Kumana – the national wildlife park in the country’s southeast – has been declared a wetland of global importance.
The Ramsar Convention, or the Convention on Wetlands (named after Ramsar, Iran, where the treaty was signed in 1971) is an inter-government agreement that commits member countries to maintaining the ecological character of important wetlands.
Extending over 19,000 hectares in the Ampara district, the Kumana coastal stretch falls within two protected areas – the Yala East National Park and the Panama- Kudumbigala Sanctuary.
The site is famous as a paradise for birds. Nearly 50 per cent of Sri Lanka’s bird species are found here, and serves as a feeding and resting ground for more than 35 species of migratory aquatic bird species.
The site is also an ideal feeding and resting habitat for a number of other threatened wetland species, including nine bird species, 10 mammal species, and 11 reptile species. The Green Turtle, the Loggerhead Turtle and the Olive Ridley Turtle – globally threatened turtle species – nest on Kumana beaches.
However, Sri Lankan conservationists say human activity is undermining the Kumana wetland. Illegal hunting and logging and the plundering of archaeological resources in the area have taken their toll.
Also, fishermen have destroyed vegetation in the Kumana Villu to facilitate their fishing, while invasive species such as aquatic salvinia, the exotic fish tilapia and the feral buffalo have had a harmful impact on the wetland.
The Kumana wetland is the country’s largest Ramsar site, after Bundala, Madu Ganga, Anawilundawa, and Vankalai.
The Department of Wildlife Conservation and a team of Sri Lankan scientists and conservationists lobbied to have Kumana declared a globally important wetland. The scientists included wetland professional Dr. Channa Bambaradeniya; Suranjan Fernando, of the Centre for Applied Biodiversity Research and Education (CABRE); Udaya Siriwardana of the Ceylon Bird Club; Dr. Pradeep Nalaka Ranasinghe; Gamini Samarakoon, and Manjula Amararathne.