Donation of a Patrol Jeep to Yala National Park for Law Enforcement Activities
Yala National Park
Yala National Park (YNP) is the second largest national park in Sri Lanka, consisting of five blocks, out of which two are now open to the public. It is situated in the southeast region of the country, covering 975 square kilometers. Yala provides a safe haven for several wildlife species, while demonstrating its conservation history in Sri Lanka, due to its designation as a wildlife sanctuary in 1900.
Yala and Wilpattu National Park are the first two legally gazetted national parks in Sri Lanka, designated in 1938. YNP covers a wide range of ecosystems, inclusive of dry monsoon forests, thorn scrub forests, open grasslands, freshwater and marine wetlands, and sandy beaches. The park is best known for its wildlife, including Sri Lanka’s ‘Big Four’, namely elephants, leopards, sloth bear and wild buffalo. Additionally, 40 species of other mammals are resident within Yala National Park. Yala is known worldwide for having one of the highest leopard densities in the world, as well one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) found in Sri Lanka, harboring 215 bird species, including six species endemic to Sri Lanka.
Due to its popularity as a guaranteed destination for leopard sightings, visitation to Yala by both local and foreign tourists, increases annually. There has been an exponential boom in tourism and visits to Yala especially after the end of the thirty-year civil unrest, which kept the park closed for long periods of time. The influx of visitors has created unhealthy conditions for the wildlife found within, with over- visitation reaching crisis proportions and this is now affecting the natural behaviour of wildlife, while obstructing their right to roam free within the park.
Visitor discipline and quality of wildlife tourism in YNP has deteriorated over the past few years. The exponential increase in the numbers of visitors, led to a deterioration in visitor discipline within the park. On average, 150 jeeps can be found within the park during weekends, and peak hours (early morning & evening hours). The discipline among jeep drivers has decreased due to high competition among parties, in order to provide the best sighting to their clients.
Block I (open for regular visitors) is very popular, as it is here that some of the best leopard sightings are made. The road network within the block is confined to a small area and therefore visitors tend to be concentrated within this small section of the park. The number of park trackers/guards available to accommodate this large number of visitors is insufficient, and therefore jeeps are allowed to enter the park without a park official, which leads to speeding and violating the visitor restrictions of the park.
Basic law enforcement activities are poorly enforced and the lack of resources for effective law enforcement has been identified as one of the key reasons for the decrease in visitor discipline. Visitor management of the YNP has been discussed within many wildlife management and tourism development forums, at which Environmental Foundation Limited (EFL) has also participated.
The introduction of regular patrol vehicles at the park has been proposed by many experts; the main objective for regular park patrols daily during the peak visitor hours to maintain the law and order and to assist any vehicle/visitor that need some assistance during their visit to the park. To fulfill this need, EFL proposed DIMO to donate a patrol jeep to Yala National Park, exclusively for the enforcement of the park rules and improvement of the visitor experience.
DIMO, a local company, is committed towards protecting the environment for future generations, has generously come forward to donate this patrol jeep for use by YNP.
EFL has also brought Chaaya Wild, a resort that is operating wildlife based near YNP, to provide the daily fuel quota for the patrol vehicle and tri-monthly maintenance for the vehicle. Park officials of YNP will conduct the regular park rounds in this patrol vehicle, to maintain the visitor discipline and provide support for an emergency situation inside the park. DIMO is delighted to partner with EFL, Chaaya Wild and DWC to introduce patrol vehicle to YNP to protect our precious wildlife while providing support for visitors to maximize the visitor experience during their visit to the park.