Management of Wilpattu National Park and its Influence Zones
Project title: Management of Wilpattu National Park and its Influence Zones
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Sri Lanka
Lead executing agency: Ministry of Tourism Development, Wildlife and Christian Religious Affairs
Overall term: 2015 to 2022
Encompassing almost 130,000 hectares, Wilpattu is among the country's largest and oldest protected areas. Wilpattu is known worldwide for its leopard population. During the 26-year civil war, the park was at times the front line between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and the Sri Lankan military. Following demining operations, the park was reopened to visitors in 2009.
People around the national park depend largely on the available natural resources and are generally engaged in subsistence agriculture. Alternative opportunities for employment and generating income are insufficient, resulting in poaching, illegal fishing, the expansion of residential and agricultural areas and timber extraction. This in turn puts great pressure on the park’s natural resources, while the decrease in migration corridors for elephants increases crop failures for farmers.
Wilpattu National Park is located on the border of the historical ‘cultural triangle’ between the cities of Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, and therefore has the potential to become a regional centre for eco-sensitive tourism. Appropriate park management can combine biodiversity protection with economic potentials.
The management of the Wilpattu National Park is better oriented towards the development needs of the local population.
Improving management and infrastructure
The project is improving the management and infrastructure of Wilpattu National Park. Examples of the cooperation with the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation include securing the habitats of certain animals, the improved management of elephant fences and better patrol plans for reducing poaching.
In addition, the project provides training measures for designing non-discriminatory and inclusive participation processes, as well as support for applying the do-no-harm principle and human rights standards during implementation of the management plan.
The project is also preparing a concept for a visitor information and guidance system to handle the increasing numbers of visitors, which will boost the park’s appeal to visitors in the process. A monitoring system will observe the impact that tourism has on the park’s resources.
Better conditions for more sustainable use of marine resources
The project is facilitating a process for negotiating a voluntary renunciation of destructive resource use with fishers and fishing cooperatives in exchange for the promotion of sustainable methods. Staff members from the Sri Lankan Department of Wildlife Conservation are being trained for this purpose. A system for monitoring biodiversity and human activities will be set up for the long-term surveillance of marine resources, for which the project will provide the necessary technical equipment.
Improved access to sustainable income opportunities
The project is devising village development plans and implementing selected measures as compensation measures for the loss of resource use, primarily those that strengthen resilience to climate change. For example, the project includes the processing and marketing of agricultural products from activities such as beekeeping, using medicinal plants, and community-based forestry. The focus is on training local residents in tourist services.
Raising environmental awareness and supporting peaceful coexistence
The project is using the National Park to raise environmental awareness and support peaceful coexistence. The various village communities engage in dialogue at joint events, for example on tourism development. State and civil society institutions are being enabled to continue visitor programmes after the end of the project period, thus enhancing environmental awareness.
A participatory process has resulted in a management plan that forms the basis for the implementation of prioritised measures to improve park management.
Together with scientists from the university at Vavuniya, a 4.2-kilometre-long fence with an improved design (hanging fence) has been erected at a pilot site. This has significantly reduced the number of conflicts between humans and elephants in the pilot community.
Drinking water purification systems have been installed in four villages in order to combat the frequently occurring kidney diseases in the area surrounding the Wilpattu National Park.
The motorcycles, binoculars, GPS devices and radio systems procured by the project facilitate the standard tasks of the park administration.
The installation of solar photovoltaic systems ensures a grid-independent power supply in range/beat offices and bungalows in the park.
The rebuilding of a beat office in the south-west of the park ensures improved patrol coverage.