 23 persons. The site hasn’t been extensively explored. According to the Biodiversity Coordinator Vimukthi Weeratunga of IUCN, International Union for Conservation of Nature, Pomparripu was a burial site of thousands of humans of pre-Vijayan era of Sri Lanka.
Pallakandal Wilpattu National ParkPallakandal is home to old Catholic church, of which, the annual festival is attended by thousands of Catholic pilgrims of Sri Lanka.
Ruins of breached ancient irrigation reservoirs in Wilpattu National ParkIn the eastern zone of Sri Lanka Holidays Wilpattu National Park, are found unexplored sites of ruins of ancient irrigation reservoirs.
Galbendi Niyara in Wilpattu National ParkPrince Saliya, son of King Dutugamunu (161-137 BC), the Hero of the Nation is believed have lived with Asokamala, his low-cast wife, whose beauty rivaled that of Unmada Chitra (Sinhala: the maddening, intoxicating beauty), mother of King Pandukhabaya (437-367 BC) at Galbendi Niyara, north-east of Maradanmaduwa.
Reconstruction of circuit bungalows overlooking villu wetlands at Wilpattu National ParkSix lodge/circuit bungalows at Wilpattu National Park overlooking villu wetlands were reconstructed: Mena vila circuit bunglow, Panikkar villu circuit bunglow and Thala vila circuit bunglow overlooking villus by Sri Lanka Navy.
Kalli villu circuit bungalow, Manikapola Uttu circuit bungalow and Maradanmaduwa circuit bunglow too were reconstructed.
Reconstruction of circuit bungalows overlooking rivers at Wilpattu National ParkKokmottai circuit bunglow located on the banks of River Modaragam Aru too was reconstructed.
Wilpattu Road building ControversyA32 (Navakkuli-Kerativu-Mannar: 98km) main motorway is well north of Wilpattu, away from the National park and connects Mannar district of Northen Province Kokuvil of Jaffna district of the peninsula of Jaffna. A32 main motorway is no way connected, geographically or historically to Old Mannar dirt track through Wilpattu National Park made use by the Dutch in Ceylon. This road was used especially by bullock carts that transported products between Mannar to Puttalama for barter during the colonial era of Sri Lanka. The cart track was passable only during the dry seasons when the Kala Oya, Modaragam and Aruvi Ara were not in spate.
During the period of 1986-1987 the Sri Lanka Army Engineering Corp set up camp at Eluwankulam, the southern entry point to the Wilpattu sanctuary and commenced construction of a road across the park. The construction was abandoned subsequently. In 2008, Sri Lanka Navy replacing Sri Lanka Army and recommenced work and established several minor detachments within the park area in addition to the coastal villages of Mullikulam and Silavathurai (Silawatorre) (2) to the north of park. A naval surveillance radar was installed at Kudiramalai.
In 2009 and 2010, nearly 35km long, 15meter wide interior road was being built cutting across the National park from Illavankulam (Eluvankulam) (the southern boundary in Puttalama district at River Kala Oya) over three bridges to River Modaragam Aru (the northern boundary at Uppu Aru, at Pukulam in Mannar District).
The newly built interior road through Willpatu was connected to Puttalam- Illavankulam road and given the route No. B379 and name Puttalama-Marichchikadal (67km long) can now be viewed in Google map too.
Another road, even wider than interior road, winding its way from the south of the park, hugging the coastline, and then swinging inland at Kudramalai Point in the north was built exclusively for the use of Navy.
Opening the beach head and thereby gaining control the Wilpattu coastal belt ,that was once a beehive of the terrorists smuggling weapons including artillery into the island, was the intention of Sri Lanka Navy. The coastal strip of Wellikulam to Kudiramali was a terrorist naval base.
On 14th May 1985, the terrorist massacred 24 employees attached the Wilpattu National Park at Maradanmaduwa junction about 10km from Hunuwilgama, the main entrance of the ark.
On 13th August 200, the terrorists killed 2 fishermen on the shores of Andaragollawea wewa irrigation reservoir.
On 9th March 2007, park warden Puspananada and seven others were killed by the terrorists,
On May 28, 2006, during a so called seize fire. "Seven people were killed on Saturday as three powerful land mines blasted while a group of tourists were visiting the National Park in a double-cab.....The victims were identified as Darel Perera, Nihal Silva, Nanadana Abeysuriya, Endista Abeysuriya, Chandi Asirwadan, Anula Asirwadan and Anura Dissanayake." BBC 29.05.06.
