The progress of the report of the action plan in protecting Yala National Park prepared by the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) has been sent to the Prime Minister’s Policy Development Office (PDO).
According to the PDO, the action plan is divided into three sections namely, short-term, medium- term and long-term actions. As for the progress report of the action plan, the following actions have been already implemented/partially implemented so far.
Short-term actions: Patrolling of at least two DWC vehicles in the park between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. daily; DWC to permit entry and exit times to be decided on dawn and dusk timing; introducing rotational closure of Yala Block 1, 3, 4 and 5 for three months periods beginning with Yala block 1.
Medium-term actions: Yet to be implemented.
Long-term actions: Introducing a phased program to gradually limit the number of vehicles entering Yala Block 1 in conjunction with the improvement of wildlife sightings in Yala Blocks 3, 4, 5 and other developments in adjacent national parks.
The progress report covers January to June 2018.
Yala, as an internationally-renowned wildlife park, has attracted a large number of international and national visitors annually. The majestic leopard endemic to Sri Lanka is one of the main tourist attractions of this wild life park. While this interest in wildlife is remarkable and certainly positive for revenue collection, the increasing effects of over-visitation is posing a great threat of damage to the park and to its wildlife.
Numerically, visitation has increased from 43,368 visitors in 2008 to 545,007visitors in 2015. This is an increase of over 1,000% in seven years. This has resulted in an average of 250 vehicles entering Yala Block 1 per day with increased numbers during holiday seasons, often exceeding 700 vehicles per day.
To curb this over visitation, the Yala Sub-committee of the Prime Minister’s Office is formulated to create a path towards a more sustainable management of the Yala National Park. The DWC and the Tourist Board are the main stakeholders of this sub-committee while the Policy Development Office (PDO) of the Prime Minister’s Office act as the monitoring organisation of this Sub- committee.
The PDO said Yala wildlife park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. As a valuable tourist attraction, it is important to protect this national heritage site of Sri Lanka. The initial step taken in this regard by the relevant authorities should be greatly appreciated.