- Wildlife Department tells all camp operators to follow regulations
By Cheranka Mendis and Marianne David
The Wildlife Department visited the camp sites of all three tented mobile safari operators – Mahoora Safari Camps, Kulu Safaris, and Leopard Safaris – over the weekend at the Yala National Park, following which one operator was instructed to make certain changes in its mode of operations and revert within two weeks.
A Senior Official of Wildlife Department Visitor Service Management, Ecotourism and Community Outreach told the Daily FT yesterday that Mahoora Safari Camps was asked to make certain changes due to the violation of standards and conditions of the Wildlife Department.
The official noted that the operator was asked to transfer the guests who were at the Yala National Park during the weekend to Mahoora’s other camp sites or to other operators until consent was given to resume operations at Yala again.
“We have given them two weeks to make amendments and alterations to fit into our standards. At the end of the two weeks, we will inspect the site again and if it reaches a satisfactory level, we will allow them to resume operations,” the Senior Official said.
The Wildlife Department will also pay visits to Mahoora’s other camp sites in national parks within the course of the week.
“A set of guidelines and conditions were given to all three operators prior to setting up operations. These conditions were put in place to minimise environmental damage,” he added.
The Official admitted that inspection rounds had not been conducted on a regular basis previously and that following the safari savagery in the recent weeks, steps were taken to visit the sites and ensure that all standards were maintained according to regulations.
The Official added: “We are keen to develop a high quality tourism industry. Standards have been put in place to ensure that this happens. We are concerned about both the tourists and the tourism product. At the end of two weeks, we will see whether the amendments have been made and give them the thumbs-up to resume operations.”
“The key issue at the camp was the garbage disposal and septic tanks, which were far below standard. We were also concerned with the quality of the kitchen.”
The site inspection was made following a meeting at the Yala Ticket Office on Saturday between Government Officials and the operators. The meeting was chaired by the Wildlife Department with representation from the Ministry of Wildlife and Agrarian Services, Park Wardens, Deputy Wardens and operators. There had been no representation from Mahoora and the Daily FT was informed that the party had not been notified about the meeting.
Commenting on the outcome of the Wildlife Department visit, Founder/MD of Eco Team (owning company of Mahoora) Anuruddha Bandara said: “We have been asked to make certain changes in the manner in which we operate. The facilities we feature in the camps have been there for the last 14 years. We were granted permission to do certain things, but now the authorities feel that the way we provide certain facilities needs to be changed. We agreed to make the changes and have made alternative arrangements for our clients. We are making these changes now and are confident of meeting the requirements within a week.”
“We run a mobile luxury tented safari camp, not a standard camping operation, so our operation and infrastructure is very different to that of usual camp operations. We have to provide more luxuries to the clientele looking for this kind of product. However, what we do complies with the rules and regulations of the park and the law of the country,” he added.