Impact of vehicular traffic on vertebrate fauna in Horton plains and Yala national parks of Sri Lanka: some implications for conservation and management

Main Article Content

Suranjan Karunarathna
Sudheera Ranwala
Thilina Surasinghe
Majintha Madawala


Impacts of roadkills are extensively documented in developed nations.  Only a handful of studies on road mortality has emerged from developing nations where tourism and rural development have led to an expansion of transportation networks.  To fill such gaps, we conducted a survey to document roadkills in and around two tourism-heavy national parks of Sri Lanka and identified factors that contribute to road mortality.  Based on a questionnaire, we interviewed 68 local villagers, 56 local and 59 foreign visitors, and 57 safari drivers to document their opportunistic observations on roadkills, their awareness about roadkills, and to understand potential causes of roadkills.  We found 47 roadkilled vertebrate species at both parks; among these, 19 are threatened and 20 are endemic.  Our research revealed that herpetofauna were killed the most.  We concluded that increased visitation, high-speed driving, lack of awareness, and poor law enforcement as the likely causes of roadkills at both parks.  As mitigatory actions, we proposed posting speed limits, increasing awareness of the tourists and safari drivers, limiting vehicle access to the parks, seasonal or night-time access restrictions, and strict enforcement of the speed limits inside national parks. 

Article Details

Author Biography

Suranjan Karunarathna, Faculty of Graduate Studies, University of Colombo, Colombo 03, Sri Lanka

Suranjan Karunarathna is reading his Mater degree from the University of Colombo. His scientific exploration of biodiversity began with Young Zoologists’ Association of Sri Lanka in early 2000 and former president in 2007. As a field biologist he is conducts research on herpetofaunal ecology, taxonomy, and promot­ing science base conservation awareness of the importance of biodiversity among the Sri Lankan community. Also he is an active member of many specialist groups in the IUCN/SSC, and expert committee member of Herpetofauna in National Red List development programs, Sri Lanka


Amarakoon, A.M.R.K., E.S. Nathanael & A. de Silva (2010). The pattern of reptiles killed by road traffic on the Anuradhapura-Mihintale Road, Sri Lanka. Lyriocephalus 7: 81–88.

Ashley, E.P., A. Kosloski & S.A. Petrie (2007). Incidence of intentional vehicle–reptile collisions. Human Dimensions of Wildlife 12: 137–143;

Beckmann, C. & R. Shine (2012). Do drivers intentionally target wildlife on roads?. Austral Ecology 37: 629–632;

Bahir, M.M., M. Meegaskumbura, K. Manamendra-Arachchi, C.J. Schneider & R. Pethiyagoda (2005). Reproduction and terrestrial direct development in Sri Lankan shrub frogs. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 12: 339–350.

Buultjens, J., I. Ratnayake, A. Gnanapala & M. Aslam (2005). Tourism and its implications for management in Ruhuna National Park (Yala), Sri Lanka. Tourism Management 26: 733–742;

Carr, L.W. & L. Fahrig (2001). Effect of road traffic on two amphibian species of differing vagility. Conservation Biology 15: 1071–1078;

Das, A., M.F. Ahmed, B.P. Lahkar & P. Sharma (2007). A preliminary report of reptilian mortality on road due to vehicular movements near Kaziranga National Park, Assam, India. Zoos’ Print Journal 22(7): 2742–2744;

DiMauro, D. & M.L. Hunter (2002). Reproduction of amphibians in natural and anthropogenic temporary pools in managed forests. Forest Science 48: 397–406.

de Silva, A. (1999). The Habitat Preferences and the Status of Amphibians and Reptiles at Horton Plains National Park. Zoological Survey of Sri Lanka. NSF, Sri Lanka, 68pp.

de Silva, M. & P.K. de Silva (2004). The Yala Wildlife Reserves: Biodiversity and Ecology. Wildlife Heritage Trust Publication, Colombo: Sri Lanka, 212pp.

de Silva, A. (2007). The Diversity of Horton Plains National Park: With Special Reference to its Herpetofauna and Including A Bibliography on the Literature on Horton Plains. Vijitha Yapa Publications, 127pp.

Dodd, C.K., W.J. Barichivich & L.L. Smith (2004). Effectiveness of a barrier wall and culverts in reducing wildlife mortality on a heavily traveled highway in Florida. Biological Conservation 118: 619–631;

DWC (Department of Wildlife Conservation) (2004). A Guide to National Parks of Sri Lanka. Second Edition, Department of Wildlife Conservation, Sri Lanka, 98pp.

Ellstrand, N.C. & D.R. Elam (1993). Population genetic consequences of small population size: implications for plant conservation. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 24: 217–242;

Fahrig, L,, J.H. Pedlar, S.E. Pope, P.D. Taylor & J.F. Wegner (1995). Effect of road traffic on amphibian density. Biological Conservation 73: 177–182;

Forman, R.T. (2000). Estimate of the area affected ecologically by the road system in the United States. Conservation Biology 14: 31–35;

Forman, T.T.R. & L.E. Alexandra (1998). Roads and their major ecological effects. Annual Review of Ecological System 29: 207–231;

Gibbs, J.P. & W.G. Shriver (2002). Estimating the effects of road mortality on turtle populations. Conservation Biology 16: 1647–1652;

Green, R.J. & K. Higginbottom (2000). The effects of non-consumptive wildlife tourism on free-ranging wildlife: a review. Pacific conservation biology 6: 183–197;

Gunawardana, E.R.N., I.R. Calder, P.T.W. Rosier & N. Chandrasiri (1998). Hydrological importance of Horton Plains National Park, pp. 45–63. In: Gunasena, H.D.M. (ed.). Proceedings of the University of Peradeniya and

Oxford Forestry Institute link project. University of Peradeniya, 236pp.

