August 2019


Spot the Big Three in Yala
August 2019




Perfectly blending with the natural wilderness in Yala.

Yala National Park, a wildlife sanctuary bordering the south-eastern coast of Sri Lanka, is home to the most enigmatic of creatures - the leopard, majestic elephants and elusive sloth bears.

Words and Photography: Priyantha Talwatte.

Worldwide, the highest density of leopards within a natural wilderness is found in Yala National Park. As the apex predator in Sri Lanka, it can be seen roaming during dawn and dusk (mature adults) and during day time (the cubs and young adults). While the mature leopards are stealthy and elusive, the young adults and cubs sometimes play in broad daylight on the man-made road network, open areas and near water bodies. Wildlife enthusiasts and visitors can spot leopards around the year. However, the frequency increases during the dry season from May to October. Leopards would visit the remaining few water holes to quench their thirst.


Herds of elephants and sloth bears can also be seen on a safari to Yala. The sloth bear is native to the Indian subcontinent and is lankier than brown and Asian black bears. It feeds on fruits, ants and termites. The bear season in Yala is during May where they climb Palu tree (Manilkara hexandra) to eat its fruit. Sometimes they feast so much, one could see them sleeping under a tree for a couple of days. The rains also attract them to break termite mounds easily and feast on them. You could never predict a bear encounter, but when you do, the sighting is memorable.


Elephants are seen almost on all days. The herd is led by the matriarch, an older experienced female elephant, and her related sisters or daughters and the juvenile males and calves. The sighting of an elephant herd is always a thrilling experience where one could witness their exciting interactions. Out of the Asian elephants, only about five per cent of males bear tusks, and Yala has been home to many legendary tuskers. It continues to attract a large number of tuskers regularly from the herds within and from the adjoining parks. At present, there are about eight different tuskers seen in Yala.


Yala could be experienced over a three to four nights stay. One needs to be out early at first light. A second trip could be undertaken in the afternoon to return at sunset before the park closes. A good guide will always add value to the experience by carefully following the sounds of the wild to reveal the Big Three of Yala.

 

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    The majestic tusker in its natural habitat is an awe-inspiring sight.

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    Sighting of a bear is a memorable experience.

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    During the dry season, visitors can frequently spot leopards around the remaining water holes.

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