Lahugala Kitulana National Park
Lahugala National Park is one of the tiniest national parks in Sri Lanka. Notwithstanding its land space, the park is a crucial habitat for Sri Lankan elephants and endemic birds of Sri Lanka. The national park includes the reservoirs of Lahugala, Kitulana and Sengamuwa, and they are eventually cleared to the Heda Oya river. Formerly it was assigned as a wildlife sanctuary on July 1 of 1966. Then the protected zone was enhanced to a national park on October 31 of 1980. Lahugala Kitulana is located 318 km east of Colombo. This national park is utilised by elephants traditionally as a feeding territory. Furthermore, many wetland birds are found in Lahugala.
Despite its small land area, the park is a must-visit destination for nature lovers and wildlife enthusiasts. National Park was designated a wildlife sanctuary on July 1st, 1966, and later upgraded to a national park on October 31st, 1980. It is located 318 km east of Colombo and covers an area of 15.64 square kilometres. The park's annual rainfall is about 1,650 millimetres, and the terrain is flat with occasional rocky outcrops. The park is also known for the nearby Magul Maha Vihara, which was built for the marriage of King Kavantissa to Princess Viharamahadevi.
Flora and Fauna
The national park's vegetation is classified into Sri Lanka dry-zone dry evergreen forests. The dominant grass species, Sacciolepis interrupta, is a primary food source for elephants. Elephants traditionally use the park as a feeding ground, and a herd of 150 is attracted by the Sacciolepis interrupta grass, which is expected around the Lahugala tank.
In addition to the Sri Lankan elephant, the park is home to numerous other mammalian species, such as the endemic Toque Macaque, Tufted Gray Languor, Sloth Bear, Indian Muntjac, Golden Jackal, Fishing Cat, Sri Lanka Leopard, Wild Boar, Sri Lankan Axis Deer, Rusty-spotted Cat, Sri Lankan Sambar Deer, Indian Pangolin, and Indian Hare.
Additionally, the park is a sanctuary for bird observers. Lahugala Kitulana is home to numerous wetland birds, such as the Great White Pelican, the purple heron, the Painted Stork, the Lesser Adjutant, Anas spp., the White-bellied Sea Eagle, the Grey-headed Fish Eagle, the Common Kingfisher, the Stork-billed Kingfisher, and the White-throated Kingfisher. There are also records of Spot-billed Pelicans, Asian Openbill, and Wooly-necked Stork visiting the wetland. The last recorded sighting of the Knob-billed Duck now considered extinct in Sri Lanka, occurred here. Red-faced Malkoha and Sri Lanka Spur Fowl are endemic birds in the park.
Visiting the Park
The park recently opened its doors to visitors, and instead of vehicles, visitors can observe at viewpoints designated by the park. The northeast monsoon period from November to December disperses the animals from the tank and turns the park lush green. A trip to Lahugala Kitulana National Park will surely leave you entranced about Sri Lankan wildlife.
Threats and Conservation
Sri Lanka, Wildlife Conservation Society, has initiated a task to establish an electric fence to protect four villages near the park's southern boundary. Poaching, logging, fuel wood collection, and grazing are the prominent threats to the park. To ensure the park will be around for a long time, dealing with these problems and using sustainable conservation methods is essential.