May to December
The Kaudulla National Park is unique in being the only national park in Sri Lanka with almost two thirds of its land area under water during several months of the year. The monumental Kaudulla Tank, from which the name of this park derives, boasts of a rich avifauna and a host of other animals including elephants and crocodiles within the folds of its shimmering shades of blue.
A slice of Sri Lankan history
The Kaudulla Tank, associated with the Kaudulla National Park, is an awe aspiring heritage of Sri Lanka’s proud hydraulic civilization that was interwoven with the island’s afro based cultural tradition and its natural resources.
The Kaudulla Tank covering a capacity of 104, 000 acre feet, built during the 3rd century A. D., was commissioned by the sister of the famous king Mahasen who built the neighboring Minneriya Tank.
It has a large and widely spread catchment area which harbors a rich biodiversity including a considerable elephant population.
Location and physical features
The Kaudulla National Park is located in the Polonnaruwa District in the North Central Province, within the Mederigiriya and Hinguraggoda Divisional Secretary Divisions of the Sinahala Patti. A mountainous mass, aligned in a north-south direction and ranging in height between 60-500 m, lies adjacent to the western boundary of the park. The Kaudulla Tank and the wide thorn scrub clad plains lie towards the eastern section of the park, while the Yoda Ela (a canal) flows from the southern to the northern boundary and proceeds beyond to Kantale. The park receives a rainfall of about 1500-2000 mm annually, but much of the rainfall is received during the north-east monsoon from November to February. This results in a dry period from April to October. Temperatures at the park range seasonally from 20.6°C to 34.5 °C in the wet and dry seasons.
A haven for elephants
Kaudulla NP is located in the heart of the dry zone elephant country where large herds of elephants (Elephas maximus maximus) congregate during the dry season. It is also in the path of several important elephant migratory routes. This makes Kaudulla NP one of the best natural habitats in Sri Lanka for viewing elephants throughout the year.
A unique biodiversity
The Kaudulla NP is unique in more ways than one. The cyclic seasonal changes in the water levels and spread of the tank creates a unique set of ecosystems which sustain a rich and diverse flora. This diversity of floral species ensures an array of food, shade and refuge for an equally diverse fauna. The availability of food and water at Kaudulla offers very favorable conditions for elephants year round, especially in the dry season. This makes observing elephants in the grasslands surrounding the tank a highlight of your visit to Kaudulla. The luxuriant vegetation that flourishes in the wet season, which includes a variety of wild grasses, provides excellent habitat and fodder for many herbivores such as sambur (Cervus unicolor), spotted deer (Axis axis ceylonensis), mouse deer (Tragulus meminna) and wild boar (Sus scrofa). Visitors to the park may also be lucky enough go see the charismatic leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) and the sloth bear Melursus ursinus).
Kaudulla NP is also one of the best sites in this part of the country to observe crocodiles (Crocodylus palustris kimbula) in the wild.
Other fascinating features of the Kaudulla Tank and adjacent wetlands are an ancient canal which runs through the park, an interesting waterway with several little islands and the rich diversity of avifauna they support, comprising both indigenous and migrant species. One can frequently see the little cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger), grey heron (Ardea cinerea), painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala) and the Asian open bill (Anastomus oscitans) associated with these waterways. The vegetation in the park belongs to the dry evergreen forest type. Here you can observe species such as Kumbuk (Terminalia arjuna). Palu (Manilkara hexandra), Weera (Drypetes sepiaria), Maila (Bauhinia racemosa) and Madan (Syzygium cumeni). The shores of the canal and waterway support verdant mature riverine forest.
A many – splendored landscape
The Kaudulla NP offers its visitors scenic beauty and a diverse wildlife in an idyllic wetland setting, with a view of elephants almost, always guaranteed. The best time for viewing elephants is in the afternoon during the dry season. Elephants tend to disperse more during the wet season, but can be seen at Aluth Oya(Stream).
(Photo credit: Anil Vithanage/ Isuru Wattage)
There are three elephants in a group, who are Mother, Baby & Mother’s sister or another female elephant. It is said that when a baby elephant is born another female elephant in the group also begins to lactate as its own mother’s milk is insufficient to sustain it. This group known as the “Thunpath Rana” is the most dangerous after the single Male Elephant( Thani Aliya ), for they would protect the calf even at the risk of their own lives.
Removing young male elephant from the herd when calf is reaching sexually maturity, is a tradition of the elephant society. They are trying to stop inbreeding for a more powerful generation of elephant. Removed single male elephant is called “Thani Aliya” and it is more aggressive. Single Male Elephant is living independently and improve his body condition & social conditions until he unite with new herd.
Kaudulla tank is located in the heart of the dry zone elephant country where large herds of elephants congregate during the dry season. This makes Kaudulla NP one of the best natural habitats in Sri Lanka for viewing elephants throughout the year.
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