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Asian elephant walkway “Uda Walawe” Now Open

The High Commissioner for Sri Lanka , His Excellency Justice Nihal Jayasinghe will join us to officially open the new £1 million Asian elephant habitat and walkway “Uda Walawe” with a distinctly Sri Lankan theme on Wednesday 28th July at 2.00 pm.

His Excellency Justice Nihal Jayasinghe will open the walkway by unveiling a commemorative plaque, lighting a ceremonial oil lamp, cutting the ribbon and leading the guests along the new walkway to be greeted by a troupe of Kandyan dancers who will perform the island nation’s ancient dances to the beating of Kandyan drums at the end of the trail. The opening will mark the launch of a unique zoological and cultural attraction in the United Kingdom.

Most Zoo’s have themed elephant habitats which reflect Thailand , Burma , Vietnam or India . Twycross Zoo will be the first in the world to theme a Sri Lankan elephant habitat. Sri Lanka is a country which has produced the world’s first and the largest elephant orphanage at Pinnawela and made the conservation of the largest mammal on land and planet earth a priority, creating many protected areas for animals. We have drawn on the knowledge and skills of our zoological consultant Vasantha Nugegoda, from Design for Life to help design this exhibit.

The entrance to Uda Walawe is a typical authentic farmer’s tree hut. Inside the hut are information panels on the distribution of elephants in Sri Lanka and Asia . Beyond this is a meandering forest trail which guides people to a Sri Lankan village school. The school has a range of religious, cultural and elephant artefacts. Colourful information boards are prominent that highlight Sri Lankan wildlife and tourism. Large screen film footage will be playing showing elephants on festival parade from Sri Lanka . This festival is called Esala Perehera and takes place in Kandy and is a Buddhist summer festival unique to Sri Lanka . In the corner sitting pretty is a life size ceremonial elephant dressed in full parade robes.

When you leave the village school the forest trail then continues to a wooden bridge over a water lily pool, which allows close quarter views of the five elephants. The inner habitat is identical to Uda Walawe National Park , with a large lake, trees, rocks and sandy areas. At this point you will feel immersed in the exhibit. Following the trail visitors will reach a divide in the path. The lower trail has been designed for less able visitors, whereas the other route meanders past a higher viewing area leading up a high mountain to a ruined temple housing a statue of the Hindu god “Lord Ganesh”. This is a rare opportunity for visitors to gain a bird’s eye view of the habitat. Detailed information about Ganesh is displayed at this point. The lower route gives an opportunity for visitors to experience a smaller temple of Ganesh . Descending from the temple you will rejoin the trail and will find a typical Sri Lankan authentic brass bell under a wooden tower; this is replicating a front porch of a Buddhist and Hindu temple. Worshippers would enter the temple and ring the bell. It is thought to evoke the Gods and tell the deity inside that they have arrived.

The trail will then lead you over a small wooden bridge and gentle stream. You will now enter a dry grass land habitat which is unique to Uda Walawe National Park . At this point there is a path choice, aimed at children. Adventurers can explore a small area where there is interactive information about elephants. The main trail leads to a typical Sri Lankan village hut. The hut allows visitors to see how Sri Lankan villagers live close to the wild elephants. The trail continues past the village crop of corn and sunflowers and will eventually lead through a wetland to the entrance of the Mary Brancker Waterways.

Uda Walawe will promote the conservation of the Asian elephants and act as a shop window for crucial wildlife conservation programmes in Sri Lanka . Uda Walawe is the name of one of Sri Lanka’s national parks, in part set up to provide a sanctuary for many wild animals. Approximately three hundred elephants are believed to permanently reside there. The sanctuary is also home to water buffalo, water monitor lizards, sambar deer, monkeys and the occasional leopard. It is an important site for unique bird species. Sensitive and well managed eco-tourism is an important source of income for local people in Sri Lanka and provides an incentive to continue to protect the wildlife. The National Park is also the first in Sri Lanka to run a reintroduction programme for orphan elephants back to the wild, so far they have successfully reintroduced over 15 elephants.

One of Twycross Zoo’s latest amazing births, with the help of Artificial Insemination (A.I.) and after a twenty two month gestation period, is a calf elephant aptly named Ganesh – Vijay, Ganesh being a Hindu god and Vijay meaning victory. Ganesh will be 1 year old on 6th August; a competition will run to see who can correctly guess the weight of Ganesh on the morning of his 1st birthday. Entry forms will be available from 21st July until 5th August for any visitor to the Zoo. The prize will be a family Gold Pass to Twycross Zoo, a feeding session with the elephants and lunch in Himalaya for the family.

Suzanne Boardman, Director of Twycross Zoo said, “We are delighted that our visitors will be able to experience a taste of Sri Lanka, as well as learning about the cultural and historical aspects of this wonderful country, including the important role that the domesticated elephant has had on the country. Our aim is for this exhibit to forge strong links between the UK and Sri Lanka , particularly with regard to tourism. The opening of this new exhibit will help promote the need to conserve this important species globally and highlight the importance of elephants in Sri Lanka . It is our ambition to encourage visits to the wildlife areas of Sri Lanka and to share with our visitors the magical aura of Sri Lanka . It is our desire to create a little piece of Sri Lanka in the UK and an opportunity for visitors to learn about and also visit Sri Lanka to see how beautiful this country is.” Uda Walawe is open to all visitors from Thursday 29th July 2010.
Comments (1)Add Comment
written by kainen, May 04, 2011
It is most famous for the many elephants that live there . During a visit, it is not unusual to see whole herds of adults and young elephants– feeding or bathing and playing in the water! In addition to this main attraction, the park is home to many water buffalo, water monitor lizards, samba deer, monkeys and the occasional leopard, as well as being an exciting location for bird enthusiasts.

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