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National Park

Flood Plains National Park

  Province North Central
  District Polonnaruwa
  Type of the Forest National park
  Established 07-08-1984
  Governing body Department of Wildlife Conservation
  Area 173.50 km2
  Introduction

Flood Plains National Park is one of the four national parks set aside under the Mahaweli River development project. The park was created on 7 August 1984. The national park is situated along the Mahaweli flood plain and is considered a rich feeding ground for elephants. Flood Plains National Park is considered an elephant corridor for the elephants migrate between Wasgamuwa and Somawathiya national parks. The park is situated 222 kilometers (138 mi) north-east of Colombo.

  Physical features

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  History

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  Endemic varieties

Flora

The floodplains of the Mahaweli forest are made up of diverse ecological zones consisting of river channels, riverine marshes, villus, seasonally flooded grasslands, and swamp forests. The flood plain in general and associated villus in particular have a high diversity of both smaller and larger plant species. There are 231 plant species that have recorded from Handapan and Bendiya villus and marsh forests, which is the largest villu of 796 hectares (3.07 sq mi) within the Mahaweli River floodplain. Saturated soil and flooding hinder tree growth and enhance the growth of water-tolerant grasses and aquatic plants. The vegetation of the villus shows distinct pattern of zonation with creeping grasses such as Cynodon dactylon, and essentially terrestrial annual plants on the edges. Hydrophytic plants and grasses further inwards; floating plants such Aponogeton crispum, A. natans, and Nymphoides spp. occur along with Nelumbo nucifera in deeper water, and an association of manel Nymphaea stellata and the submerged floating plants Ceratophyllum demersum in the deepest water. Some floating plants found in the all zones. The original riverine forest on the banks has been completely removed make way for tobacco cultivation. Between the banks the swamps of the villus, the vegetation is similar to swamp forests, due to periodic inundation with trees such as Terminalia arjuna, Hydnocarpus venenata, Mitragyna parviflora, Madhuca longifolia, and Barringtonia asiatica being the most abundant. Calamus rotang are also common in the area. About 25 plants of a rare herb Pentapetes phoenicea are found at three different sites in the marsh forest. Elsewhere the monsoon forest is found on higher grounds and gallery forest along the river banks.

Founa

The rich vegetation in the villus attract large numbers of herbivores and aves and supports a higher annual biomass than any other form of habitat within the accelerated Mahaweli development project area. The flood plains are abundant in supply of water and grasslands and therefore is an important habitat for elephant Elephas maximus. In 2007, estimated elephant population of the park is around 50-100. Other frequently seen mammals are Fishing Cat felis viverrinus, Jungle Cat Felis chaus, Rusty-spotted Cat felis rubiginosa, jackal Canis aureus, wild boar Sus scrofa, Indian Muntjac Muntiacus muntjak, sambar Cervix unicolor, spotted deer C. axis, and Water Buffalo Bubalus bubalis. European Otter Lutra lutra, Sri Lankan Spotted Chevrotain Moschiola meminna, and Leopard Panthera pardus are also have been recorded from the park. Flood Plains National Park is one of the recorded habitats of Grey Slender Loris Loris lydekkerianus.

The flood plains are especially important for the diversity and richness of their avifauna, particularly migrant birds. The rare species Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus and variety of other species inhabit the floodplains. It has been estimated that around 75 species winter in the swamps of the flood plains. Frequently seen residents are Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis, Wood Sandpiper T. glareola, Asiatic Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica, garganey Anas querquedula, osprey Pandion haliaetus, and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. Common residents are eastern large egret Egreta alba, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Painted Stork Ibis leucocephala, Pond Heron Ardeola grayii, eastern grey heron Ardea cinerea, Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus, Purple Coot Porphyrio porphyrio, Indian darter Anhinga rufa, Little Cormorant Phalacrocorax niger, Indian Shag P. fuscicollis, Indian Cormorant P. carbo sinensis, Brahminy Kite Haliastur indus, Painted snipe Rostratula benghalensis, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, and Red-wattled Lapwing Vanellus indicus.

The freshwater fish are dominated by exotic species (i.e. Oreochromis spp., Osphronemus goramy) and also endemic species such as Esomus thermoicos, Garra ceylonensis, Schistura notostigma also have been recorded from the park. Important fish species of the villus are climbing perch Anabas testudineus, Snakeheads Ophiocephalus stratus and O. parulius, Labeo sp., branded etroplus Etroplus suratensis, butter catfish Ompok bimaculatus and the introduced tilapia Tilapia mossambica. The marshy habitat harbors a large population of reptiles including natricine watersnakes, Mugger crocodile Crocodylus palustris, and estuarine crocodile Crocodylus porosus. Indian Black Turtle Melanochelys trijuga and Indian Flap-shelled Turtle Lissemys punctata are the other aquatic reptiles reported.