Conservation of Sri Lanka’s irreplaceable indigenous flora and fauna together with their natural habitats is a national priority. The Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) is the principle government institution responsible for the protection of wildlife resources of the country over its entire land and sea territories. DWC also bears the legal authority to establish and manage the network of Wildlife Protected Areas (WLPAs) of the country, which at present exceeds a total area of 8500 km2; 13% of Sri Lanka’s land surface. Following table illustrates the categories and the quantities of wildlife protected areas that have been declared by Department of Wildlife Conservation.
Apart from preserving the biological resources rich in diversity together with their natural habitats, the network of WLPAs protects almost all the large scale reservoirs of the country which provide water for agriculture and generation of hydro-power. Since 1950s, all the reservoirs in the GalOyaValley including Senanayake Samudra, all Mahaweli reservoirs and those fed with Mahaweli water in the Central and North Central Provinces, all the reservoirs in the Southern Part of the country including Udawalawa, Mau Ara, Lunugamvehera and Veheragala, are protected together with their catchment areas, within the network of WLPAs. Total number of reservoirs which provides water for agriculture and Hydro-power generation within the WLPAs exceeds 40.
Upper catchments of the major rivers of Sri Lanka, viz. Mahaweli, Kalu, Kelani and Walawe also fall within the Wildlife reserves such as Peak Wilderness Nature Reserve and Horton Plains National Park.
Main functions of the DWC can be broadly listed as follows;
- To develop national strategic plans and programmes for conservation of wildlife keeping in line with the appropriate national and international policies.
- To protect representative samples of all ecosystems, including sites of special scientific interest; expand and link protected areas wherever necessary to ensure the survival of viable populations of wildlife.
- To identify, classify and manage all protected areas, based on appropriate scentific research and regulations, and then monitor the status of each protected area.
- To prepare and implement recovery plans for endangered species.
- To facilitate eco-tourism in PAs, with due consideration to the conservation of the ecosystems concerned.
- To implement the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance and other regulations to minimize illegal exploitation of wildlife resources.
- To encourage scientific research relevant to the management of the wildlife resources in Sri Lanka.
- To strengthen the capabilities of the staff of the DWC through the provision of training, encouragement and motivation.
- To promote conservation through education and awareness programmes.
- To encourage public participation in conservation activities and assist the communities living around PAs to improve their socio-economic conditions, in order to reduce dependency on PA resources.