THE ANIMALS OF YALA: PART 2
de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. (2004). The Animals of Yala: Part 2 Mammals. Serendipity. April 2004. Page 8.
Yala or Ruhunu National Park is situated in the south-east of Sri Lanka. It is one of the best national parks in the country for observing a wide diversity of animals. It is particularly good when it comes to observing mammals.
Ruddy Mongoose (Herpestes smithii)
This is the commonest mongoose in Yala and visitors who take two or three game drives are almost certain to see it. It may be confused with the similar Brown Mongoose, which is extremely rare in Yala. The Ruddy can be distinguished by having a black tipped tail, which is usually held pointing upwards. It is reminiscent of a rude gesture. The Brown Mongoose lacks the dark tip and does not carry the tail tip, curved upwards. All species of mongoose are omnivorous, with a marked preference to grubs and other invertebrates.
Stripe-necked Mongoose (Herpestes vitticollis)
The Stripe-necked Mongoose is the largest of the mongoose species in Sri Lanka. It is widespread, ascending up to Horton Plains National Park. In Yala, it is a scarce animal, often seen in pairs. The black stripe and coloration makes it unlikely to be confused with any other animal.
Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya)
The Leopard is the super star of Yala. The research by Ravi Samarasinha shows that Block I of Yala has an average density of one leopard per 1.1 square kilometers. This is one of the highest densities of Leopards anywhere in the world. The leopards seen by most visitors tend to be sub-adults who are still dependent on their mothers. The sub-adults live a more carefree existence and are more likely to be seen in the daytime than the adults who are largely nocturnal in behaviour. Female cubs are likely to acquire a home range adjoining or even overlapping with their mother’s range. Male cubs, once they are around two years old, usually disperse a significant distance away from the mother’s range. The home range of an adult male will encompass the home range of a few adult females. Other than during the time of mating, adult males lead a relatively solitary existence. Over the last two to three years, Yala has been fortunate to have visitor friendly leopards such as the Heen Wewa Cubs, Gmc5 (a male) and the Kotabendi Wewa Cubs (now around 18 months old).
Asian Elephant (Elephas maximus)
Sri Lanka is the best place in the world to see the Asian Elephant. In Uda Walawe National Park, you are virtually guaranteed to see elephants. In Yala, at certain times of the year, a few game drives maybe needed for a successful sighting. The social dynamics of elephants is quite complex. The basic social unit is a mother with a calf. Often older siblings and aunts may also associate in family units. What are termed herds are loose associations of these family units which seasonally congregate at places where food and water is available. The social groups are led by a matriarch. The young bulls reach sexual maturity around 15years of age. At this time they are expelled from the herd and form bachelor parties or live as lone bulls. The older elephants get, the larger they grow. Bulls who are successful in siring young are often around 50 years of age. Experience and size matters for success.
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