ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s wildlife authorities today announced banning the use of mobile phones at the Yala national park in an effort to save animals from a network of speeding safari vehicles.
The department of wildlife said sightings of large mamals such as leopard are usually conveyed to other vehicles using mobile phones inside the Yala park where wild animals had been run over by speeding visitors.
"When a leopard or other interesting sighting is made by one vehicle, the news is rapidly transmitted by means of mobile phones, attracting large numbers of vehicles to the site, causing severe congestion and spoiling the experience for everyone," the department said.
It said the telecommunications regulator has agreed to switch off mobile phone coverage within the Yala park for six hours daily at the peak visitor times starting July 20.
There are more mobile phones than people in Sri Lanka where the cellular phone density is 107 for 100 people.
The department said they will also undertake a study of visitor behaviour at the park from July 20 to September 13, " to assess the impact of the mobile communications suspension."
Yala attracts over 100,000 foreign tourists each year and is a key source of revenue to the government.
The department said it was keen to improve visitor facilities at Yala, some 290 kilometres south of the capital Colombo by road, and it will construct toilets at three locations — Patanangala, Palatupana and Parana Totupola — within the park.
It was not immediately clear what facilities tourists had been using all these years to answer calls of nature. (Colombo/July13/2015)