Yala, as an internationally renowned wildlife park, has attracted a large number of international and national visitors annually.
While this interest in wildlife is remarkable and certainly positive for revenue collection, the increasing effects of over-visitation is posing a great threat of damage to the park and to its wildlife.
Numerically, visitation has increased from 43,368 visitors in 2008 to 545,007visitors in 2015. This is an increase of over 1000% in 7 years. This has resulted in an average of 250 vehicles entering Yala Block 1per day with increased numbers during holiday seasons, often exceeding 700 vehicles per day.
To curb this over visitation, the “Yala Sub-committee” of the Prime Minister’s office was formulated to create a path towards a more sustainable management of the Yala national park.
The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and the Tourist Board are the main stake holders of this sub-committee while the Policy Development Office (PDO) of the Prime Minister’s Office act as the monitoring organization of this Sub- committee.
An action plan for improving the overall wildlife tourism experience in Yala national park was initially compiled by the Department of Wildlife Conservation in March, 2017. The progress of the report for the period from January to June 2018 has been recently sent to the PDO by the DWC, the Policy Development Office said.
The action plan is divided into three sections namely, Short-term, Medium- term and Long-term actions.
The following steps have been implemented or partially implemented so far.
Short term actions – Patrolling of at least 2 DWC vehicles in the park between 6am-10am and 2pm-6pm daily; DWC to permit entry and exit times to be decided on dawn and dusk timing; introducing rotational closure of Yala Block 1,3,4 and 5 for 3 months periods beginning with Yala block 1.
Medium-term actions– Yet to be implemented.
Long-term actions – Introducing a phased program to gradually limit the number of vehicles entering Yala Block 1 in conjunction with the improvement of wildlife sightings in Yala Blocks 3,4,5 and other developments in adjacent national parks.
Yala wild life park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. As a valuable tourist attraction, it is important to protect this national heritage site of Sri Lanka. The initial step taken in this regard by the relevant authorities should be greatly appreciated.