Yala National Park
Yala National Park is the most visited and the second largest national park in Sri Lanka. Actually it consists of five blocks, two of which are now open to the public; and also adjoining parks. The blocks have individual names also, like Ruhuna National Park for the (best known) block 1 and Kumana Park or ‘Yala East’ for the adjoining area. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, and lies m the Southern and Uva Provinces. There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. Yala hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands.
It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. Yala harbours 215 bird species including sl× endemic species of Sri Lanka. The number of mammals that has been recorded from the park is 44, and it has one of the highest leopard densities in the world.
Of 215 bird species in the park, six are endemic to Sri Lanka. They are Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Jungle fowl, Sri Lanka Wood-pigeon, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul, and Brown capped Babbler. The number of water birds inhabiting the wetlands of Yala is 90 and half of them are migrants. Waterfowls (Lesser Whistling Duck, Gargeni), Cormorants (Little Cormorant, Indian Cormorant), large water birds (Grey Heron. Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Openbill, and Painted Stork), medium-sized waders Tringa spp., and small waders Charadrius spp. are among the common Water birds. Black-necked Stork and Lesser Adjutant are the rare birds that can be seen in the park.
The migrant Great White Pelican and resident Spot-billed Pelican have also been recorded. Other water birds attracted to the Yala lagoons include Lesser Flamingo, and Pelicans, and rare species such as Purple Heron, Night herons, Egrets, Purple Swamp hen, and Oriental Darter. Thousands of waterfowls migrate to the lagoons of Yala during the northeast monsoon. They are Northern Pintail, White-winged Tern, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Godwits, and Ruddy Turnstone. The visiting species mingled with residing Lesser Whistling Duck, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing and Great Stone-curlew Rock Pigeon, Barred Button quaff Indian Peafowl, Black Stork, Black-winged Stilt and Greater Flamingo are among the other bird species. Crested. Serpent-eagle and White-bellied Sea Eagle are the raptors of the park. The forest birds are Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Hornbills, Old World flycatchers, Asian Paradise-flycatcher, Asian barbets, and Orioles.
Streams in the park can sustain a large herd of Sri Lankan Elephants including Sri Lankan Elephant, 44 species of mammals are resident in Yala National Park. 25 individual leopards are estimated to roam in Block I. The elephant herd of Yala contains 300-350 individuals. Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, Sri Lankan Leopard, Sri Lankan Elephant and Wild Water Buffalo are threatened species that Yala is harbouring. Toque Macaque, Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, and Fishing Cat are among the other mammals that can be seen in Yala. The elephant population of the park varies seasonally.