Friday, January 4, 2013

The NEWS that 900,000 people visited Yala in 2012 – you call it a National Park!!! You must be kidding!!!

Just think about it. If you know the size of the Ruhunu National Park that is open to visitors, and are told 900,000 visitors went around that in 2012 between 6am and 6pm, the hours the place is open to the public, you would if you were a reasonable person think it crazy.

Of course as there appears to be no one reasonable who has expressed shock horror at that statistic, I can only assume that there are NO reasonable humans left in Sri Lanka, a fault of our education system. KALPANAKARANNA.

If you were a leopard what would you say? You just hate living there. You could not stand the fumes of the gas guzzling poorly maintained jeeps. I would argue the air in Colombo is cleaner than in Yala! To put it bluntly if I were an animal I would hate these humans trundling and speeding from one sighting to another, with madly anxious jeep drivers, trying to show the visitors as many animals as possible.

How many people have gone to see a leopard sighting where within minutes of that an unimaginable number of jeeps come to disturb the peace? I remember the days where one would at most see 3 or 4 vehicles on a whole session in the Park. I have NO desire to ever go to Yala. I just cherish the memories of the many visits there in the 60’s and 70’s when I visited the place most, and stayed in the Park Bungalows long before the Ondachchi Bungalow was even built, and before some were burnt during the conflict. I am  now voting with my feet.

I know locals pay an admission fee that is a fraction of that of the overseas visitors, and thereby we permit local people of average means from visiting the Parks, some in overcrowded vehicles and vans, that reduce the cost per head of a journey there.

I may sound callous, but at this level of tourists, Is anyone really enjoying the visit? Are we killing the goose that lays the golden egg? If nothing is done immediately there will hardly be a Yala for us to visit in future. I am tempted to cap the visits to no more than 500,000 per annum. No ifs and buts. If I really had my way it would be less than 250,000. As that is too harsh a drop, we can settle at the earlier figure, but we must also increase entrance fees to locals, as tourists now pay a relatively high rate when compared to the similar experience in other countries. After all the number of large animals one can see in this park, as compared with the private game parks in South Africa, there is no comparison.


Anonymous said...

The problem of larger number of park visitors should only get worse unless things are managed. Once the southern expressway reaches Yala from Colombo, you're even going to get some day-trippers not to mention the hordes of tourists both foreign and domestic.

Rather than shutting people out completely, there should be a way to manage this problem so that 900,000+ get their nature experience while also not disturbing the delicate balance of nature. It is only for the better if more numbers can get their experience with nature as it can lead to economic development in the way of jobs related to the industry plus greater environmental preservation in the process.

My suggestions include:

1. develop more areas for wildlife preservation and viewing and promote them in the same way as Yala. SL has plenty of places that the locals can go other than Yala but Yala is held out as the best place to go. A little marketing of the other existing areas and diversification into more protected areas will only be a good thing in the way of environmental protection, education, and enjoyment balanced with economic development

2. within the preserved areas, divide the parks into zones and designate limits on the numbers of visitors allowed to venture into any zone at a particular time, or over the course of a year. once the limits have been reached, the area must be allowed to remain at peace without any more jeeps or visitors for a given time.

3. raise the fees specifically for Yala to bring the visitor numbers down there (and get the same amount of revenue or more) but promote the viewing of other protected areas with the same low prices as Yala had before. Eventually all of the prices will have to increase as numbers of visitors increase but this will allow for more revenue to be collected to manage the protected areas while also managing the numbers of visitors. part of the problem is that the current management isn't run well on market principles, as demand is very high in Yala but the prices have stayed the same! If the prices are higher than in Africa, tough luck as the area is much smaller and the demand on that area is greater. follow the Bhutan model rather than the Burkina Faso model please.

4. hire more rangers to protect and manage the reserves rather than everyone and their brother becoming a tour guide that brings larger and larger numbers of people to the park without concurrent increase in park management personnel. there are many jobs that are created by the industry, including park staff, rangers, hotel staff, regulators, not to mention tour guides. there needs to be a good balance between all of these which currently is a problem.

Anonymous said...

time to get some of our universities to develop some "nature park management" courses and get some qualified personnel out there! Hopefully they'll not decide to protect the outback "park" in australia (it's actually a desolate wasteland) rather than our own beautiful nature reserves.

Bimal said...

I completely agree with you. Last time I was in Yala was during a rainy season but still it was so congested with traffic that a herd of elephants were finding it difficult to cross the road.

I suggested (to someone I know who spends a lot of time in Yala block 2) a system where visitors purchase their tickets in advance (possibly via internet) and only a limited number of tickets will be issued for a day.

He rejected it with a hearty laugh saying that none of the people involved (authorities, trackers, jeep drivers) would agree to it as everyone seem to want the numbers to go up and not down. Infact, there is a board at the wildlife museum in Yala proudly displaying a chart which graphically shows the increasing visitor numbers.

Where are our priorities I ask you!