November 2017

Wild and Free at Lunugamvehera
November 2017

A mesmerising view of the Weheragala reservoir

There is no better way to understand our relationship with nature than to encounter it first-hand. Lunugamvehera National Park in the dry zone of Sri Lanka is a national treasure, rich in biodiversity where magnificent animals, beautiful birds and unique plants can be witnessed in their element.

Words and Photography: Raveendra Siriwardene

The Lunugamvehera National Park is one of the many sanctuaries in Sri Lanka that have been established in the interest of wildlife. This verdant park, situated 261 kilometres southwest of Colombo, is an epicentre of lush greenery and wildlife.

The park is an important habitat for water birds as well as elephants, and it was designated as a national park on December 8, 1995 to protect the catchment area of the Lunugamvehera reservoir.

Lunugamvehera is also a pathway for wild elephants to migrate between Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park.

Climate and Weather

Situated in the dry zone of the island, the climate is affected by a bimodal seasonal rainfall pattern, thus resulting in scorching temperatures ranging from 30 to 33 degrees (86 - 91°F). The harsh weather exposes the park to drought, which is relieved by the Southwest Monsoons from July through September every year. The magnitude of the monsoons is large; Thanamalvila situated nearby receives a 1,000 millimetres (39 in) of rainfall annually, all thanks to this mega monsoon. The area is vital to maintain the water level in five tanks of Kirindi Oya, which provide water for agriculture and wildlife.

Entrance to the park

The park office is at Lunugamvehera along the Wellawaya – Hambantota road. The other entrance along the Buttala – Kataragama road is at Galge Wildlife beat office point (also the entrance to Yala Block III, IV and V).

The park, rich in biodiversity, expands for 23,498 hectares, while the reservoir occupies 14 per cent of this land - 3,283 hectares. It is home to elephants and buffaloes along with 21 fish species, 12 amphibians, 33 reptiles, 183 birds and 43 mammals. The Sri Lankan leopard, fishing cat, jungle cat, ruddy mongoose, king mongoose and sloth bear can be seen wandering around in the wild here. Other animals commonly found at the Lunugamvehera park are the wild boar, spotted deer, mouse deer, Sri Lankan sambar deer, grizzled giant squirrel, Sri Lankan axis deer, and Asian palm civet.

During the rainy season, the park is blanketed with a glamorous sheet of greenery.

Plant species of the forest include Weera (Drypetes sepiaria), Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Ceylon Oak (Schleichera oleosa). Towering Hik or Indian Ash Tree (Lannea coromandelica) as well as Karuwala or Ebony (Diospyros ovalifolia) trees can also be seen. Teak and eucalyptus plantations are two other prominent species found in the park. Providing food, shelter and protection for animals, scrub and grasslands are an important feature of the national park as well.

The Lunugamvehera National Park, continues to provide an excellent habitat for resident and migratory animals, fauna and flora.

In Sri Lanka, the conservation of ‘wild nature' for the future generations and as a symbol of national pride is of great importance.