The decision to ban safaris into Wilpattu National Park on account of the ongoing drought has been reversed by the WildlifeMinister after extensive consultations with the Minister of Tourism and the Sri Lanka Association of Inbound Tour Operators (SLAITO).
The outcome is a favourable one for all stakeholders wherein morning safaris will now be permitted into the national park. This informed and decision reached through consensus by all stakeholders reflects an ideal collaboration between the public and private sector bodies for a beneficial solution for the sector and the economy.
“We are deeply grateful to the Tourism Ministry and Minister of Tourism, and the Department of Wildlife Conservation and Minister of Sustainable Development and Wildlife for this decision. We are wholly supportive of their concern for ensuring sustainability of the national park and its flora and fauna. The decision to permit only morning safaris has halted an adverse impact on hundreds of pre-booked tours to the national park and has also avoided a negative perception amongst tourists. While thanking the officials, we reaffirm our support to their concern about the impact of drought on the residents of the park and we are supporting the cause to our fullest extent by donating two water pumps to the Wilapttu NP this week in order to assist with irrigating the ponds in the park,” explained Nishad Wijetunga of SLAITO.
Before arriving at this decision the Department of Wildlife appointed a specialist team and invited representatives from SLAITO and the Tourism department on the team to assess the water availability situation in the park. This inclusive initiative by the Department of Wildlife was hailed by all concerned. Considering that the park still retains 40-50 percent of its water source, the team recommended the re-opening of the park for morning safaris, so that animals in the park would not be inconvenienced for the rest of the day.
Over time, as the situation improves, the park could be opened for evening safaris as well. This joint consensus is a pioneering and ideal approach to ensure all stakeholders are consulted in matters that can have an impact on livelihoods and the economy. In this instance, while the mandate of the wildlife department is conservation and the mandate of the Tourism Ministry and SLAITO is tourism, the three parties came together in an open and transparent way to find a workable win-win situation for the industry.