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National Park

Lahugala-Kitulana National Park

  Province Eastern
  District Ampara
  Type of the Forest National park
  Established 31-10-1980
  Governing body Department of Wildlife Conservation
  Area 15.54 km2
  Introduction

The park is one of Sri Lanka’s smallest but most valuable conservation areas for elephants and endemic birds.

Lying in the dry zone, the vegetation surrounding the tanks is dry mixed evergreen forest with scrubs.

Lahugala is traditionally used as a feeding ground by elephants (Elephas maximus). Herds up to 150, attracted by the beru grass, were a common sight at Lahugala tank during the period of July to August. Other mammals also can be seen in the park. The avifauna is diverse and includes a variety of waterfowl, and the usual dry zone forest birds. Amphibians include frogs such as the endemic Bufo athukoralei, Rana limnocharis, Rhacophorus maculate, Kaloula pulchra and Microphyla rubra.

Location

Lies in the basin of the Heda Oya, 16Km inland from the coastal town of Pottuvil in Eastern Province. The Pottuvil Moneragla trunk road runs through the south eastern sector of the park.

Nearby is the historic site of Magulmahavihara, built for the occasion of King Kavantissa’s marriage to Viharamaha Devi.

  Physical features

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  History

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  Endemic varieties

Flora

He park's wetland areas are surrounded by dry zone tropical thorn forest. The inland forest's flora is dominated by Manilkara hexandra (Sinhalese "Palu"), Hemicyclea sepieria, Bauhinia racemosa, Cassia fistula ("Ehela"), Chloroxylon swietenia ("Burutha"), and Salvadora persica species. The dominant tree of the Kumana villu is Sonneratia caseolaris, while Typha angustifolia is the dominant reed. Terminalia arjuna trees dominate the riverine forests along the Kumbukkan Oya. The common aquatic plants of the swamp are colourful Ludwigia spp., Nelumbo nucifera, Nymphaea pubescens, Aponogeton spp. and Neptunia oleracea.

Founa

255 species of birds have been recorded in the national park. During April–July months tens of thousands of birds migrate to the lahugala swamp area annually. Rare species such as Black-necked Stork, Lesser Adjutant, Eurasian Spoonbill, and Great Thick-knee are breeding inhabitants of the lahugala villu. Waders belonging to families Scolopacidae and Charadriidae are among the visitors to the area along with waterfowl. Pintail Snipes migrate here flying 9,000 kilometres (5,600 mi) to 11,000 kilometres (6,800 mi) from Siberia. Asian Openbill, Glossy Ibis, Purple Heron, Great Egret, Indian Pond Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Intermediate Egret, Little Egret, Spot-billed Pelican, Indian Cormorant, Little Cormorant, Common Moorhen, Watercock, Purple Swamphen, White-breasted Waterhen, Pheasant-tailed Jacana, Black-winged Stilt, Lesser Whistling Duck and Little Grebe are the bird species migrate here in large flocks. Among the rare birds that migrate to the swap include Yellow-footed Green Pigeon, Greater Racket-tailed Drongo, Malabar Trogon, Red-faced Malkoha, and Sirkeer Malkoha. Pacific Golden Plover, Greater Sand Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Grey Plover, Ruddy Turnstone, Little Ringed Plover, Wood Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Common Redshank, Common Sandpiper, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Common Snipe, and Pintail Snipe are the common wading birds of the park.

Tilapia and Mullet are the commonly fished varieties in the area while Channa spp. are also caught occasionally. Mugger Crocodile, Indian Flap-shelled Turtle and Indian Black Turtle are the common reptiles inhabiting the park. Mammals such as Golden Jackal, Wild Boar, Sri Lankan Elephant, European Otter, and Fishing Cat also visit the swamp to feed. The number of elephants roaming in the lahugala is estimated at 30–40.

The number of birds observed in the national park has fallen in recent years.Environmentalists and wildlife lovers have expressed their concern over a road planned to be constructed from Kumana to Panama which will run along the coastline of the park.