In the cradle of Sinhala civilization, a resplendent wildlife
The backbone of ancient Sri Lanka's agriculture based cultural
heritage was her network of irrigation systems intrinsically interwoven
with the natural environment. The Kaudulla National Park in Polonnaruwa
lays claim to a slice of Sri Lanka's ancient history and legend dating
back to the era of the Sinhala Kings.
With a 104,000-acre capacity feet of water, Kaudulla Tank was built
by a princess - the sister of the famous King Mahasen who built the
neighbouring Minneriya Tank. Today both tanks are a part of Sri Lanka's
proud hydraulic civilization.
New staff quarters
Kaudulla National Park was hidden in Polonnaruwa's jungles till the
recent past until its declaration as the 15th National Park on April 01,
2002. Kaudulla is unique in being the only National Park in Sri Lanka
with almost two thirds of its land area under water during several
months of the year. It can be termed as 'A Water Wonderland in the heart
of Sri Lanka.'
Now Kaudulla National Park has been brought under the Protected Area
Management and Wildlife Conservation Project of the Department of
Wildlife Conservation and is being sustainably developed and preserved
for posterity under the direction of Director General Dayananda
Kariyawasam and Project Director H.G.Gunawardene.
Kaudulla National Park was also on the agenda of the journalists'
familiarisation tour organised recently by the Promotion and
Environmental Education Unit of the Environment and Natural Resources
Kaudulla National Park (KNP) consists of a many splendoured landscape
and offers visitors scenic beauty and diverse wildlife on an idyllic
wetland setting with a view of elephants almost always guaranteed.
The cyclic seasonal changes in the water levels and spread of the
tank creates a unique set of ecosystems which sustains a rich and
diverse flora. This diversity of luxurious floral species ensures an
array of food, shade and refuge for an equally diverse fauna. The
vegetation prevalent in the KNP is a complex of
The KNP is bestowed with a number of water sources - Kaudulla Tank,
the Relapanawa Tank, Minneriya-Kantale Yodha Ela, Aluth Oya,
Hathereskotuwa Oya, Olumadu Wewa and Puliyan kalla Wewa. Fauna species
include Elephant, Deer, Sambur, Wild Boar, Leopard, Bear, Birds, Fish
Kaudulla NP is located in the heart of the dry zone elephant
territory where large herds of elephants congregate during the dry
season. It is also within several important elephant migratory routes.
This makes Kaudulla NP one of the best natural habitats in Sri Lanka for
viewing elephants throughout the year.
Another fascinating feature of the Kaudulla Tank is adjacent wetlands
which include an ancient canal that runs through it and an interesting
waterway with several little islands which can support both indigenous
and migrant species of birds.
A place where many elephant/train accidents occur.
The 6900 ha. Kaudulla NP is poised to become an eco-tourism haven
under the proposed developments of the Protected Area Management and
Wildlife Conservation Project (PAM & WC) which commenced development
work in 2004. Activities also include the management of the elephant
corridors of KNP - Minneriya National Park and KNP - Ritigala.
The current situation of KNP is that it lacks visitor facilities,
sufficient trackers and less benefits to local communities. A wide
development strategy has been mapped out for Kaudulla. With the elephant
as its flagship species, reservoir catchments, biodiversity and cultural
diversity will be conserved. The entire development programme is based
on community adaptive management, ensuring benefits to buffer zone
communities, providing opportunities for eco-tourism, maintaining
habitats suitable for elephants, protection of the unique culture and
biodiversity of the areas.
Kaudulla National Park Warden D.M.Weerasinghe outlined the difficult
path he treads to solicit the support of the villagers for the
development and protection of the park. Villagers had been depending on
the park resources for their existence.
Present museum and office
Encroachment, fishing, illegal timber felling, hunting for small
animals, poaching for ivory, grazing, fuelwood collection were threats
posed to the park. The Community Outreach Programme an important
component of the PAM & WC Project was launched to rectify these issues.
Traditionally fishing had been the main livelihood of the buffer zone
villagers and around 1000 persons had been engaged in fresh water
fishing in the Kaudulla Tank. Through constant negotiations and
education of these villagers by the Park officials agreement had been
reached to regularise fishing in the KNP area and to introduce alternate
modes of livelihood such as agriculture and livestock development.
With the regulation of fishing activities the DWLC will issue
identity cards for fishermen to enter the KNP and engage in their trade
according to a timetable.
Cattle farming was also prevalent within the park with around 30
cattle farmers residing within. As much as 4000 cattle belonging to
these farmers graze within the park resulting in food shortages for
elephants and other herbivores.
The cattle farmers have agreed to a proposal by the Park Officials to
supply them with cattle of good breed for milk from the Livestock
Development Board in exchange for their excess cattle.
Furthermore villagers have already evacuated a large number of cattle
from the park. Villagers earlier had been in the practice of setting
fire to areas within the park to enable new grass to shoot up for the
This practice has been stopped forthwith and 25 ha. of fire-belts
have been created. Work on an extent of 5 ha. of grasslands for the
elephants is in progress. Fast spreading invasive plants particularly
Lantana, poses a threat to the park's vegetation.
Out of a 50 ha. extent 25 ha. have been cleared. Studies on impact of
invasive species and cattle grazing are currently on and the management
of cattle and buffalo population with National Livestock Development
Board (NLDB) and Mahaweli Authority is continuing.
Kaudulla NP at present has a 16 kilometre road network and minimum
visitor facilities. Yet it is considered a natural base with much
potential for eco-tourism. As such attractions such as boating, bathing
areas, guided safari tours, nature trails, picnic and camping sites for
both children and adults, viewpoints for birds and crocodiles have been
included in the development agenda.
The infrastructure is being built in with new staff quarters, office
and museum complex, auditorium, visitor centre, drinking water
facilities, recreation and toilet facilities. At present the museum is
housed in a tent. The staff cadre is also being beefed up. One beat
office has been set up at Menik Sorowwa and two more beat offices are
proposed to be set up at Goma Handiya and Aluth Oya.
Incidents of the human-elephant conflict have been recorded from the
KNP vicinity. Elephants do not like the rain. When the rainy seasons set
in elephants migrate to other KNP surrounding areas and the Habarana
jungles in search of food and water.
This is also an occurrence during seasons when villagers set fire to
park vegetation. In the year 2004-2005 seventy five elephants had been
killed in train accidents during elephant migratory seasons. Train
accidents occur along a distance of about 17 kms. on the
Minneriya-Kaudulla corridor. The PAM & WC Project also envisages the
acquisition of around 1000 ha. of land beyond the KNP protected area
boundaries which is frequented by elephants during the rainy season.
Community participation in KNP developments has been ensured for the
overall development of the park. Park officials are in constant touch
with community leaders, the police and the army in protecting the KNP.
To ensure further community participation nine trackers have been
enlisted for park service from the Rotawewa village and are being
trained as guides.
The final result of the developments will be the long-term
conservation of the biodiversity of the Kaudulla National Park and the
promotion of conservation compatible tourism.