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National Park

Bundala National Park

  Province Southern
  District Hambanthota
  Type of the Forest National park
  Established 1969 (Sanctuary) 04-01-1993 (National park)
  Governing body Department of Wildlife Conservation
  Area 62.16 km2
  Introduction

Bundala National Park is an internationally important wintering ground for migratory water birds in Sri Lanka. Bundala harbors 197 species of Birds, the highlight being the Greater Flamingo, which migrate in large flocks. Bundala was designated a wildlife sanctuary in 1969 and re-designated to a national park on 4 January 1993. In 1991 Bundala became the first wetland to be declared as a Ramsar site in Sri Lanka. In 2005 the national park was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO, the fourth biosphere reserve in Sri Lanka. The national park is situated 245 kilometers (152 mi) southeast of Colombo.

  Physical features

The area mainly underlain with hornblende-biotite gneiss of the eastern Vijayan series. The low country dry zone climate prevails in the area. The area have an average relative humidity of 80%. The national park contains five shallow, brackish lagoons with salt pans in three. They are Bundala lagoon of 520 hectares (2.0 sq mi), Embilikala lagoon of 430 hectares (1.7 sq mi), Malala lagoon of 650 hectares (2.5 sq mi), Koholankala lagoon of 390 hectares (1.5 sq mi), and Mahalewaya of 260 hectares (1.0 sq mi). The Koholankala and Mahalewaya are almost totally developed for salt production. The climatic conditions are tropical monsoonal, with a mean annual temperature of 27 °C (81 °F). Annual rainfall ranges from 900–1,300 millimetres (35–51 in), with dry period persists from May to September. The elevation of the park ranges from sea level to 10 meters (33 ft). The park was affected by 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. Due to protection from sand dunes the park received very little damage.

  History

The area was declared a wildlife sanctuary on 5 December 1969, and was upgraded to a national park on 4 January 1993 with land area of 6,216 hectares (24.00 sq mi). However the park was re-gazette in 2004 and the original park was reduced to 3,698 hectares (14.28 sq mi). In 1991, Bundala became the first site in Sri Lanka to be designated a Ramsar wetland. In 2005, Bundala was declared a Man and Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO. In January 2006, an area adjacent to Bundala covering an area of 3,339.38 hectares (12.8934 sq mi) was declared as the Wilmanna Sanctuary.

  Endemic varieties

Flora

The ecological areas of the national park contain seven terrestrial habitat types and six wetland types. The dry thorny shrubs and herbs being the most abundant plant life. A total of 383 plant species belonging to 90 families have been recorded from the park. "The Phytoplankton in all the lagoons is dominated by blue-green algae" including species such as Macrocystis, Nostoc, Oscillatoria. Hydrilla is in abundance in lagoons such as Embilikala and Malala. Water hyacinth, water lilies, and Typha angustifolia reed beds are found in the marshes and streams. The vegetation mainly consists of Acacia scrubs including Dichrostachys cinerea, Randia dumetorum, Ziziphus sp., Gymnosporia emarginata, Carissa spinarum, Capparis zeylanica and Cassia spp. The trees of the forest are Bauhinia racemosa, Salvadora persica, Drypetes sepiaria, Manilkara hexandra, and less common Chloroxylon swietenia, Azadirachta indica, and Feronia limonia. Halophyte plants thrive in the national park's environmental conditions. Salicornia brachiata and Halosarcia indica are examples of salt-tolerant plants. In the small degraded patch of mangrove found at the Bundala lagoon area, Lumnitzera racemosa trees are widespread.

Founa

The Bundala National Park has been identified as an outstanding Important Bird Area in the South Indian and Sri Lankan wetlands. 324 species of vertebrates have been recorded in the national park, which include 32 species of fish, 15 species of amphibians, 48 species of reptiles, 197 species of birds and 32 species of mammals. 52 species of butterflies are among the invertebrates. The wetland habitats in Bundala harbours about 100 species of water birds, half of them being migrant birds. Of 197 avifaunal species 58 are migratory species. National Bird Ringing Programme (NBRP) was launched in Bundala by in collaboration of Department of Wildlife Conservation and Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka in 2005.

The Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus which visits in large flocks of over 1,000 individuals, from Rann of Kutch of India is being the highlight. Waterfowl (Lesser Whistling Duck Dendrocygna javanica, Garganey Anas querquedula), Cormorants (Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger, Indian Cormorant P. fuscicollis), large water birds (Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Black-headed Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Asian Openbill Anastomus oscitans, Painted Stork Mycteria leucocephala), medium sized waders (Tringa spp.), and small waders (Charadrius spp.) are the other avifaunal species which are present in large flocks. Black-necked Stork Ephippiorhynchus asiaticus, Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus and Eurasian Coot Fulica atra are rare birds inhabit in the national park.

A few Elephant Elephas maximus still inhabits in the forests of Bundala. Other mammals seen in the park are Toque Macaque Macaca sinica, Common Langur Presbytis entellus, Jackal Canis aureus, Leopard Panthera pardus, Fishing Cat Felis viverrinus, Rusty-spotted Cat Felis rubiginosa, Mongoose Herpestes spp., Wild boar Sus scrofa, Mouse Deer Tragulus meminna, Indian Muntjac Muntiacus muntjak, Spotted Deer Cervus axis, Sambar C. Unicolor, Black-naped Hare Lepus nigricollis, Indian Pangolin Manis crassicaudata, and Porcupine Hystrix indica.

Bird species

A total of 197 bird species have been recorded here, made up of 139 resident species & 58 seasonal visitors, the latter arriving during the northern winter (Sept- March). The lagoons attract an amazing variety of aquatic birds, including ibis, pelicans, painted storks, egrets & spoonbills. From September to March, you can see abundant stints, sand pipers, plovers, terns, gulls & ducks. The migrants Flamingoes join the resident water birds-pelicans, herons, egrets, cormorants, stilts & storks-contributing to an extraordinary variety.

Flamingos

The most famous visitors are the huge flocks of flamingos. The Bundala area is the flamingos' last refuge in the southern Sri Lanka, & you can see here in variable numbers throughout the year; their exact breeding habits remain a mystery, though it's thought they migrate from the Rann of Kutch in northern India. It's a winter home to the greater flamingoes & up to 2000 have been recorded here. Many other birds journey from Siberia & Rann of Kutch in India to winter here, arriving between August & April. About 350 flamingoes have made Bundala their year-round home.

Non-aquatic birds

Non-aquatic birds commonly seen here include delicate green bee eaters, one of the south's prettiest residents, blue-tailed bee eaters along with spotted doves, common babblers, parakeets & bulbuls.

Peacocks

Perched sententiously amidst the upper branches of the park's innumerable skeletal palu tees are the peacocks. A memorable site.

Elephants

In the scrub jungle is home to herds of elephants. There are permanent resident elephants & larger seasonal migratory herds comprising animals that roam the Ruhuna Yala National Park & Uda Walawe National Park.

Mammals

Bundala is also home to species mammals, including leopards, sloth bears, civets, mongooses & giant squirrels, as well as rabbits (rare in Sri Lanka, & an incongruous sight as they bounce fluffily around amidst the arid tropical landscape), though the most commonly seen mammals are the excitable troupes of grey languor monkeys.

Marsh & estuarine crocodiles

We will view crocs along the sides of the park's lagoons & watercourses. Depending on how wet it, your tracker might let you get within a couple of meters of their log-like forms, or even take you to have a peek inside this burros; a memorable experience, though not one for the faint-hearted.

Marine Turtles

Between October & January four of Sri Lanka's marine turtle (olive ridley, green, leatherback & loggerhead) lay their eggs on the coast of the park.