Yala Park to be made mobile phone free zone


By Maheesha Mudugamuwa

The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) and Telecommunication and Regulatory Commission (TRC) are having talks to block mobile phone signals in the Yala National Park, DWC Director General H.D Ratnayake says.

Ratnayake told The Island yesterday that a pilot project to assess the impact of the suspension of mobile communication on visitor behaviour and on the movement of selected vehicles in the national park using GPS tracking had been completed last month.

The findings were currently being assessed by the TRC, Ratnayake said.

"Although the mobile phone services have been restricted within the park signals continue to come from towers situated far away from the park."

Ratnayake said when a leopard or any other rare animal was sighted, vehicle drivers informed others of the sighting via mobile phones, promoting a large number of vehicles to rush to the spot at breakneck speed. He said speed barriers had been put up on the roads in Yala and vehicles couldn’t move at high speed now.

Ratnayake said the department had already taken actions against the incident of a group of drunken motorcyclists disrupting the wildlife in Paluwaddana in Kaudulla National Park on Oct. 03.

Nine persons and five motorcycles had been taken into the custody by the officials of DWC and Minneriya Police Station, Ratnayake said. After being before the Higurakgoda Magistrate on October 15, the suspects had been released on bail till next hearings date on Jan. 12 next year, he said.

Meanwhile Sustainable Development and Wildlife Deputy Minister Sumedha G. Jayasena said that the Ministry would launch several awareness programmes around the country to prevent the slaughter of wild animals. She welcomed the All Ceylon Wildlife Officers’ Association offer to award Rs. 25,000 to anyone providing information about the person or persons responsible for killing a leopard on 28 August in Zone One of the Yala wildlife park.

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