Aug 21, Colombo: Following the recent incident at Yala National Park where a tusker named Gemunu was feared injured by a stray rifle bullet, environmentalists in Sri Lanka have called on the government to develop a sustainable visitor management plan for National Parks.
Environmentalist have expressed grave concern and called on the government to prevent such instances in the future by ensuring that park regulations are met by visitors to the National Parks.
The Federation of Environmental Organizations of Sri Lanka (FEOSL) issuing a statement has said Gemunu's incident was a result of an unplanned, unregulated and irresponsible wildlife tourism visits that threaten the protected national park.
According to the statement, an army officer and entourage, on duty supervising the "Pada Yatra" pilgrimage through the Park were amidst the scene when the shots were fired into the air by the army officer to scare the elephant away.
"According to the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance under no circumstances should a service weapon be discharged in a National Park at a wild animal, other than by a member of the Department of Wildlife Conservation. Therefore the incident is a clear violation of national park laws," the FEOSL said in the statement.
The statement noted that a National Park is an exclusive space set aside for the conservation of wildlife and therefore the protection, safety and wellbeing of wildlife within the parks are paramount and remain the primary purpose.
"National Parks are also national assets. Visitation should be considered a privilege. Visitors must respect this privilege. Regrettably, with the rapid development and emphasis on wildlife tourism, there is an increasing trend where adherence to rules and regulations that govern visitation are not followed. Indiscipline among visitors and tour service providers is rising."
The FEOSL has called on the Minister of Wildlife Conservation to expedite measures to curb visitor related infractions in National Parks; Compel the Department of Wildlife Conservation to enforce the park regulations and rules; and together with the relevant line ministries and stakeholders develop a sustainable visitor management plan for National Parks.