Yala… going, going, gone?

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Srilal Miththapala Much has been written on the subject of the degradation of the wonderful and popular Yala National Park, due to heavy over-visitation and the inability of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) to enforce the park rules. I myself have tried to draw attention to the plight that has befallen the park by writing to the newspapers regularly (‘Yala... ruined by its own popularity’, “A dangerous situation developing at Yala’). I have also met with the Director of Wildlife to apprise him of the situation and urged him to take some speedy action to resolve the situation. With the help of supportive colleagues in the tourism industry, a poster and leaflet highlighting the dos and don’ts of the park has been prepared, with the blessings of the DWC, and will be soon distributed to visitors entering the park, with the hope of educating them and creating awareness. However, in the meantime, the situation is going from bad to worse at the park, and may soon result in some unfortunate injury to a visitor. I have alerted the Director of Wildlife of a video available on YouTube which shows an unbelievable sequence, where tourists in the Yala park are jumping off their jeep, while the infamous Yala elephant Gemunu,  is just by the side of the vehicle (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EacSUz-TtiQ). It is obvious that the driver (and tracker, if there was one in the vehicle) could have easily averted the incident. The registration number of the jeep is very clearly seen, and even at this late stage, the Director can immediately take action against this jeep driver and other persons who were involved in this incident. I do sincerely hope that at least in this situation, some speedy action will be taken to save the Yala National Park from ruin.Yala is important not only to environmentalists and wildlife lovers, but also for tourism and for all Sri Lankans alike, since it is a national asset. Hence, it is important that all stakeholders put their ‘shoulders to the wheel’ to help in any way they can and also to bring pressure on the authorities to act to mitigate and resolve the ongoing problems, without being armchair critics.