Sri Lanka enjoys eight times larger marine environment than its land area. This sea area is blessed with various types of marine resources. Coral reefs are undoubtedly one of them. They sometimes referred as rainforest or gardens of the ocean mainly due to its higher bio diversity and the ecosystem productivity. However, when considering the magnitude of coastal line of Sri Lanka the extent of reefs are limited to very few stretches, but it always retains its ecological and economic importance to the highest level possible.
Pigeon Island is one of the highly diverse, ecologically and socioeconomically important reef habitats located in Sri Lanka. In order to manage and conserve this fragile ecosystem, the island and the surrounding reef area was given the status of marine national Park by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. The park is located 272 km away from Colombo, 15 km North of Trincomalee and 1km off the coast of Nilaveli in Eastern Province. The National Park contains one of the best remaining coral reefs of Sri Lanka.
The island was used as a shooting range during the colonial era. The name “Pigeon Island” was derived because of a wild strain of Blue Rock Pigeons (Columba Livia), who is restricted to this island listed under nationally threatened bird species ranked under critically endangered species. In order to protect and conserve this organism, the island was declared as a sanctuary in 1974. During this declaration, the adjacent sea area was not included into the sanctuary. Nevertheless, later in 2003, it was re-designated as a National Park by Department of Wildlife Conservation under the Flora and Fauna Ordinance Act, No.22 including the coral rich sea areas of the island. It is the 17th National Park in Sri Lanka. Moreover, it was cited in the IUCN directory of South Asian Protected areas and declared as a SAM (Special Area Management) area by Coast Conservation and Coastal Resource Management Department of Sri Lanka.
The Park boundary encompass with 471.4 hectare (out of which, 9ha. Within the land) including the surrounding sea of one mile radius around the island. At a glance, this island appears as one landform but virtually it consisted two islands as small and large landmasses with rocky outcrops. They are named as Large Pigeon Island, Small Pigeon Island and Salabalas Rocks (Salapilas Rocks). The large pigeon island is fringed by a coral reef, and is about 200m long and 100 m wide, with rocky outcrops, a rubble beach and a narrow sandy beach. Its highest point is 44.8m above mean sea level. The small pigeon island is surrounded by rocky islets. Salabalas rockys are rocky protrusions located in the park boundary.
The reef environment is dominated mainly by branching Acropora spp. with some foliose Montipora, Ecinopora spp. in addition to the coral families such as Faviidae. Pocilloporidae, Mussidae and Poritidae present in higher abundance. Larger areas of soft corals such as Sinularia, Lobophyton, and Sarcophytn can also be observed in deeper areas of north and south ends of the Island. The framework of corals is riddled with plenty of species. The complex three-dimension nature of reef provides shelter and foraging sites for millions of other vertebrates and invertebrates. Many of the 100 species of corals and 300 coral reef fishes were recorded around the Trincomalee area are found within the national park boundary. Frequent sightings of Juvenile and adult black tip reef sharks (Charcharinus Melanopterus) are an intriguing view around the shallow coral areas. Pigeon island is home to a number of endangered and protected fish species such as Bicolor cleaner wrasse (Labroides Bicolor)(protected reef fish), Raggedfin Parrotfish (Chlorurus Rhakoura) (restricted to Sri Lanka), Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus Unadulates) (globally endangered). In addition to that the Mellon Butterflyfish (Chaetodon Trifasciatus), black wedged buterflyfish (Chaetodon Falcula),...