Wilpattu National Park has only recently re-opened after twenty years in no-man’s-land – a buffer between warring parties on the northwest coast of the island.
Mo and I spent five wondrous hours in this wilderness on our way back to Colombo on the weekend. It was breathtaking. This bountiful season Wilpattu’s renowned lakes were glistening in the breeze, its deeply shaded swathes of forest defining wide clearings of luxuriant pasture. Silent but for the breeze and the cry of peacocks, it is a place apart from the modern world.
It is said some species (especially deer and wild boar) were poached to the edge of extinction, and that most of the park’s elephants found it safer to roam the countryside – raiding farmers’ fields – than remain within the sanctuary. Much of the park remains too overgrown and inhospitable for larger mammals, apparently, so census figures are more estimates than gospel, but there were signs for optimism all around.
As the sinking sun began to turn clouds and reflections pink, shadows to lengthen and wobble, as the lone bull continued to bliss out in his watery dining room – the park became a place of legend. Close to the forest verge, deer came to graze, peacocks to find a mate, and hornbills flew cartwheels across the sky. Later, almost dark, we spotted another leopard*, stalking silently through the undergrowth.
Apologies for disregarding the phonephotography directive, but I loved the synergy of the Weekly Photo Challenge’s Future Tense with my sense of a future for this valuable resource – a glorious patch of wilderness that is once again offering shelter to the animals – once again a Paradise.
* There are 20 leopards in the park, they think. That we saw two of them is beyond wonderful!