Thursday, February 09, 2012

Racing in Yala

I visited a friend in hospital last night, he was nursing a rather nasty gash that he had received while on holiday in Yala.

He had been in the park with some friends in a hired jeep. The driver was going very fast and the jeep hit a rut, he was thrown up, hit his head on the iron cross bar of the jeep and was left with a pretty nasty cut. After visits to the Tissamaharama and Hambantota hospitals he has now been transferred to Colombo.

The park had been packed last weekend with large queues waiting to get in. Traffic jams within the park are a frequent occurrence and judging from the descriptions people give me it seems that the parks contain more people than animals on busy long weekends.

The jeep drivers, eager to earn money are hell bent on trying to show their clients as many animals as possible, so as soon as word it received of a sighting everyone races to the spot. Quite apart from the dangers to passengers, the roar of engines must surely be disturbing the wildlife, not to mention wildlife being run over by vehicles .

My concept of visiting a sanctuary is to spend some time in quiet contemplation of nature. It seems that the jeep drivers work on the basis of trying to show as many animals in as short a period of time as possible. Regrettably some visitors seems to encourage this, a trip being rated on the basis of numbers seen rather than an overall experience.

Tourism is a good industry, it creates a lot of employment but it must be managed in such a way as to bring in long term benefits. Thoughtless, short term exploitation can ruin the product.

There is a need to regulate the number of visitors and vehicles in the park. A park that resembles the Bambalapitya junction, crawling with vehicles and people is not a park. People will be put off. Some people already asking if the experience is worth it. A visitor on the Lonely Planet website commented:

"In general, I find the Sri Lankan national parks to be over priced and where there are animals to be seen, I find them over crowded.

In Yala , before the Yala East section was opened up, I was very surprised that even when we came across an elephant, the driver or " tracker " would phone all his jeep driver mates to tell them exactly where the animal was and in a few minutes there would be so many jeeps competing for position that the animals were scared off anyway."

In the interests off all concerned, not least the animals, I hope the Wildlife and Nature Protection Society will a take a lead in regulating visitor numbers.

For some ideas on this check the link below:

Tools for visitor management

See also this appeal to photographers.


Dee said...

My uncle met the environmental minister recently. while talking about the parks, do you know what his/the ministries big plans were? To use bait and lure the leopard out so that it 'helps' tourism.

pathetic. my yala days are over. I don't want to be part of the ignorant masses who go after poor animals for their own ego.

Jack Point said...

Thanks Dee.