BAM Safari

SRI LANKA Year 2000- 2013

2000-2013

The two oldest, biggest and most bio diverse National Parks in Sri Lanka are Yala and Wilpattu. Yala was designated as a reserve in the year 1900 by the British Colonial Government under the Forest Ordinance and was later elevated to a National Park on 1st March 1938 after the Flora and Fauna Ordinance was passed into law in the State Council by Hon. D. S. Senanayake in his capacity as the Minister of Agriculture. He later became the first Prime Minister of Independent Ceylon on the 4th of February 1948. Similarly, Wilpattu was declared as a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1905 and elevated to the status of a National Park on 25th February 1938.
Both these parks were affected by the scourge of LTTE terrorism. Wilpattu National Park (WNP) remained closed to the public from December 1988 to March 2010 due to LTTE terror activity. It opened for a period from 2003 to 2007 as a result of a ceasefire agreement between the then Government and the LTTE but had to be closed again due to some deadly attacks by the LTTE inside Wilpattu, which claimed the lives of innocent visitors to the park as well as Wild Life Department employees and security personnel, adding to the numerous violations by the LTTE of a farcical ceasefire. The WNP borders the Northern Province and the LTTE had infiltrated the dense jungles of the park. But with the Sri Lankan security forces taking the fight to the LTTE in the final phases of the conflict in 2008 and 2008, the members of the terror organization were flushed out of the park and today it is very safe to visit.
Though Yala National Park (YNP) remained open throughout the conflict years, the LTTE made sporadic raids in to the park causing harm to life and property. Back in 1996 and 1997, they destroyed at least 6 bungalows belonging to the Wild Life Department which were being rented to the public for short stays. These bungalows were in high demand until they were attacked and damaged by the terrorists. Some of these bungalows were later rebuilt. The Government also stationed Army units inside the park to provide security for visitors. The LTTE again staged a surprise attack on 17th October 2007 targeting an Army detachment at Thalgasmankada in which 7 Army personnel were killed.
I have been a frequent visitor to YNP from the beginning of the year 2000, spending time there at least once a month in most years, and sometimes even twice a month. In one instance I was the only visitor to the park in the morning hours when the LTTE threat was at its highest. During those days, when travelling inside YNP, my driver avoids loose soil patches on the road, just in case there was a LTTE landmine buried there! Apart from my regular visits to Yala, I have also occasionally visited Wilpattu.

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