Sri Lanka delays opening of wildlife park after killings

Oct 17, 2007 (AFP) – Sri Lanka has put off re-opening its most popular wildlife sanctuary by another week after Tamil Tiger rebels overran an army post inside the park, officials said Wednesday. The Yala National Park, a popular tourist destination in the island’s southeast and home to leopards, elephants and migratory birds, will open after the military has cleared the area of Tamil Tigers, officials said.

“It may take another week or so, depending on how fast the military gives us security clearance. At the moment, troops are combing the park for any militants,” Wildlife Department Director General W.A.D. Wijesuriya said.

Seven soldiers were killed in Monday’s attack, a day before the authorities were due to open the sanctuary after its annual six-week shutdown for the high tourist season, which runs till mid-January.

Foreign tourists who were booked to visit Yala within the next few days have been re-routed to nearby wildlife parks, local tour operators said.

Tour operators said they were worried about the park attack, as many countries had just eased travel warnings suggesting the island was a safe holiday destination for their nationals.

Foreign visitors to Sri Lank