Yala National Park or Ruhunu National Park, in Hambantota District is an important national park on the south east coast of Sri Lanka. The reserve covers 979 kmÂ², although only the original 141 kmÂ² are open to the public.
Much of the reserve is parkland, but it also contains jungle, beaches, freshwater lakes and rivers and scrubland. The latter zone is punctuated with enormous rocky outcrops. The range of habitats give rise to a good range of wildlife.
Yala has the world's highest concentration of Leopards, although seeing this largely nocturnal carnivore still requires some luck. There are good numbers of Asian Elephants, Crocodile, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo and Grey langurs amongst other large animals.
The open parkland attracts birds of prey such as White-bellied Sea Eagle and the wetlands have Waders, Painted Storks, and the rare Black-necked Stork.
Landbirds of course are in abundance, and include Sirkeer Malkoha, Indian Peafowl and Sri Lanka Junglefowl.
The park was badly damaged by the tsunami of 26th December 2004, with the destruction of the wildlife center and tourist lodge. Many tourists, including a party of 22 Japanese, died in the disaster, as did several of the national park and lodge employees. It is claimed that no evidence of large-scale animal deaths from the tsunami was found indicating that animals may have sensed the wave coming and fled to higher ground.
Now it is again open to the public visitors.