Flora & fauns of Yala
Yala National Park has a variety of vegetation from Arid Zone flora to riverine habitat. Some of the common trees found here is the Ceylon Ironwood (Manilkara hexandra), known as ‘Palu’ tree in the local Sinhala language. This common tree is a favourite daytime spot of lazy leopards. Palu is also the favourite fruit of the Sloth Bear. Some of the other large trees include Ebony (Diospyros ebenum), Satin(Chaloroxylon swietenia), Wira (Drypetes sepiaria), Rannai (Alseodaphne semecarpifolia), Milla (Vitex pinnata), Halmilla (Berrya cordifolia), Mora (Nephelium longana) and Velang (pterospermum canesens). The Kumbuk Tree (Terminalia arjuna) can be found along the water bodies and rivers of Yala and Margosa or Kohomba, which is a medicinal plant, is seen in plenty in the park.
Yala National Park is home to 32 species of Mammals, over 230 species of birds and many species of Reptiles, Amphibians, Butterflies & Dragonflies. There are around 400 Asian Elephants, the largest herbivores, within the five blocks of Yala. Among these are many tuskers and they are the pride of the park with each of them named and identified by conservationists. Spotted Deer are seen in large herds within the park especially in the grasslands. Other species of herbivores include the Sambar, the largest of the deer family found in Sri Lanka, Barking Deer, Mouse Deer, Wild Boar and Wild Buffalo.
The Leopard in Yala are an endemic sub-species; Panthera Pardus Kotiya. Following many years of research, it has been found that Yala has the highest density of leopards per square km, making it one of the best places in the world to spot these big cats. Early morning and evenings are the best time to spot the Leopard. By day, they prefer to be in the shade of a tree away from the heat.
Others in the cat family found in Yala include the Fishing Cat, Rusty-spotted Cat and the Jungle cat; though these smaller members of the cat family are very elusive. You will also be able to see the Ruddy Mongoose, Stripe-necked Mongoose and the Gray Mongoose occasionally running across jeep tracks. Other carnivores found in the park include Ring-tailed Civet, Common Palm Cat and the endemic Golden Palm Civet.
The Jackal is also a scavenger and hunts smaller pray. To increase your chances of spotting the Sloth Bear go during the months of June and July when the Palu fruit is in season. Among the primates the endemic Toque Monkey and the Gray Langer are the most numerous in the park.
Reptiles & Amphibians
The two endangered species of Crocodiles, the Estuarine and Mugger, can be found in Yala basking in the noon heat. All five endangered species of Sea Turtles come to nest in the shoes of Yala. Many species of snake also can be found in the park with the Indian Rock Python the most common. However, one has to be very lucky to spot one. Three endemic Geckos and fives species of Skinks are found in the park with two species of fresh water Terrapins and the beautiful Star Tortoise recorded. Land Monitors and a few other lizards including the Painted Lip Lizard are found aplenty.
Yala National Park is excellent place for bird watching and over a 100 species can be easily spotted in a full days visit to the park. Around 230 species of resident, migrant and endemic species of birds have been recorded in Yala. Endemics include the Sri Lankan Jungle Fowl that can be seen along the edges of the roads anytime of day, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Gray Hornbill, Sri Lanka Wood Shrike, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Red-faced Malkoha can be spotted in Yala’s riverine forests.
Resident dry zone species include Malabar-pied Hornbill, Blue-faced & Shirkeer Malkoha, Yellow-wattled Lapwing, Great & Eurasian Think-knee, the globally endangered Lesser Adjutant, and the extremely rare Black-necked Stork.
Many water birds can also be found in the park including Painted Storks, the globally threatened Spot-billed Pelican, Indian & Little Cormorants, Indian Darter, Little Grebe, Asian Open-bill, Eurasian Spoonbill, Woolly-necked Stork, Purple & Gray Herons and five species of Egrets.Migrating waders include the Marsh, Common, Wood & Green Sandpipers, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stints, Common Redshank, Common Greenshank, Kentish Plover, Lesser & Greater Sand Plover, Golden Plover, Gray Plover, Pintail Snip, Back-tailed Godwit. Ten species of Terns and two species of Gull.
Yala has many excellent places to observe diurnal Birds of pray. The endangered Grey Headed Fish Eagle, Crested Serpent Eagle, Crested Hawk-Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Brahaminy Kite & Shirkra are some of the common raptors seen in Yala. Nocturnal birds such as owls and nightjars can also be spotted here.