Gal Oya National Park
Established in 1954, the Gal Oya
National Park is in the southeast of Sri Lanka, West of Ampara about 314
kilometres away from Colombo. The Gal Oya Development Board was set up
to protect the catchment area of the Senanayake Samudra Reservoir and
then handed over to the Department of Wildlife Conservation in 1965.
Part of the national park is Inginiyagala which is famous for its
unique wildlife, elephants and ecology created by the forest and the
largest reservoir in Sri Lanka.
The Senanayake Samudra was built by damming the Gal Oya at
Inginiyagala in 1950. An important feature of the Gal Oya National Park
is that elephants can be seen throughout the year. Three important herbs
in Ayurveda medicine are among the popular plants of the forest.
The Gal Oya Development Board set up many protected sites to conserve
and sustain the catchment areas of the Senanayake Samundra and several
other reservoirs which helped prevent soil erosion caused by burning the
Thalawa grassland by the villagers. The protected areas established in
1954 are Gal Oya National Park, Senanayake Samudra Sanctuary, Gal Oya
valley north-east Sanctuary, and Gal Oya Valley South-East Sanctuary.
These reserves cover 63,000 hectares of land in the national park.
Administration and protection of the four protected areas, reducing
human-elephant clashes and enforcing the flora and fauna ordinance are
among the duties of the department and rangers are stationed in four
sites encompassing Inginiyagala, Mullegama, Nilgala and Baduluwela. In
1974, the Buddhangala Sanctuary was also designated. Buddhangala is a
monastery with ruins of a stupa and other buildings in the nearby
Malwattai area and thousands of pilgrims visit the Dighavapi stupa
annually. The stupa was built in the second century BC on the site where
the Buddha is supposed to have meditated on his third visit to Sri
Lanka. Danigala has historical importance as it was the home to the
Henebadde Veddahs. A rock near the Henebedde cave contains Brahmi
The elevation of the park varies from 30 m to about 900 m. Danigala,
Nilgala, and Ulpotha are the mountains of the park. Birdís Island in the
reservoir is an island used by birds for nesting. At the place where Gal
Oya falls to the reservoir, water flows in a natural tunnel known as
Makara Kata (Sinhalese for dragonís mouth) or simply Makara.
The vegetation of the forest is forest, shrub and grassland. The
national park contains a substantial area of Savanna grasslands known as
Thalawa in Sinhala and mountainous grasslands known as Pathana.
There have been 32 terrestrial mammals in the park including
elephants and axis deer endemic to Sri Lanka with a wide variety of
birds. Illegal logging has cleared 30 acres of the forest and smuggling
of medicinal plants also has been recorded.
There are not many ranger staff who work here, so it has been
difficult to enforce the law.