Wildlife of Sri Lanka, Being a tropical island, Sri-Lanka posses a very rich diversity of wildlife, despite its relatively small land area, viz. 65,610 km2. The wildlife of a country may be taken to include all living things, i.e. fauna, flora and micro-organisms, native to its natural environment. However, to the general public ‘wildlife’ usually means the fauna (animals) and flora (plants). The species richness of both these life forms in Sri Lanka is significantly high, with also high endemic species diversity.
The reason for this richness is the geological history of Sri Lanka. Its existence as an island for million years has caused unique life forms to evolve amongst its indigenous species. These forms, restricted to Sri Lanka and found nowhere else in the world, are known as endemic species of the country. They are distinct from related species in the nearby Indian mainland and elsewhere. All the other indigenous species of fauna and flora in Sri Lanka are shared with the Indian mainland and /or other countries relatively near.
The forest cover in the country, which gives shelter to most land fauna, is about 23% (or possibly a little less) of the total land area. There are 21 National Parks, 60 Sanctuaries and three Strict Nature Reserves, which have been declared to provide necessary protection to the country’s fauna. These conservation areas, covering over 15% of the country, include its main habitat types such as forests, grasslands and wetlands. In addition, there are also about 200 Forest Reserves mainly for protection of their flora but which also give the necessary protection to their fauna.
There are 21 National Parks in Sri-Lanka
Dry zone – 16 national parks e.g. Wilpattu, Yala, Udawalawa
Wet zone – 03 national parks e.g. Horton Plains, Horagolla, Galway
Marine – 02 national parks e.g. Pigeon Island, Hikkaduwa
Wilpathu National Park
This is 30kms west in Anuradhapura (first capital) and located 26kms north of Puttalam, approximately 180kms from Colombo. Wilpathu is the largest (131,667 hectares) and one of the oldest national parks in Sri-Lanka. It has nearly sixty lakes (Willu) or tanks are found spread throughout Wilpathu. Wilpathu means “Land of Lakes”. In 1905 the area was designated a sanctuary and in 1938 it was upgraded to the National Park. It has a long history, according to the great chronicle “Mahawansa” in 6 century B.C. Prince Vijaya and his 700 followers landed on Sri-Lanka near Mahathita today called Mannar, in that period our native people live in this park area.
Wilpathu is among the top national parks in the world renowned for its Leopard population. These leopards are sub-species native to Sri-Lanka. The Sri-Lankan Leopard (Panthera pardus kotiya) has a tawny or rusty yellow coat with dark spots, females averaged a weight 29-35kg and 2meters from head to tail length, males averaged a weight 55-75kg and 2.5meters from head to tail length. Also it is home to wild elephants (Elephas maximus), wild boars, wild buffaloes, sloth bear, spotted deer, and crocodiles. Large flocks of migratory and indigenous birds are also found here. Wildlife of Sri Lanka
Monsoon : North-east monsoon is effect in November to April
Temperature : 26°C – 33°C
Yala National Park (Ruhunu National Park)
This is the most visited and second largest (97,881 hectares) national park in Sri-Lanka which is situated 300kms away from Colombo and consist of five blocks. Two blocks are open for visitors local and foreign and adjoining parks, The blocks have individual names such as Ruhunu National park (Block 1) and Kumana National Park (Block 2 and famous for birds) also the highest density of the Leopards (Panthera Pardus Kotiya) in the world and it is home to wild elephants, wild boars, wild buffaloes, sloth bear, spotted deer, and crocodiles. Large flocks of migratory and indigenous birds are also found here. Wildlife of Sri Lanka
Monsoon : Mainly North-east monsoon is effect in November to April
Temperature : 26°C – 33°C
Horton Plains (Maha Eliya)
South of Nuwara-Eliya, Having been protected as a nature reserve from December 1969 this park was upgraded as a National Park in March 1988. The park covers an area of 3,160 hectares of montane grassland fringed and interspersed with patches of dense montane cloud forests, which is situated 32kms away from Nuwara-Eliya. It was known as Maha-Eliya in the early days, but during the British colonial period the park was renamed as “Horton Plain” by Sir Robert Wilmot Horton who was one of the British governors of Ceylon. This park and the adjoining peak wilderness from the most important catchment area for almost all the major rivers in the country. Three major rivers including the longest, Mahaweli (330kms), Kelani and Walawe originate from the within the park it self. The Horton Plains is hauntingly desolate, windswept plateau set at an elevation of over 2,000m. A world apart from the rest of Sri-Lanka, the plains offer excellent trekking, including a 9km circular walk to World’s End, where the cliff plunges dramatically for nearly 1,000m, offering marvelous views to the south and the picturesque Baker’s falls and second and third highest mountains Kirigalpotha (2,389m) and Totupola Kanda (2,357m) are situaved in the same park. A dawn start is advisable as the cloud often roll in by mid-morning. Herds of Sambar deer, beautiful lizard, Fishing cats, Leopards, Bear monkeys and many endemic birds are found in the Horton Plains. Horton plains have a rich bio-diversity and many species of flora and fauna found here are endemic to the region. E.g. Maha rath mala (Rhododendron arboretum zeylanicum)
Monsoon : South west monsoon is effect in May to September
Temperature : 5 °C – 27 °C
The vegetation of the park is classified into two distinctive groups, 2000 hectares of wet patina (Montane grassland) and 1,160 hectares of subtropical montane evergreen forest.