This new park is designed to protect the immediate catchments of five reservoirs, developed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme. Conservation of these catchments is crucial to the success of the project. The park area provides refuge for wildlife, particularly elephants.
The park lies between the Polonnaruwa-Batticaloa road and Mahiyangana-Padiyatalawa road in the districts of Ampara, Badulla and Polonnaruwa and spans the border between Eastern and Uva provinces. It is surrounded on the west and north by Mahaweli development areas and on the south and east by teak planations and jungle, which are subjected to repeated slash and burn practices. Main access, from the north is 25km by road from Manampitiya, located on the Polonnaruwa-Batticaloa highway.
The easiest and most practical route from Colombo is via Kurunegala, Dambulla, Habarana, Polonnaruwa and Manampitiya: It is approximately 265 km from Colombo.
Degradation of the pre-Cambrian rock has resulted in the formation of a mature mantle and undulating peneplain, broken by a number of prominent remnants of erosion (rock outcrops and ridges). The dominant topographic feature is the 8km long range of rocky mountains in the south-west of the park. The geological regime comprises alluvium deposits and Miocene limestone. Red earth relatively fertile but easily eroded, is the predominant soil type. Water bodies, constituting over 15% of the park, include the Maduru Oya, Ulhitiya, Ratkinda, NDK and Henanigala reserviors and tributaries.of the Mahaweli and Maduru Oya river systems. The area of the Park is 58,850ha. The park was extended in the east from its original size of 51,468ha on 16th September 1985 in order to provide additional habitat for wildlife and to ensure protection of the immediate catchment. of the NDK reservoir. It is proposed to link the park with Gal Oya National Park (25,900ha) in the south via Nilgala jungle corridor (10,360ha). Major part of the park area lies between 30m and 150m. Maximum altitude is 685m.
Conditions are influenced largely by the north-east monsoon, or Maha, which lasts from October to late January. Mean annual rainfall is 1,650mm. Annual evapotranspiration rates normally exceed precipitation levels. Mean annual temperature is about 27°C.
Date and History of Establishment
Notified a national park on 9th November 1983 under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, having acquired from crown lands pursuant to the Mahaweli Authority Act, 1979.
Ruins at Henanigala, Kudawila, Gurukumbura, Uluketangoda, Werapokuna and several other places include ancient Buddhist shrines, temples, dagobas, statues and hermitages from different eras in Sri Lankan history. An ancient sluice on the old breached earthen bund of the Maduru Oya was discovered recently. The sluice, consisting of the stone slabs and bricks, is about 30ft high, 30ft wide and 219ft long. The upper sluice was built in two stages, the first of which dates back to before the 6th century BC. The lower sluice is believed to be even older. Another ancient bund, known as Watawala Kandiya, is situated 23km south of the Maduru Oya dam. Ruins of an ancient devalayas (temples) are at Verapokuna in the south. Early Brahmin inscriptions from the first to third century BC have been discovered at Kandega makanda. Veddas, Aboriginies, numbering less than a thousand people, had lived in Kandeganwela, Kotatalawa, Oambana and other places in the park prior to its declaration. The Veddas, believed to have descended from King Vijaya and Queen Kuweni, were present in Sri Lanka long before the arrival of the Sinhafaese from India in 543 BC. Traditionally hunters and gatherers, they have incresingly relied on small scale cultivations for their livelihood. Families living at Oambana have retained a traditional lifestyle to some extent.
The park is located entirely within Sri Lanka's dry zone, although its southern edge borders on the intermediate zone. The climax community of the area is tropical dry mixed evergreen forest, characterized by weera, buruta (satin), palu, welang, divul (wood apple), ehela and weliwenna. However, a major part of the forest within the park had been heavily exploited in the past for shifting cultivation. This has resulted in areas of secondary vegetation and vast stretches of open plains, dominated by the grasses illuk, and guinea grass and Pennisetum species. The herbaceous stage is succeded by shrubs, such as Lantana carnara, Ziziphus species and Cassia auriculata. The thicket stage is characterized by Trema orientails. Among the first trees to appear is Pterospermum canescens, followed by Drypetes sepiaria and Manilkara hexandra. A rare and endemic tree Vatica obscura, the only species of the Dipterocapaceae to ocs:ur in the dry zone, is found in restricted locations on the banks of the Madum Oya and Gallodai Am. A large plantation of tea.k Tectona grandis, an exotic, is included in the north eastern part of the park.
The park is important for its rich wildlife, which includes a variety of endemic species. Threatened species of mammals include elephant of which there were 150-250 prior to the park's establishment, sloth bear, leopard and water buffalo. Other mammals include slender loris, toque macaque Macaca sinica, common langur, jackal, fishing cat, wild boar, Indian muntjac, spotted deer and Sampar Small mammals include procupine, black napped hare, Indian pangolin, squirrels, rats and mice.
The rich aquatic avifauna includes painted stork, white bellied sea eagle, grey pelican, great cormorant and little cormorant P. niger. Noteworthy forest species are the endemic Sri Lanka jungle fowl, the rare broad billed roller (possibly the only location in the dry zone), common tailor-bird, shama, black hooded oriole and woodpecker and red faced malkoha, endemic to Sri Lanka, is also present.
Reptiles include tortise, common monitor, water monitor , python, krait., common cobra, mugger crocodile and estuarjne crocodile. Of fishes, barbs Barbus spp., giant gourami (possibly introduced), snake heads Channa spp., catfish and tilapia (an exotic) are predominant in the reservoirs.