The Kumana National Park, Sri Lanka’s best santuary for bird watching, was re-opened last week after a prolonged closure.
The Park was closed due to LTTE terrorist problems from 1985. Located in the the country’s southern east corner, the Kumana park came to have been affected by the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. It was closed for public view again from 2006 with the government launching its humanitarian operations in the country’s North and East to liberate the country from clutches of terrorism.
With the Government liberating the country last year, the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry is rapidly establishing its control in the country’s game parks. The Ministry opened Yala National Park in the last year.
Minister Champika Ranawaka said, they will have opened all the 20 national parks in the country by the first half of this year. He said, clearing of land mines in Wilpattu has reached its final stages and the Ministry will have opened the the Park by February.
“With the opening of the national parks , Sri Lanka’s tourist industry can rely on Eco tourism. This will directly influence the country’s economic development with locla community to derive direct benefits There will be more business opportunities for investors,” said Minister Ranawaka.
The Minister was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Kumana National Park, which took place in Okanda. Minister of Natural Resources Indika Bandara, Wildlife Conservation Deparment Director General W.A.D.Wijesuriya, Park Wardens of Wildlife sanctuaries, Principals and children from nearby village schools in Okanda area, were present on this occasion.
It was interesting to see that a group of indigenous people (Vannile Aththo) have come to greet Minister Champika Ranawaka and the Willdlife authorities on this occasion. The leader of the Wannila Aththo was also present. They invoked blessings of their Forest God Kalu Bandara on Minister Ranawaka whom they called the minister Maha Hura and chanted religious versus in harmony that lasted for ten minutes. An exchange of gifts took place between the minister and the Wannila Attho after after the ritual.
The sky was whiter than usual as the the brightly shining sun surveyed the plains of Kumana that Saturday. Yet there were short spells of rains in spite of the sun’s bright dominance in the sky.
rains sometimes cover the jeep road of the Park that leads to its bird sanctuary on a 200 hectare natural swamp lake. This is one of the most significant features of the park called Kumana villu. It is fed by Kumbukkan estuary through a half a mile long narrow channel.
Although our crew could not see much bird population at this mangrove swamp this time of the year, a Park Warden said that most birds had flown away because there have been too much disturbance in the forest with the noise of too many safari jeeps plying down the area. Most water birds come to nest in the swamp in May and June.
A hawk-eyed traveller always gets manges to get a glimpse of a very rare black-necked stork or a Lesser Adjutant in this areas.
The prolific birdlife in Kumana sancturay include Eurasian Spoonbill and Great Thick-knee. Kumana villu is occasionally inundated with sea water.
Besides these migratory bird species, the park is home for birds such as pelicans, painted storks, spoonbills, white ibis, herons, egrets and little cormorants. They were to be seen along the riverine banks of the sanctuary with 20 lagoons and tanks.
Tens of thousands of birds migrate to the sanctuary during April and July. There are about 255 speciebird species to have been dected in Kumana, among them waders belonging to families of Scolopacidae and Charadriidae. These birds visit the sanctuary with waterfowl, Pintail Snipes, migrating after flying 9,000 kilometers to 11,000 kilometres from Siberia.
The park are of Kumana is 18,196 hectares with wetlands covering 626 hectares.
River Valley Civilizations
Vegetation in Kumana consists mainly of mangrove trees, kumbuk trees and karan fern. The streams Alakola Ara and other streams flow to the Kumbukkan oya. Smaller streams such as the Girikula and Bagura Ara flow to the lagoons. The lagoons are less than two meters deep. The lagoons include Bagura Kalapuwa (154 ha), Andarakala, Itikala and Yakkala (272 ha). Lying within the low country dry zone the mean temperature of the Park is 27.30C and the average annual rainfall is around 1300 mm.
The records of Sri Lanka’s ancient river valley civilizations are also found in the Panama area of Kumana. Rock inscriptions belonging to the second and first centuries B.C., providing substantial evidence in this concern, have been found in this region .
Kumana was first declared a bird sanctuary in 1938. Among the bird species which migrate here in large flocks are, Asian Openbill, Indian Pond Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Spot-billed Pelican, Indian Cormorant, Little Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Watercock, Glossy Ibis, White-breasted Waterhen, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Lesser Whistling Duck and Little Grebe
The rare migratory birds to be found in Kumana swamp Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Malabar Trogon, Red-faced Malkoha, and Sirkeer Malkoha. Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Red shank, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Snipe, and Pintail Snipe.
As pointed out by Minister Ranawaka, much attention is now focused on developing the Kumana National Park with the pland under way by the government to to develop the Eastern Province.
The departments, Wildlife and Forest Conservation , Sri Lanka Gelogical and Minies Bureau and Central Environment Authority have established their operations in the the districts of the Eastern Province.
The Wildlife Department has cleared the titles of lands belonging to their forest lands. Minister Ranwaka said, no one will be allowed to use the Forest lands owned by the state for any political reasons in the futures.
With the opening of the Yala National Park, the wildlife Department was able to increase its revenue considerably. “We earned Rs. 3,000 million last year after opening the Yala sanctuary,” he said.
The animals have no one but only Wildlife and Forest Conservation Departments to look upto their protection. The moves are under way to protect the country’s forests and wildlife to make the country a main attraction of Eco-tourism , the minister said and added this is envisioned bring immediate benefits to local community , investors and the business community.