Hels, T. & E. Buchwald (2001). The effect of roadkills on amphibian populations. Biological Conservation 99: 331–340;

IUCN and CEA (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Central Environment Authority) (2006). National Wetland Directory of Sri Lanka. IUCN Sri Lanka country office, Sri Lanka, 234pp.

Karunarathna, D.M.S.S., U.T.I. Abeywardena, M.D.C. Asela & L.D.C.B. Kekulandala (2008). A preliminary survey of Amphibian fauna in Nilgala Forest area and its vicinity, Sri Lanka. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 3: 264–272.

Karunarathna, D.M.S.S., A.A.T. Amarasinghe, M.B. Madawala & H.K.D. Kandambi (2012). Population status of two Varanus species (Reptilia: Sauria: Varanidae) in Sri Lanka’s Puttalam Lagoon system, with notes on their diet and Conservation status. Biawak 6: 22–33.

Karunarathna, D.M.S.S., S.M. Henkanaththegedara, A.A.T. Amarasinghe & A. de Silva (2013). Impact of vehicular traffic on Herpetofaunal mortality in a Savannah forest, Eastern Sri Lanka. Taprobanica 5: 111–119.

Kittle, A. & A. Watson (2005). Distribution and Status of the Sri Lankan leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya). Ministry of environmental, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 43pp.

Laurance, W.F., M. Goosem & S.G.W. Laurance (2009). Impacts of roads and linear clearings on tropical forests. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24: 659–669;

Laurance, W.F., B.M. Croes, N. Guissouegou, R. Buij M. Dethier & A. Alonso

(2008). Impacts of roads, hunting, and habitat alteration on nocturnal mammals in African rainforests. Conservation Biology 22: 721–732;

Maduwage, K.P., A. Silva & S. Batuwita (2003). Snakes killed on the roads of the gardens of the University of Peradeniya. Loris 23: 22–24.

Miththapala, S. (2006). The ecology of the wild cats of Sri Lanka, pp. 235–

In: Bambaradeniya, C.N.B. (ed.). Fauna of Sri Lanka: Status of Taxonomy, Research, and Conservation. IUCN Sri Lanka Country Office: Sri Lanka. 308pp.

MOE-SL (Ministry of Environment, Sri Lanka) (2012). The National Red List 2012 of Sri Lanka: Conservation status of the Fauna and Flora. Ministry of Environment, Colombo, Sri Lanka. 127pp.

PDSRSL (Parliament of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka) (2009). Fauna and Flora Protection (Amendment) Act, No. 22 of 2009. Published as a Supplement to Part II of the Gazette of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, Department of Government Printing, Sri Lanka.

Pethiyagoda, R. (ed.) (2012). Horton Plains: Sri Lanka’s Cloud-forest National Park. Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 432pp.

Seshadri, K. & T. Ganesh (2011). Faunal mortality on roads due to religious tourism across time and space in protected areas: A case study from south India. Forest Ecology and Management 262: 1713–1721;

Spellerberg, I.F. (1998). Ecological effects of roads and traffic, a literature review. Global Ecological and Biogeography Letter 7: 317–333;

Stem, C.J., J.P. Lassoie, D.R. Lee & D.J. Deshler (2003). How’ eco’ is ecotourism? A comparative case study of ecotourism in Costa Rica. Journal of Sustainable Tourism 11: 322–347;

Taylor, B.D. & R.L. Goldingay (2004). Wildlife roadkills on three major roads in northeastern New South Wales. Wildlife Research 31: 83–91;

Trombulak, S.C. & C.A. Frissell (2001). Review of ecological effects of roads on terrestrial and aquatic communities. Conservation Biology 14: 18–30;

Vijayakumar, S.P., K. Vasudevan & N.M. Ishwar (2001). Herpetofaunal Mortality on Roads in the Anamalai Hills, Southern Western Ghats. Hamadryad 26: 253–260.

Weerawardhena, S., U. Amarasinghe & S. Kotagama (2004). Activity Pattern and Environmental Variation of Micro Habitats of Six-Toed Green Frog Euphlyctis hexadactylus Lesson 1834 (Anura: Ranidae) in Sri Lanka. Lyriocephalus 5: 111–129.

Weerasinghe, U.M.I.R.K., D. Kariyawasm & M. De Zoysa (2003). Ruhuna (Yala) National Park in Sri Lanka: Visitors, Visitation and ecotourism. World Forestry Congress, Quebec City, Canada A1: 0116.

WTTC (World Travel & Tourism Council) (2014). Travel and tourism: Economic impact 2014 Sri Lanka. World Travel and Tourism Council, London, UK, 89pp.

Zobel, M., E. Maarel & C. Dupré (1998). Species pool: the concept, its determination and significance for community restoration. Applied Vegetation Science 1: 55–66;