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National Park

Gal Oya National Park

  Province Uva & Eastern
  District Ampara
  Type of the Forest National park
  Established 12-02-1954 (National park)
  Governing body Department of Wildlife Conservation
  Area 259 km2 About 45% of Gal Oya National Park is forest, 33% savanna, 9% grassland and 2% chena
  Introduction

This park is established to protect the catchments area of the Senanayake Samudra, constructed as part of a development scheme to open up some 162,000ha of forest for agriculture and industrial purposes. It is considered to be among the most scenically beautiful landscapes in Sri Lanka. Senanayake Samudra reservoir supports an important fishery, and a valuable source of water for irrigation.

East of the central hills of the island, it lies in Badulla district with a part of it stretching into the Ampara District. It totally encompasses the great Senanayake Samudra reservoir, which is not a part of the park.

The only practical routes from Colombo would be via Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Uda Walawe, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Moneragla and then north from Siyambalanduwa to Inginiyagala. It is approximately 300Km from Colombo

The area comprises the catchments of the Senanayake Samudra, a large water body with an impressive backdrop of rocky, forested hills. The Gal Oya basin consists of the Gal Oya and three lesser streams which flow eastwards. The Gal Oya was dammed at Inginiyagala in 1948 to form Senanayake Samudra, and the other two streams have since been dammed. Senananyake Samudra has a maximum depth of 33.5m and a catchments area of about 100,000ha. The area of the park is 25,900ha. Annual rainfall for Gal Oya National Park is 1,766mm.

The national park was established mainly to protect the catchment area of Senanayake Samudra Reservoir.

  Physical features

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  History

Gal Oya is the only valley in Sri Lanka which can claim to have given shelter to Sinhala kings in three different locations; namely to King Tissa to Dighavapi in the 2nd century BC, to King Buvanekabahu on the summit of Govindahela in the 13th century, and to the King Dore Swamy at Nilgala in the 19th century. The Dighavapi Dagoba, built in the 2nd century BC to mark the spot where the Lord Buddha is supposed to have sat during his last visit to Sri Lanka, attracts thousands of pilgrims. The hill country in the west was one of the last strongholds of the veddas. Henebedde cave near Vadinagala has a drip ledge and contains a Brahmi inscription. Near the cave are moonstone, guard stone and balustrade stone. Ruins of an ancient structure are close by.

About 45% of Gal Oya National Park is forest, 33% savanna, 9% grassland and 2% chena (forest disturbed by shifting agriculture). The rest (10%) consists of water bodies. The forest is generally evergreen, of medium stature (30-40m) With a dense closed canopy layer. The savanna is found mainly in the west.

A total of 32 species of terrestrial mammals has been recorded in the Gal Oya region. Of more than 334 species of birds which occur regularly in Sri Lanka, 150 have been observed in the Gal Oya region. Two ecological categories of birds could be found. First are the large numbers of fish eating birds which occur in and around the tanks. The second group consists of frugivorous birds such as hornbills (Ocyceros griseus) and (Anthracoceros coronatus), pigeons (Ducula aeneapusiila) and Treron spp. Among the reptiles present, mugger (Crocodylus palustris) is locally common in tanks and irrigation ditches and common monitor (Varanus bengalensis) is abundant in drier areas. Amphibians and fish fauna also can be observed within the park area.

Gal Oya National Park: 25,900ha

Senanayake Samudra Sanctuary: 9,324ha

Gal Oya Valley North-East Sanctuary: 12,432ha

Gal Oya Valley South-West Sanctuary: 15,281ha

Total : 62,937 ha

The park and the three sanctuaries was established by the Gal Oya Development board on 12 February 1954 and subsequently handed over to the Department of Wild life conservation in 1965.

  Endemic varieties

Flora

A host of medicinal shrubs and trees such as Aralu, Bulu, Nelli can be readily found in the Nilgala area, while a number of locally known trees such as Vevarana, Halmilla, Veera, Palu, Ebony and Mahogany are found in great numbers.

Founa

The park with its thick green canopy is a haven for species of birds and nearer to the Samudraya even migratory birds such as Painted Storks, Pelicans, Cormorants and Teals could be seen. A host of local birds such as the Grey Dove, Malabar Horn Bill and Grey Horn Bill, Koel and a number of water birds are found in this jungle habitat.

In addition to elephants, the park is home to leopards, bear, spotted deer, sambur, wild boar etc. Among other fauna are several species of monkeys, Porcupine, a number of fish species, reptiles and four species of butterflies such as the Crimson rose and Glassy Tiger have been recorded.