Every single person around the world talks about the natural beauty of Sri Lanka. However, when considering with regard, the allocated natural environments for conservation purposes cannot be disregarded. All those reserved areas have a purpose either to conserve rare plants and woods or to conserve wildlife that is in the process of being endangered. There are a few such areas that are named national parks. One such place is the Wasgamuwa National Park which is a habitat for the wildlife population and a home for several ancient sites in the area. Hence, the Wasgamuwa National Park holds a significant position among the natural world on the island.
It even has a great tourist and local attraction due to its setting as well. Thus, we thought of focusing this article on this wonderful national park in Sri Lanka. Continue reading for a full overview!
History of the Park
The park was first a camping ground for the royal army during the battle between King Ellalana and King Dutugamunu. It was then ‘Kandauru Pitiya’. Later it was a habitat for predators, mainly for bears who were idle around the forest areas in the vicinity. Also, it has got the name ‘Wasgamuwa’ because of the high number of bears that this area had.
In 1938, it became a strict natural reserve, especially a part of it due to the resources and rare fauna that it houses. Then in 1984, the park became the Wasgamuwa National Park with the addition of more areas around it. When it became a national park it all together had 37,062.9 hectares. However, still, most of the parts are wilderness areas with no visitation. The Department of Wildlife Conservation governs this park at the moment.
Physical Characteristics of the Park
The formation of this park is noteworthy due to the incredible landscape features one can find around the margins of this park. In fact, the quartzite Sudukanada Range lies to the west of the park, surrounding Amban Ganga and Mahaweli Ganga. Also, it is fenced with Nugangala in the North and Udawewalamda in the South. The earth is quite soily along with the Precambrian rocks. In the north catchment, it is reddish-brown while in floodplains, it is Alluvial. Also one can find quartz and marble here and there as well. Wasgamuwa forest is a representation of dry zone dry evergreen forest in Sri Lanka. Further, the park consists of four sections; primary, secondary, riverine forest, and grasslands.
Among conserved areas on the island, Wasgamuwa National Park has one of the highest biodiversity. In fact, one can find 150 plus plant species in the park with high diversity. Most importantly, it is the house of the 1500 years old Tamarind tree, which is a highlighting feature of the park.
There are several levels of planting and growing in the forest which makes a vast space for dozens of species along with very rare plants with economic value. At the same time, reservoirs and riverine forests support the growth and the health of all these floral varieties that can be found in the park. Further, as mentioned above tropical dry mixed evergreen forest is the main vegetation type in the park. However, with the diversified geology, land, soil, and hydrological conditions, some other types of vegetation such as sub-natural vegetation are also available.
Wasgamuwa Park conserves a number of endemic species in Sri Lanka that can be rarely found within the territories of this island.
When it comes to mammals, there are around twenty-three species of mammals. The most common species that anyone can spot here are as follows.
Further, according to the records, there are around 153 bird species in the park including eight endemic species. Among them two species are the inhabitants of the park; red-faced Malkoha and Sri Lanka junglefowl. Apart from that, the following species make regular visits to the reservoirs and streams of this park.
- Lesser Adjutant
- Yellow-fronted Barbet
- Sri Lanka spurfowl
Moreover, visitors can spot the following aquatic birds in this park premise.
- Painted stork
- Black-headed ibis
- Eurasian spoonbill
Further, there are some rare species like the Chestnut-winged Cuckoo and Sri Lanka frogmouth. Almost all these species dwell around the water bodies in the park.
There are around 15 species of amphibians including 8 endemic and endangered species. Further, there are around 17 species of reptiles along with 5 endemic species. The following aquatic species belong to this list.
- Water monitor
- Estuarine crocodile
- Mugger crocodile
- Lizards like Calotes Ceylonesis, and Otocryptis Wiegmann
- Serpents like Chrysopelea taprobanica
All these are endangered species.
Along with them, there are around 17 fish species including the endemic species such as Garra Ceylonesis and combtail, and 52 butterfly species including 17 endemic ones. Since most of these animals are threatened to be endangered, the park acts as a conservation center for them, being a habitat with all facilities.
Cultural Importance of Wasgamuwa National Park
Rainwater reservoirs and ruins of several temples are shreds of evidence for the human habitats and prosperous villages that could have been established in the region. According to the features of a reclining Buddha statue at Buduruwagala, the ruins are 1800 years old.
The island in Kaling Yoda Ela and the canal which is a creation of King Parakrmabahu the great belongs to the twentieth century and this place consists of ruins of a palace with stone pillars. Along with that canal, there are ruins of the creations of the same king like Malagamuwa, Wilmithiya, and Dasthota irrigation tanks as well.
Even Amban Ganga, the place which irrigated water from Minipe anicut’s left bank to Parakrama Samudra, runs through Wasgamuwa National park. Apart from them, there are the ruins of Chulangani chaitya, a creation of King Mahanaga along with some of the artifacts recovered from the walls and bronze statues as well. Hence, this is a significant place with both nature values and ancient values which attracts dozens of people with different interests.
Location of Wasgamuwa National Park
Wasgamuwa national park is a widespread area in Matale and Polonnaruwa districts. Hence it belongs to the dry zone of the island. To reach the park from Colombo is quite a journey. There is nearly 225kms from Colombo to the park and it is more closer to Kandy. Whichever path you choose, you have to turn off at Hasalaka on Kandy-Mahiyangana road. Then you have to continue up to park via Laggala and Waligamuwa in Wilgamuwa road.
Best Time to Visit Wasgamuwa National Park
This park is in an area that has a large impact from the northeast monsoon in October-February. Thus, inter-monsoon rains occur in March-May. No landscape, no animal would be clear in the rainy season. Annual rainfall ranges between 1650-2100mm and increases from about 1750mm in the North to 2250mm in the South. Its annual daily temperature is somewhere around 28 °C (82 °F). Hence, the best time to reach the park is in the dry season which is from July to September. The heat is anyway high since it belongs to the dry zone of the country.
Threats and Conservation
The major threat is coming with human interventions to the park. Mostly the endangered plants and animals are threatened. The surrounding inhabitants release their domestic cattle to the grasslands. That can spread diseases to the wild animals in the park on one hand. On the other hand, there can be competition for grazing lands and water pools among wild animals and cattle. The harm comes towards the wild animals from both the actions and hence, humans should be more responsible. The cattle can also damage the electric fences placed around the park as well.
The other major problem is the human-elephant clash. It largely affects both parties. This illegal logging is sort of an unresolvable issue prevailing for a long time. Since the elephants enter the villages to damage their properties, the villagers make fatal attacks towards the elephants which also damages the creatures. Either an elephant transit home should be located or resettlement for the dislocated people should be established as a solution to this issue. The environmentalists declare that if this continues to happen no less than bizarre issues can occur along with a threatened environment for wildlife.
The Bottom Line
Above all, the Wasgamuwa National Park is simply a must-visit, owing to all its specialties. In fact, the pleasant surroundings it houses, the wide array of wildlife it shelters, and the amazing photographic opportunities it offers, delight many. Hence, if you are to visit Sri Lanka any sooner, make sure that you visit this wonderful national park. It is certainly going to be a decision that you never regret. Happy and Safe Travelling!