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National Park

Udawalawe National Park

  Province Sabaragamuwa and Uva
  District Ratnapura & Monaragala
  Type of the Forest National park
  Established 30-06-1972
  Governing body Department of Wildlife Conservation
  Area 308.21 km2
  Introduction

Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, in Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchments of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and was established on 30 June 1972. Before the designation of the national park, the area was used for shifting cultivation (chena farming). The farmers were gradually removed once the national park was declared. The park is 165 kilometers (103 mi) from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan Elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.

  Physical features

Udawalawe lies on the boundary of Sri Lanka's wet and dry zones. Plains dominate the topography, though there are also some mountainous areas. The Kalthota Range and Diyawini Falls are in the north of the park and the outcrops of Bambaragala and Reminikotha lie within it. The park has an annual rainfall of 1,500 millimetres (59 in), most of which falls during the months of October to January and March to May. The average annual temperature is about 27–28 °C (81–82 °F), while relative humidity varies from 70% to 82%. Well-drained reddish-brown soil is the predominant soil type, with poorly drained low humic grey soils found in the valley bottoms. Mainly alluvial soils form the beds of the watercourses.

The habitat surrounding the reservoir includes marshes, the Walawe river and its tributaries, forests and grasslands. Dead tree standing in the reservoir are visual reminders of the extent of forest cover before dam construction. Green algae, including Pediastrum and Scenedesmus spp., and blue green algae species such as Microsystems, occur in the reservoir. Areas of open grassland are abundant as a result of former chena farming practices. There is a plantation of teak beyond the southern boundary, below the dam, which was planted before the declaration of the park. Species recorded from the park include 94 plants, 21 fish, 12 amphibians, 33 reptiles, 184 birds (33 of which are migratory), and 43 mammals. Additionally 135 species of butterflies are among the invertebrates found in Udawalawe.

Conservation

Clearing natural forests and planting monospecies cultures such as Pine and Eucalyptus are causing reduced water levels in the Walawe river. Encroachment by human settlements, poaching, illegal logging, gem mining, overgrazing and chena farming are major threats to the park. Lantana camera and Phyllanthus polyphyllus are invasive weeds affecting the food plants of the elephants. Occasions of elephants being shot with illegal muzzleloader guns has been reported The best place in Asia to see herds of Asian Elephants

Wild Elephants, Wildlife, Bird Watching, Modern Rain water reservoir, River Walawe, Dam & Hydro Electricity Project

  History

The historic Somawathiya Chaitya is located on the left bank of the Mahaweli River. The stupa was named after Princes Somawathi, the sister of King Kavan Tissa, and the wife of regional ruler Prince Abhaya. The prince Abhaya build the stupa to enshrine a relic of the tooth of the Buddha, which was in the possession of Arahat Mahinda, and named the stupa after the princes. The park is one of the four national parks set aside under the Mahaweli River development project. The other three national parks being Maduru Oya, Wasgamuwa and Flood plains. Somawathiya is contiguous with Flood Plains National Park and Trikonamadu Nature Reserve. Hurulu Forest Reserve, a part of which is a biosphere reserve is linked by the western arm of the park.

  Endemic varieties

Flora

The waterfilled basins in the central flood plain are featured by the richness and predominance of the water-tolerant grasses and aquatic plants. The distribution of floral species in the villus shows a pattern, which is related to the period of inundation and the depth of flooding. On the edges, where wet conditions are temporary and with mild levels of flooding, there are creeping grasses such as Cynodon dactylon. Further towards the centre of the villus where the flooding is lengthier and truly hydrophytic species such as Alternanthera sessilis, Polygonum spp., Jussiaea repens, Ipomoea aquatica, Monochoria hastata, and Scirpus grossus appear. The most widespread grass species include Hygroryza aristata, Brachiaria mutica, Echinochloa colonum, Paspalum vaginatum, Digitaria longiflora, and Paspalidium spp. In a little deeper water, floating aquatic plants occur along with Nelumbo nucifera. Still in deeper water an association of manel Nymphaea stellata and the submerged aquatic plant Ceratophyllum demersum present. Some floating plants are common in all zones of the villus. Some tree species occur in the edges of the villus are Terminalia arjuna, Madhuca longifolia, Barringtonia asiatica, Mitragyna parviflora, Erythrina variegata, and Hibiscus tiliaceus. In the northern region of the park, the forest trees teeming with species such as Drypetes sepiaria, Berrya cordifolia, Diospyros ovalifolia, Dimorphocalyx glabellus, Pterospermum canescens, Manilkara hexandra and Mitragyna parviflora.

Founa

The importance of ecology of the park is due mainly to the wide occurrence of elephants Elephas maximus estimated at about 400 within the protected area and adjacent surroundings and the rich avifauna. Although a recent 2007 study shows a much less herd of elephants in Somawathiya, 50-100 of individuals. Other notable mammalian species include jackal Canis aureus, Fishing Cat felis viverrina, Rusty-spotted Cat felis rubiginosa, leopard Panthera pardus, wild boar Sus scrofa, sambar Cervus unicolor, Water Buffalo Bubalus bubalis, Porcupine Hystrix indica, and Black-naped hare Lepus nigricollis. The flood plain marshes are rich with avifauna. Around 75 migrant species to winter in the marshes. Usual migrants include garganey Anas querquedula, Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis, Wood Sandpiper T. glareola, Pintail Snipe Gallinago stenura, Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybridus, and Black-tailed Godwit Limosa limosa. Resident birds are Painted Stork Ibis leucocephala, Openbill Stork Anastomus oscitans, Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Cattle Egret Bubulens ibis, Pond Heron Ardeola grayii, Pheasant-tailed Jacana Hydrophasianus chirurgus, Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio, White Ibis Threskiornis melanocephalus, and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. Within the forest area the following birds are seen, Crimson-fronted Barbet Megalaima haemacephala, Common peafowl Pavo cristatus, Malabar Pied Hornbill Anthracoceros coronatus, Thick-billed Flowerpecker Dicaeum agile, Common Iora Aegithina tiphia, Junglefowl Gallus lafayetii, and Golden-fronted Leafbird Chloropsis aurifrons. While Barred Buttonquail Turnix suscitator frequents the open areas, marshy northern area is visited by Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus, crested hawk eagle Spizaetus cirrhatus, Grey-headed Fish Eagle Ichthyophaga ichthyaetus, Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis, Crested Serpent-eagle Spilornis cheela, and Painted Stork Ibis leucocephala.