Created as a sanctuary for wild animals in the Sabaragamuwa and Uva provinces of Sri Lanka, the Udawalawe National Park is one of the many parks in the island bent on conserving the plant and animal kingdom that Sri Lanka is so blessed with. The 30,821 hectare reserve was created after the construction of the Udawalawe reservoir on the Walawe River that drove out hundreds of animals from their homes and the dead trees amid the water of the reservoir is visual proof of the forest cover that was destroyed due to the construction. Established in June 1972 and situated 165 km from Colombo, it has now become the third most visited park in the Island.
The park lies on the boundary of the wet and dry zone of Sri Lanka and though plains dominate the topology, a few mountainous areas can be seen. Between the months of October to January and March to May there is heavy rain fall and the reservoir is at its best with water filled to the brim. Farmers engaged in shifting cultivation or better known among the locals as chena cultivation have resulted in large areas of open grasslands within the park once the land was taken over for the reserve and farmers were relocated elsewhere. These grasslands are a perfect location to watch wild elephants graze among the tall grass and a leopard creep among the reeds itching closer to the herd of deer hoping for a catch.
There is a herd of about 250 wild elephants in permanent residence within the park and many more are attracted by the water and lush vegetation of the land. Established in 1995, the Udawalawe Elephant Transit Home provides sanctuary to lost baby elephants, separated by its mothers and are released to the wild when it is at an age when it can fend for itself. Visitors can see baby elephants being fed during the morning and afternoon hours. Many endemic species including the Sri Lankan sloth bear, Sri Lankan leopard, Ceylon Spiny mouse and many other mammals call Udawalawe sanctuary its home.
Udawalawe with its many marshy lands and water pools is a haven for bird watchers. There are 184 species of birds in the park, of which 33 of them are migratory. Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Brown-capped Babbler, Red-faced Malkoha are a few of the endemic birds found in the park while Cormorants, Asia Openbill, Painted Stork, Eurasian Spoonbill are among the visitors. It also attracts many predators such as White-bellied Sea Eagle and Booted Eagle as well as many land birds such as Pied Cuckoo and Indian Peafowl. The park also includes 94 different plant species and 135 different butterfly species and much more. It is a true national heritage and must be conserved for the benefit of the future generations.