Monday, July 26, 2010

Wild life (department) Gone to the wilds - unethical camping raises its ugly head.

Actually the original title of this article was "The politicisation of wild life Department" however a last minute dash of inspiration made me come up with this second line. I want this particular post to get lot of attention because we netizens have a role to play in preventing this kind of thing happening in our country.
I was glad to be back in the warm embrace of Yala within two months. A welcome getaway from the pressures of work. But this post is not about my trip but of a sad thing which I discovered where the people of this country are once again deprived of their rights. Yala has only two camping grounds and both grounds have been booked for all 31 days by a "higher authority" denying the camping lovers of a chance to enjoy the park. From what I hear these sites are being used by a company called leopard safari to carryout luxury camping excursions for foreigners. I was shown some pictures where the organisers of these camps has paid scant regard to the laws and expected behaviours when it comes to staying in a National Park. You cannot treat a National Park like a hotel garden or private camp site. But for these happy camp operators these rules do not apply. I saw pics of tents been put up on the bund of lakes. Sewage lines fixed into the ground and flares been lit up around the camp site. Again we need to appreciate that in a National Park it is the animals which are given priority over humans and nothing should be done to disturb them as long as it does not endanger the lives of humans.
You need to know about the procedure for booking of wild life bungalows and camp sites to truly appreciate the unfairness of it all. The bookings are open on the first Monday of the month for the following month. People come from far and wide on this day for a chance to enjoy the wilds. In order to be fair to everyone numbers are issued and then drawn via a raffle and the bungalows are given out on the basis of the numbers picked up. But sadly these days most of the prime bungalows especially in Yala are struck off the list prior to being open to the public. But this has been the first time things have gone so low where the entire month has been struck off the list. On this particular occasion I heard there was someone who had come all the way from Nuwara Eliya to get a camp site and had to turn back dissapointed.
I was talking to some of the wild life employees and everyone was quite disgruntled. They felt that with the new grouping of ministries wild life has been only looked at as a tourist attraction and that the conservation aspect has been completely overlooked. In fact in my discussion with a senior official we were joking that very soon there would be a license given to kill animals as long as the price was right. Sadly this could very well be.
The only hope is that us Sri Lankans can create a noise on the web about unethical camp sites in Sri Lanka and make sure the clients of these people make sure that they follow the rules. As far as I am concerned I see this as the only alternative as I can't depend on our political leadership to correct what is wrong.

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