There is a liveliness in the cool, salt tinged breeze, the soft rustling of leaves and the effervescence of foam upon the beach, that blends with the distant call of a wild peacock, the trumpeting of elephants or the belling of an exited sambhur. Their harmony gives character and enchantment to the national parks of Sri Lanka, perhaps the oldest in Asia.
These national parks are not the forbidding, dense tropical jungles usually depicted in books. Nor are they reeking with deadly venomous snakes or inhabited by fearsome animals waiting behind every tree to devour human beings. No. They are composed of vast expanses of unspoilt forests with a magnificent sea frontage and a landscape of rocky outcrops, scrub jungle and lush green plains. Through years of assiduous protection the animals have become trusting and unafraid. Staying inside his vehicle, a visitor can approach to within 20 yards of a herd of elephants, photograph leopard at 15 feet or take close ups of a variety of birds.
The mood in these parks or in any wild places in Sri Lanka is the same, the inebriating music of waking birds at dawn, the beckoning sea or river or jungle pool at midday, the animals themselves grazing or browsing or killing for their food before nightfall, the peace and tranquillity of evening before the crickets and nightjars take over the night’s vigil. These are the intangible things we yearn for, to obtain relief from the jangling telephones or the soulless throb of machines. We enjoy this mood, we are re created. We invite others to do the same, we must preserve them for those who come after us.
For a comparatively small island of some 26,000 sq miles, Sri Lanka is blessed with 109 different kinds of mammals, nearly 400 varieties of birds, a good selection of reptiles and a spectacular aquatic fauna in the rivers and coral reefs. For over 2000 years, around the time Buddhism was introduced to this country, some form of protection has been afforded to wild animals until today and it is achieved in two principal ways – by setting apart specified areas for fauna and flora, by the enforcement of laws through legislative enactments.
Into the first category fall the national parks and sanctuaries which to the layman are the most interesting. A sanctuary is a place where human activity is permitted without animals being shot, frightened, killed, injured or disturbed. Today, many sanctuaries have been declared for specific purposes, such as the protection of birds or of elephants or as buffers to a park or as places having religious significance. To know more about these sanctuaries and wildlife parks in Sri Lanka, you can go to Exinkai archives and search for them. This article is just to give you a rough idea about wildlife in the island nation.