Kokkilai Sanctuary


Kokkilai Sanctuary is a bird and wildlife sanctuary located in northeastern Sri Lanka. The sanctuary covers an area of 1,995 hectares (4,930 acres) and is surrounded by mangrove swamps, sea grass beds, cultivated land, scrub, and open forests. Under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, it was designated as a bird sanctuary on May 18, 1951.

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Flora and Fauna
Mangrove swamps and seagrass beds partly surround Kokkilai Lagoon. The surrounding area includes cultivated land, scrub, and open forests. The sanctuary is home to various water and wader birds, including cormorants, ducks, egrets, flamingoes, herons, ibis, pelicans, and storks. In addition, it is a haven for birds migrating along Sri Lanka's east coast. In addition to birds, elephants are also found in the sanctuary.

Despite being a protected area, Kokkilai Sanctuary has faced several threats. First, the sanctuary has been subject to illegal deforestation, with 1,000 acres bulldozed in 2010, destroying up to 3,000 weaver bird nests. Environmentalists are worried about this because they think it could hurt the wildlife in the sanctuary and change how birds migrate.

Government Plans
After the Sri Lankan Civil War, the government said it wanted to turn several sanctuaries in the Northern Province, including Kokkilai, into national parks. However, Kokkilai remains only a sanctuary. In 2015, four new national parks were created in the Northern Province, but Kokkilai needed to be included.

Best time to Visit
The best time to visit Kokkilai Sanctuary is during the dry season, which runs from May to September. During this time, the weather is generally sunny and dry, making spotting birds and wildlife in the sanctuary easier. However, visitors should be prepared for high temperatures, especially in July and August. It's also important to note that the sanctuary can become crowded during the peak tourist season in August. For those who prefer cooler temperatures and fewer crowds, October to April may be a better time to visit, although occasional rainfall may occur.

How to Reach
Kokkilai Sanctuary is located approximately 25 km (16 mi) southeast of Mullaitivu in northeastern Sri Lanka. Here are some ways to reach the sanctuary:

By Road: Visitors can take a taxi or hire a car from Colombo or other major Sri Lankan cities to reach the sanctuary. The journey from Colombo takes around 7-8 hours, while the journey from Trincomalee takes about 3-4 hours. From Mullaitivu, visitors can take a taxi or a tuk-tuk to reach the sanctuary.

By Train: The nearest railway station to Kokkilai Sanctuary is the Mankulam Railway Station, approximately 40 km (25 mi) from the sanctuary. Visitors can take a taxi or bus from the railway station to the sanctuary.

By Air: The nearest airport to Kokkilai Sanctuary is the Bandaranaike International Airport in Colombo. Visitors can take a taxi or hire a car to reach the sanctuary from the airport. The journey takes around 7-8 hours. Alternatively, visitors can take a domestic flight from Colombo to the Palali Airport in Jaffna, approximately 120 km (75 mi) from the sanctuary. Again, visitors can take a taxi or bus to the sanctuary from the airport.
It's important to note that some roads in the area may be damaged or difficult to navigate due to the region's past conflict. Therefore, visitors are advised to check local conditions before travelling and to hire a knowledgeable guide if necessary.

Kokkilai Sanctuary is an imperative sanctuary in Sri Lanka. It is known for its large number of birds and elephants. However, it faces several threats, including illegal deforestation. In addition, the government's plans to convert it into a national park have raised concerns among environmentalists. Still, the suggestions to include Nai Aru Lagoon in the sanctuary's protection are a good step toward preserving its diversity.


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