Designated a national park in November 1983, Maduru Oya National Park in Sri Lanka is designed to protect the immediate catchments of five reservoirs developed under the Accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme. Providing a refuge for a wide variety of wildlife, the park is best known for its herds of Asian elephants.
Located in the Ampara, Badulla and Polonnaruwa Provinces, the park lies to the central-eastern side of the country. It is best reached from Polonnaruwa or Batticaloa on the east coast.
The most dominant physical feature of Maduru Oya National Park is the 8km long range of rocky mountains found towards the southwest of the park. The characteristic red soil, which covers the entirety of this 58,850-hectare area, supports a variety of dry-zone vegetation, with the climax community of the area being tropical, dry mixed evergreen forest. Despite the existence of climax communities, a major part of the park has seen heavy exploitation for shifting cultivation in the past. This has resulted in areas of secondary vegetation and vast stretches of open plains dominated by grasses such as iluk and guinea grass. A large plantation of teak is included in the northeastern part of the park, despite not being a native species.
The park is significant for its rich wildlife, which includes a variety of endemic species. Mammals to be found within the park include, but are not limited to, the Asian elephant, sloth bear, leopard and water buffalo. Slender loris, toque macaque, grey langur, golden jackal and fishing cat are also present. As with many of Sri Lanka’s water dominated parks, Maduru Oya enjoys a rich aquatic avifauna with painted storks, the white-bellied sea-eagle and grey pelican all present. Noteworthy forest-dwelling birds found here include the common tailor-bird, shama and black hooded oriole.
As with the rest of the country, Maduru Oya holds areas of ancient cultural significance, namely in the form of ruins at Henanigala, Kudawila, Gurukumbura, Uluketangoda, Werapokuna and at several other places where one can find ancient Buddhist shrines, temples, dagobas, statues and hermitages from various eras in Sri Lanka’s long history. Early Brahmin inscriptions, believed to be ageing from the 1st to the 3rd Century BC have been discovered at Kandegamakanda. The park is also situated in an area previously occupied by the Veddhas. These aborigines, numbering less than 1,000 people, are believed to have descended from King Vijaya and Queen Kuweni, and they were present in Sri Lanka long before the arrival of the Sinhalese in 543 BC.
Reached hotels in Batticaloa, Pasikudah or Polonnaruwa, Maduru Oya is best visited for a full day trip. We recommend visiting from March to September, when the dry season brings the wildlife out of the bush and to the water points, allowing easy viewing.
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