Wildlife Minister Gamini Jayawickrama Perera said today the government had agreed to increase the number of safari jeeps entering the Yala National Park to 600 a day following a request made to President Maithripala Sirisena by several hotels and safari jeep owners in the area.
Meanwhile, the Fisheries Ministry said in a statement the government had reached this decision on a request made by Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera. It said earlier, the number of vehicles allowed to enter the park was limited to 500 – 250 in the morning and 250 in the evening and that this had resulted in many tourists being turned away.
The wildlife minister denied that tourists had be turned away because of restrictions on the number of vehicles entering the park being limited to 550.
He said increase in the number of vehicles would be valid for the next 45 days considering the peak time during tourist the season.
“The maximum number of safari jeeps arriving at the park is around 450 to 550. Therefore there is no chance of any vehicle being turned away due to the restriction,” he added.
Wildlife Conservation Department’s Director General M.G.C. Sooriyabandara told Daily Mirror that this decision was taken considering the season and the request made by the authorities.
“We have taken this decision as a step to support local and foreign visitors to the Yala National Park during their holidays. Measures have been taken to control and minimise the damage caused to the animals by the increased number of vehicles entering the park,” he said.
However, Wildlife and Nature Protection Society (WNPS) President Rukshan Jayawardene told Daily Mirror that the authorities should have arrived at this decision on a proper basis and not in a haphazerd manner. (Chaturanga Pradeep Samarawickrama and Kalathma Jayawardhane)