By:Staff WriterColombo (LNW): The present government is to take prompt action to set up a safari sanctuary in the Northern Province soon while focusing attention on five national parks, nine wildlife sanctuaries (four existing and five new) and five jungle corridors.
This will be Sri Lanka’s largest wildlife destination, promising sea and land experience. Declaring these proposed wildlife sanctuaries in the North will bring about, not only conservation, but many other sociol-cultural, political, economic and environmental benefits, official sources said.
It is believed that some important archeological sites are also located in the proposed areas. Some wetlands Chundikulam and Jaffna lagoon can be declared wetlands of international importance under the Ramsar Convention.
After the war’s end, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) with the support of United Nations Development Project (UNDP) and United Nations Environment Project (UNEP) did an ‘Integrated Strategic Environmental Assessment’ (ISEA) for the districts of Jaffna, Mullaitivu, Kilinochchi and Mannar.
The report suggested that three wildlife sanctuaries be upgraded to national park status. It also recommended two new national parks, five jungle corridors and five wildlife sanctuaries. It said the Vavunikulam wildlife sanctuary needed to be expanded by adding adjoining forest areas and removing human settlements.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe has instructed the Agriculture, Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera to look for suitable land for setting up a 1000-acre safari sanctuary in the Northern Province.
At present, no separate safari sanctuary has been established in the Northern Province .Most of the sanctuaries and zoos are located in other parts of the country. So the people of the 05 districts of the Northern Province have to come to visit the zoos in the south.
Minister Amaraweera in turn has directed the Ministry Secretary as well as the Wildlife Director General and the Forest Resources Department Director General to look into suitable land for the new safari sanctuary to be established in the Northern Province.
The Minister also informed that the possibility of introducing certain species of animals that are present in the national zoos as well as the species that are currently spread in urban areas and are harmful to people’s gardens to this park should also be investigated.
The Northern Province of Sri Lanka has a rich biodiversity of fauna and flora. Its various fauna species include elephant, leopard, bear and crocodile. Some varieties of flora are exclusive to the Province. Famous for birds, the region is the main entry point for migratory species.
The Province has a number of coastal and offshore habitats such as mangroves, sea grass beds, lagoons and estuaries, salt marshes, sand dunes and beaches, coral reefs, mud flats and isolated islands that function as critical habitats for marine mammals, birds and sea birds.
In the Northern seas, whales, including blue whales, turtles, dolphins, dugongs, sharks and other sea species can be found.
However, the region is yet to be fully explored in terms of conservation or tourism. The Government must declare its proposed wildlife reserves soon before these get exploited for commercial gain by unscrupulous business interests or other human interventions.
Since the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance No. 2 of 1937 was enacted, the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) has been declaring wildlife reserves (as national parks, wildlife sanctuaries, jungle corridors) under its mandatory power. This Ordinance was amended several times, lastly in 2009.
The only seven wildlife sanctuaries declared in the Northern Province are the Madhu Road (1968), Chundikulam (1938), Giant Tank (1954), Vankalai (2008), Vavunikulam Tank (in 1963), Paraithivu (1973), and Kokkilai (1951) wildlife sanctuaries.