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Friday, 23 July 2010

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Behold wild blue yonder!

Kumana National Park breathes new life:


Birds flying in formation. Pictures by Thusitha Chandrakumara

With the scorching sun glaring down, no one looks for greenery in this dry zone. Surprisingly however this region is teemed with blue ocean-like streams here and there. Dogs tread waters to soothe the heatwave, as well as with the hidden motif of fishing.

Despite the hot gusts of wind, this East-bound journey is no longer much exhausting, thanks to the newly carpeted highway.

Kumana national park now offers shelter for Hindu pilgrims on their Pada Yathra, the holy foot-journey to Kataragama. The journey sets off in Jaffna, which takes days to reach the destination. A number of devalas could be sighted within the confines of Kumana park - Okanda Devale is foremost. The small-scale devales generally have no guardians, which will be temporarily taken over by senior members of the pilgrimage.


Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa on an inspection tour.

Family tradition

"I am carrying out this because our ancestors have done this in the past. I feel happy to oblige to engage in this holy deed," said a civil engineer who was taking part in a devale ritual with his family.

God Skanda of Kataragama motivates the Hindus to make the holy foot journey. The sound of bell chimes from a distance is common to hear. Pilgrims' cries of devotion overcome the sound of bell chime at times.

Everything these Hindu pilgrims execute during the journey is meant to be holy. The food they cook is strictly vegetarian. Drinks they consume are strictly devoid of alcohol. And throughout the journey they holler haro hara blessing each other.


Sunlit waters

The blessing on another hand is a signal to wild creatures of the human presence. Most wild creatures are naturally scared to be within the reach of humans. Besides, these pilgrims always walk in groups.

These precautions hardly raise an eyebrow for any threat on a human life.

Constant awareness

Environment pollution issues rise apparently with the human congestion. Kumana park's wildlife officers however have managed to overcome the issue by conducting constant awareness programs.

Things are easy for these pilgrims with enhanced facilities by the Neganahira Novodaya program, under the directive of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. Sanitary, water and garbage facilities are improved along with additional Wildlife staff and volunteers.

Most of the Hindu pilgrims however have proper environment sense. They don't pollute environment, as it is part and parcel of their ritual. The environment is victimized mostly by the local tourists who selfishly use the park merely for picnic purposes.


Wild buffalo

 

The park earlier known as Yala East National Park was changed to Kumana National Park since September, 2006.

The park was closed for some time because of the LTTE threat. STF camps are also posted, since poachers are an issue the Wildlife department alone cannot handle. Historically speaking, Kumana bears a tale of ancient civilization back to the 3rd century BC according to rock inscriptions.

Leisure creatures

The national park is famous for its migrant creatures - large flocks of waterfowl and wading birds in particular. The number has however taken a nosedive during the recent years. Among the common birds are pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills, white ibis, herons and egrets.


Birds spotted in Kumana

The season for migrant birds falls between April and July.

Campsites are also available inside the national park, though it needs advanced booking. The Wildlife Department will soon start working on a circuit bungalow in the vicinity enabling the tourists a convenient access to the park.

Tourists will be shuttled in four-wheel drives, and it will be no comfortable ride either since the path is quite bumpy due to potholes.

The path however may need no modification, as the wild creatures claim the lion's share of the kingdom.

When the evening slowly wears into night, any passer-by could silently observe elephants taking their moonlight walks.


Elephant communion

To the eyes familiar with the dark and gloom, it is easy to make out an elephant. Sighting these large creatures wandering in leisure, without caring a heck about a vehicle or two moving back and forth on manmade freeways, is truly rare.

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