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The Bundala National Park (6216 ha), is located in the Hambantota District, within the Southeastern Arid Zone of Sri Lanka. The park consists mainly of dry thorny scrubland and lagoons, namely, Koholankala (390 ha), Malala (650 ha), Embilikala (430 ha) and Bundala (520 ha). These shallow water lagoons form a complex wetland system that harbours a rich bird life, including several species of migratory waterfowl. Bundala is Sri Lanka’s first Ramsar wetland – a wetland of international importance especially for migratory waterfowl. Recent studies have indicated that the Bundala National Park and its wetlands are being degraded due to various adverse factors. Therefore, this survey was intended to document the present status of biodiversity in this protected area. The systematic survey on biodiversity extended from February to May 2001, during which the area was visited at fortnightly intervals. The fauna and flora were surveyed using scientifically valid inventorying techniques.
The park consist of 7 major terrestrial vegetation/habitat types (dry thorny scrubland, arid zone forests, sand dune vegetation, gentle sea shore vegetation, arid zone maritime grasslands/pastures, riverine forest, anomalous Mesquite scrublands) and 6 wetland types (salt marsh, mangrove, brackish water lagoons, sandy and rocky sea shore, seasonal water holes and tanks, saltern). A total of 383 plant species were documented from the above vegetation and habitat types in Bundala. These include 4 endemics and 3 species that are nationally threatened. Shrubs and herbs are the predominant plant life forms of Bundala. A total of 324 species of vertebrates were recorded from Bundala National Park, of which 11 species are endemic, while 29 species are nationally threatened. A total of 52 species of colourful butterflies were also recorded from the park.
At present, the biodiversity of Bundala National Park is facing several threats, which could be summerized under habitat deterioration and degradation, direct exploitation of species, spread of invasive alien species, prolonged drought, and inadequately planned land-use practices. It is envisaged that the findings of the survey would contribute to the conservation and management of this globally important Protected Area.