Safari at minneriya_national_park


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Safari at minneriya_national_park

  1. 1. Safari at Minneriya national park Sri LankaIn Sri Lanka there is no better place to watch elephants in wild than Minneriya NationalPark. Located roughly midway between the Habarana junction and the ancient 10thcentury ruins of Polonnaruwa on the A11 road, Minneriya was a favorite haunt ofenterprising tour guides long before it was officially declared a National Park in 1988.Encompassing the extensive Minneriya tank and the more modest Giritale tank, the 7529hectare park attracts hundreds of elephants during the dry season, particularly from Julyto October, as surrounding water sources steadily dry up.Extremely intelligent, social creatures, Asian elephants (Elephus maximus maximus)make for remarkable viewing by seasoned wildlife enthusiasts and casual observers alike.It is truly impossible not to be impressed with the sheer bulk of a fully grown adult, butequally extraordinary from the point of view of an onlooker is the network of complexsocial interaction that characterize a herd of the subtle dexterity with which an individualmight wield its trunk while nimbly browsing. Thats apart from the delightfully clumsymovements of a fuzzy month-old baby or the swaggering gait and sonorous rumbling of amusthing bull as he tries to cut a targeted cow from the herd mate.The natural cycle for the elephants of the region sees them travel in small herds of 10 to20 during the wet season, feeding on the lush vegetation brought out by the rains. Thesescattered groups start to coalesce as the year wears on and the ponds and smaller tanksdisappear. As the mighty Minneriya tank remains throughout the season, it is here thedisparate herd’s journey, meeting up with each other to form larger, loose-knitassociations. Eventually, when the dry season is at its apex, a daily ritual unfoldswhereby all the elephants in the area gravitate to the grassy plains exposed by thereceding waters of the tank.While elephants are the main attraction at Minneriya, the park is worth a visit for morethan just its elephants. A wide variety of water birds enjoy the bountiful harvest providedby the rich aquatic ecosystem. These include delicately hued painted storks (Mycterialeucocephala), slender and graceful grey herons (Ardea cinerea), and the diminutiveruddy turnstone (arenaria interpres). Profuse congregation of little cormorants(Phalacrocorax niger) are not uncommon, sometimes numbering in the tousands, andgreat white pelicans (Pelicanus anocrotalus) can also be frequently seen gliding low tosettle on the lake’s shimmering surface.At one time the Asian elephant roamed the entire island from the lofty heights ofHortonsPlains to the sun-kissed coastal waters that greet the land and all points of thecompass. In the past three centuries, however, these ponderous pachyderms have beendrastically reduced in number due to habitat loss, conflict with humans over agricultureland, war and poaching. Now restricted almost entirely to the lowland dry-zone region ofthe country, it is only a doomed handful of elephants that still tread the odd up-countryforest paths at Sinharaja, Peak Wilderness and the area around Matale.
  2. 2. All is far from bleak, however, and it is encouraging that despite the restrictions imposedon wildlife by Sri Lankas relatively small size and high human density, a mammal that isas large and requires as much space as the elephant continues to survive in numbers.Minneriya and its surrounds exemplify this precarious equilibrium between humans andelephants. Forests connections to nearby Kaudulla, Somawathie Chaitiya, Flood Plainsand Wasgamuwa National Parks ensure a vast tract of quality elephant habitat in thevicinity of Minneriya. At the same time this is the centre of what some of the mostintensively famed is and productive paddy land in the country. In the face of thismoderate success, however, there is no doubt that the maintenance of an effective balancebetween elephants and people on the island is on of the most pressing current issues fromboth a social and conservation perspective in Sri Lanka.Source Holiday in sri lanka