Crowding Out the Wildlife

In December 2016, a committee of relevant stakeholders, including representatives of safari jeep drivers, was appointed by the then Prime Minister to look into the problems caused by over-visitation of the Yala National Park; to try and reverse the poor international image that it had begun to receive and to prepare a plan of action to reverse this trend. Visitors to this island were beginning to specifically state that while wanting to experience the wildlife of Sri Lanka, they did not wish to visit Yala due to its “bad press” from previous visitors. This was despite them having seen most of the wildlife of the park, including the leopard, elusive in most other parts of the world but readily seen during the day in Yala.

Thus, “An action plan for improving the overall wildlife tourism experience in Yala National Park” was developed. This comprehensive document addressed the needs of all of the stakeholders while ensuring the protection and wellbeing of the ecology of the park and its wild inhabitants. Yet, as with many other such progressive initiatives, nothing was done to act on it, and nothing probably will, especially as the country is now under different leadership. Despite the regime under which the Action Plan was developed, it has no politically motivated recommendations. It is in the interest of the current regime to improve the quality of the wildlife viewing experience in Sri Lanka’s premier national park so that the country can earn much needed foreign revenue not just today, but in the future too.

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