The location of the blast, about 50km from the main gates to the Park, is in close proximity to the northern border of the park, the geographical beginning of terrorist held Vanni, the mainland area of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka. It covers the entirety of Mannar, Mullaitivu and Vavuniya Districts, and most of Kilinochchi District, and has an area of approximately 7,650 square kilometres (2,950 sq mi).
The terrorism was wiped out on 19th May 2009, Sri Lanka becoming the first ever country in world to root out modern-day terrorism much to the envy of western powers. Though terrorism is rooted out, the coast of Wilpattu National Park is bound to be protected by Sri Lanka Navy with camps on several locations along the Wilpattu coastal road and the northern boundary.
Illustrious Renton de Alwis, former chairman of Sri Lanka Tourist Board
3rd March 2010 Protect integrity. Daily News, Sri Lanka,
The same goes for the new roadway being built within the Wilpattu national Park. As revealed last week by an alliance of environmental activists, the illegality and repercussions of construction activities carried out within this protected national heritage is alarming. Undertaken by the Sri Lanka Navy, a 35 km road is reportedly built via Wilpattu to transport civilians.
The road which is proposed to have three bridges is said to expand from the southern boundary of the park near Kala Oya at Eluvankulam, towards the northern boundary up to Uppu Aru at Pukulam. Another road is also reported to being built from Mannar to Puttalam, across the coastline. Claims were also made that there are plans to transform the area between this road strip and the sea, into a tourist development zone.
There is no doubt that national security is of paramount importance. But it is equally true that a good part of that task is also to ensure the preservation of the natural and socio-cultural integrity of our nation.
To protect that integrity, there are processes that should have been carried out as defined by the law, such as environmental impact assessments and consultative mechanism. Non-compliance will mean the violation of our right, to maintain our nation’s natural and socio-cultural integrity and the need to provide it due security.
The closure of new interior road of Wilpattu National ParkThe new road through the Wilpattu National Park that was opened on 24th January 2010 was closed on 20th May 2010. As the Agrarian Services and Wildlife Minister S.M. Chandrasena assured of the closure, the alliance of environmentalists and wildlife lovers breathed a collective sigh of relief that saner counsel has prevailed.
The alliance of Sri Lanka wildlife enthusiasts that successfully campaigned against the roads across Wilpattu included Wildlife Nature protection Society, the Sri Lanka Nature Forum, The Ceylon Bird Club, Environment Foundation Limited and the Young Zoologists Association.
(1) Epigraphia Zeylancia being Lithic & Other Inscriptions of Ceylon in Four Volumes Edited & Translated by Don Martino De Zilva Wickremasinghe (vol. 1 & 2) (1904-1927), Don Martino De Zilva Wickremasinghe & H. W. Codrington (vol. 3),(1928-1933) H. W. Codrington & Senerat Paranavitana (vol.4) (1933-1934).
Epigraphia Zeylancia was published for the British government of Ceylon by Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, Amen House, E.C. Printed in Great Britain. Sri Lanka was granted independence from the British (1815-1948) in the year 1948. The publication of this monumental masterwork was completed by the government of British Ceylon in the year 1934.
Humphrey William Codrington, the eldest son of Rear Admiral William Codrington of the Royal Navy of Great Britain, was a scholar, historian and civil servant in British Ceylon. Don Martino De Zilva Wickremasinghe & Senerat Paranavitana were foremost Sinhalese scholars.
(2) Silavathurai (Silawatorre) is immediately south of Gulf of Mannar's Arripu (where Robert Knox escaping from Sri Lanka Holidays Kandy arrived and extended generous help by Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie’s (V. O. C.) of then the world renowned Pearl Banks of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). During the Portuguese Era in Ceylon (1505 - 1640), Dutch Era in Ceylon (1640-1796) and British Colonial Times (1815-1948) in Ceylon. In 1966 the Dutch organized their first pearl fishery at Silavathurai (Silawatorre) with four hundred boats and a labor force of 200,000 taking part. The income from Ceylon Pearls to Dutch in Ceylon was only second to their income from Ceylon Cinnamon in Ceylon. In the year 1865 (Jubilee year of British Ceylon), the British in Ceylon collected two thirds share of nearly forty million of oysters.
Photo credits The photos of Wilpattu National Park are by kind courtesy of my good friends Niroshan Mirando and Omega Priyakara Ranpatabedige of Ruhuna, Sri Lanka.