Lahugala National Park


This tiny park (six square miles/15 km2) may be the best place to see elephants, sometimes herds of 150 or more—largest in Sri Lanka—at any time of year but especially around August when other places are dry. No mystery why: it encompasses two former irrigation “tanks,” Lahugala (Mahawewa) and Kitulana, both covered in tall succulent jade-green beru grass, an elephant favorite, located in the middle of an elephant corridor connecting Yala and Gal Oya. The park lodge offers superb views of wildlife, including wild boars, deer, occasional leopards, and uncommon butterflies and birds such as blue magpies and red-faced malkohas as well as jacanas, herons, orioles, shikras, Brahminy kites, and white-bellied sea eagles. Lodging at Lahugala and Pottuvil, 195 miles (312 km) east of Colombo.

 Jacanas are known for long toes and claws that spread their weight so they can trip lightly atop floating lily pads and watery vegetation, thus exploiting a foraging niche unavailable to others. Young are not hatched with those toes, however—they don’t fit easily inside eggs—and so must grow them later. This immature bronze-winged jacana is just trying to get the hang of it (but not quite succeeding yet).

Jacanas are known for long toes and claws that spread their weight so they can trip lightly atop floating lily pads and watery vegetation, thus exploiting a foraging niche unavailable to others. Young are not hatched with those toes, however—they don’t fit easily inside eggs—and so must grow them later. This immature bronze-winged jacana is just trying to get the hang of it (but not quite succeeding yet).

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