Yala National Park
Recording the highest leopard density in the world, Yala National Park is the most visited and second largest national park in Sri Lanka. The park covers 979 square kilometers (378 sq miles) and is located about 300 kilometers from the capitol Colombo. The park is situated in the dry semi-arid climatic region and rain is received mainly during the northeast monsoon. The Park hosts a variety of ecosystems ranging from moist monsoon forests to freshwater and marine wetlands. It is one of the 70 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka. The park has recorded about 215 bird species including six endemic species with about 44 species of mammals consisting of Elephants and Leopards. Water is abundant after the northeast monsoon, but during the dry season surface water becomes an important factor. The bodies of surface water appear in the forms of streams, tanks, waterholes, rock pools, and lagoons where animals gather for water making it easier to see animals during the dry season near the water.
Of the 44 known mammal species found at Yala the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, Sri Lankan Leopard, Sri Lankan Elephant and the Wild water buffalo are found to be threatened species. Toque Macaque, Golden Palm Civet, Red Slender Loris, and Fishing Cat are among the other mammals that can be seen in Yala. About 46 reptile species can be found at Yala and five of them are endemic. The coastal line of the park is visited by the all five globally endangered sea turtles. The two breeding crocodile species of Sri Lanka, Mugger crocodile and Saltwater Crocodile inhabit the park. The Indian Cobra and Russell's viper are among the other reptiles. There are 18 amphibians species that have been recorded from Yala while two are endemic to Sri Lanka. The waterways and lakes provide ideal habitat for fresh water fish and records indicate 21 species of fresh water fishes inhabit the waters of the park. Crabs and prawns include the fauna in the lagoons of the park. A variety of butterfly species are also found here.
Yala been a wild life sanctuary has been a center of past civilizations. A large number of ancient tanks are the evidence of a rich hydraulic and agricultural civilisation dating back to 5th century BC. Situlpahuwa, which was the home for 12,000 Buddhist monks is situated within the park area along with Magul Vihara, which built in 87 BC and Akasa Chaitiya, which constructed in 2nd century BC.