Yala National Park is home to 44 species of mammals. The elephant population of the park varies seasonally. They roam large areas and generally move with the seasons, the rain and the availability of water and food. Some elephants are mainly residents using a limited area. The total Yala protected complex probably accommodates 400-500 elephants. There are no exact data available. If adjoining Lahugala and Lunugamvehera National Parks plus adjoining forest areas outside Yala National Park are included in the estimate, then the number of elephants probably exceeds 1000.
Yala block 1 has become a very good safari park for leopard watching, boasting of one of the highest leopard densities in the world. The 140 square km block 1 provide habitat for an estimated 35-40 adult leopards. As top predator they are in a healthy condition, reproduction optimal and cubs are frequently observed.
Other interesting mammals are Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, Wild buffalo, Toque Macaque, Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, and Fishing Cat.
215 bird species are observed in Yala National Park. Common forest birds are Orange-breasted Green Pigeon, Hornbills,
Asian Paradise-flycatcher, Asian barbets, and Orioles. The common raptors of the park are Crested Serpent-eagle and White-bellied Sea Eagle. Six species are endemic: Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Wood-pigeon, Crimson-fronted Barbet, Black-capped Bulbul, and Brown-capped Babbler. Rock Pigeon, Barred Buttonquail, Indian Peafowl, Black Stork, Black-winged Stilt, and Greater Flamingo are among the other bird species.
Wetlands of Yala attract 90 species of waterbirds, 50% are migrants. Among common waterbirds are Waterfowls such as Lesser Whistling Duck, Garganey. Large waterbirds are Grey Heron, Black-headed Ibis, Eurasian Spoonbill, Asian Openbill, Painted Stork. Common Cormorants are Little Cormorant and Indian Cormorant. Other waterbirds attracted to the Yala lagoons include Lesser Flamingo, and Pelicans. The migrant Great White Pelican and the resident Spot-billed Pelican are frequently observed.
Black Necked Stork seen in Yala block 1
Resident waterfowls are Lesser Whistling Duck, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Red-wattled Lapwing, and Great Stone-curlew. During the northeast monsoon from November - February thousands of waterfowls migrate to the lagoons of Yala. Migrants observed are Northern Pintail, White-winged Tern, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel, Godwits, and Ruddy Turnstone. Occasionally rare water birds can be seen, among them the extremely rare Black-necked Stork. Other rare species include Purple Heron, Night herons, Egrets,
Purple Swamp Hen, and Oriental Darter.
Sri Lankan Marsh (Mugger) Crocodile
The coastal line of the park is visited by the five globally endangered sea turtles: Leatherback turtle, Olive Ridley, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Hawksbill turtle, and Green turtle.
There are two breeding crocodile species in Sri Lanka, both inhabiting the park. They are the commonly seen Mugger (Marsh) crocodile and the much more rarely observed Saltwater Crocodile.
The salty is observed more towards eastern Yala, in Kumana and also in the adjoining Panama areas.
FACTS, YALA NATIONAL PARK:
- Situated in the southeast region of the country
- The park covers approximately 1200 square km
- There are 3 official gates for the public into Yala. These access points are in the following areas:
- Palatupane Gate. In the Tissamaharama / Kirinda area.
- Galge Gate. Between Kataragama / Buttala.
- Kumana Gate. Near the east coast, 25 km south of Arugam Bay.
- In 1900 the British colonial administration declared parts of the present Yala N.P. a reserve under the Forest Ordinance. This forest and wildlife reserve was located between the Menik and Kumbukkan Rivers
- Also the present block 1 of Yala between Palatupana and Menik River was declared a protected area with the intention to be used for hunting by employees under the administration
- In 1938 Yala block 1 was declared a national park under the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance. Step by step larger areas were conserved; subsequently four other blocks were incorporated to the park
- Yala National Park consists of a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands.
- Yala National Park in fact is a part of wider general ecosystem in South Sri Lanka. There are six national parks and three wildlife sanctuaries in the vicinity of Yala. Ecologically, this can be considered one large protected area, connected by jungle corridors
- Yala National Park block 1 is about 140 sq.km and has one of the highest leopard densities in the world and the greatest variety of wild animals of all sanctuaries in Sri Lanka