News

Yala exceeding vehicle carrying capacity?  

By Pamodi Waravita 

Senior officials at the Yala National Park yesterday (26) raised concerns about the number of vehicles entering the park at a given time, noting that vehicle blocks could lead to dangerous situations, such as the recently reported incident of a tusker approaching a long line of vehicles.

“In the recent incident, Sando the tusker, approached a long line of jeeps. Sando is well known for being aggressive as he had injured another tusker a couple of years ago, and during this month alone, had attacked two jeeps. I think that our official did the best possible thing he could do, for the safety of both Sando and the people in the jeeps,” the official told The Morning yesterday. 

“There were children in the jeeps, and we heard that one foreign lady hid under the seat with her child when the tusker approached the vehicles. The problem here is that when there is a line of vehicles, and the elephant approaches, there is no way the vehicles can reverse or move due to the traffic on the small road. Although attempts have been made in the past to limit the number of vehicles entering the park, this is a very contested issue.”

The official said that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, about 700 vehicles entered the park per day, with about 350 vehicles entering during the peak morning hours. “With the slow revival of tourism these days, the park is crowded again. There are instances when many vehicles end up crowding one road, especially when there is a leopard or bear nearby as everybody wants to see these animals,” he added. 

According to the said official, attempts were made in the past to limit the number of vehicles entering the park on a given day. “However, there are many jeep drivers who depend on the income brought in by the tourists, especially these days, after tourism was halted for the past two years. There are also issues where some authorities do not like to turn tourists away from the parks, as they come specifically to see the animals.”

Video footage of Sando the tusker approaching a line of vehicles at the Yala National Park circulated on social media this week. Footage shows a firework being lit to obstruct his course, after which he turned back towards the forest.