Wilpattu National Park is located in the North Western Lowland Dry Zone of Sri Lanka.The park is about a 30kilometer from west of Anuradhapura and It is located 26 km from north of Puththalama (about 180 km north of Colombo). This national park may become the oldest and largest national park in the country. Wilpattu National Park is located in the Dry Zone and is unlike any other wildlife sanctuary in Sri Lanka. One of the most striking topographical features of the Vilu National Park, the unique complex of over 50 wetlands. The lake front is a shallow natural lake filled with rain water from open grassy plains in the middle of a rainforest. The park covers an area of 1,317 square kilometers (131, 693 hectares) and ranges from 0 to 152 meters above sea level. The park is named after the ‘Vilas’ (natural lakes in Sinhala) which are spread over the region. The National Park has historical significance. Ancient ruins, such as the stone pillars of the national park, have been found near the Kali Lake. Many believe that these were the ruins of the palace of Queen Kuveni, wife of King Vijaya, the first ruler of Sri Lanka.
The dry season is from May to early September and the main rainy season is from September to December. The annual rainfall is about 1000 mm and the annual temperature is about 27.2 degrees. Inter-monsoon rains in March and northeastern monsoon (December – February) are the main sources of rainfall. Plant species include Palu (Manilcar hexandra), and Satin (Chloroxylon swetenia), Milla (Vitex alticima), wera (Drypetes sepiaria), ebony (Diospyros ebenum) and wewarna (Alseodaphne semecapriflolia). 31 species of mammals have been identified in Wilpattu National Park. The endangered species identified in the Wilpattu National Park are the elephant (Eliphus maximus maximus), the lazy bear (Melurus ursinus inonatus), the leopard (Panthera perdus tiger) and the water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis). Many of Wilpattu’s species are found in sambur (rusa unicolor unicolor), stained deer (axial axis Ceylonensis), mongoose, mouse and shrew.
Birds include orchids, open bill, small cormorants, Sri Lanka’s wild bird (Gallus Lafayette) and owls, tents, mules, eagles, kites, and kangaroo buzzard in the Wilpattu National Park. The Wetland bird species found in Wilpattu are Gargani (Anas quicula), Pintail (anus acuta), Whistle tea (Dendrocygna javanica), spoon bill (Platalia leucorrhoidea), black-headed ibis (Triscornaceae) and Iabis (Triscornaceae) . The most common reptiles found in the park are the monitor lizard (Varanus bengalensis), crocodile (crocodile palustris), common cobra (naja naja), snake (Pythias mucusmala), Indian python (Python mollusus) and pond turtles. The soft-shelled turtle (Lismis panchata) lives in permanent villus.
The park was closed for security reasons around Sri Lanka’s civil war from December 1988 to March 16, 2003, before reopening for visitors 16 years later. Visitor access is currently limited to 25% of the park, and the rest is forest or scratch forest. There are many private eco-tourism groups that conduct safari throughout the year and the most popular tours are between February and October. The Wilpattu National Park is a must visit.
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