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Wild Life in Sri Lanka

Wildlife Park 06
Horton Plains 
Strikingly different from the other national parks in that, visitors to Horton Plains are allowed to walk on their own on the designated tracks. The scenic beauty and wildlife of Horton Plains which is a remote 2000m high plateau just south of Nuwara Eliya is set to impress even the most discerning traveler. Most habitats and endemic plants and animals representative of our wet and montane zones are sure to be found here. This national park is abundant with some of the smaller endemic mammals like sambar, endemic toque macaque, purple faced langur, leopard, wild otter, long tailed giant squirrel, horned lizard and bear monkey. If you are really keen on seeing the Sri Lanka whistling thrush, Sri Lanka magpie, dull-blue flycatcher, orange-billed babbler and the black-throated munia then Horton Plains is definitely worth a visit, as this is one of the best places in the whole island to see them. This park is a paradise for butterflies as well. Various raptors such as crested serpent eagle and mountain hawk eagle can be seen circling over the plains. Among reptiles are snake and the wide spread agamid.


Wild Life in Sri Lanka

Wildlife Park 05
Minneriya National Park

Virtually built around the Minneriya reservoir, this park is certainly one of the most scenic in the island. During the dry season from June to September, the reservoir becomes a favorite gathering place for scores of elephants who get together to eat, drink and be merry. Many species of mammals such as sambar, spotted deer, leopard, sloth bear and endemics like the toque macaque and purple faced langur are favorite attractions.

Minneriya is full of a vast number of birds. 160 species are found here. Look out for the Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka hanging parrot, Sri Lanka brown capped babbler, crimson fronted barbet, black crested bulbul, all of which are endemics. Nine species of amphibians have been reported to live in this park and among them are endemic and endangered slender wood frog and common tree frog. Endemic and endangered lizards like the red lipped lizard are also found here. 26 species of fish are found in the reservoirs.

Wild Life In Sri Lanka

Wildlife Park 04

Yala National Park

The largest national park in Sri Lanka formed by a completely diverse landscape ranging from the ocean to jungles, scrubland, freshwater rivers and lakes, which support a large variety of wildlife. Over 30 species of mammals are known to be found here, including threatened species such as the sloth bear, leopard, elephant and water buffalo. You’ll probably have the best chance of sighting a leopard here than anywhere else on the island.

Some 120-130 birds’ species can be seen at Yala. Raptors like the crested serpent eagle, and white bellied sea eagle and water birds including the lesser flamingo, pelican, painted stork and night heron can be spotted in the lagoons. The north-east monsoon is seen to attract thousands of migrating waterfowl including, pintail, white winged black tern and eurasian curlew which mix with residents such as whistling duck and yellow wattled lapwing. Other interesting birds’ species you could spot at Yala are the Sri Lanka junglefowl, black-necked stork, and pompadour green pigeon, three species of bee-eaters and large flocks of flamingoes.
Yala is also home to a variety of reptiles such as crocodiles, the venomous Russel’s viper and a variety of sea turtles. The endangered olive ridley and leatherback turtles return to the Yala coastline often for nesting.

Photo copied from GoSurf Lanka

Wild Life in Sri Lanka

Wildlife Park 03
Bundala National Park

A simply picture perfect national park bordering the ocean fringed with sand dunes, and dotted with numerous lagoons. The five lagoons of this park are some of the most important wintering areas for migratory shore birds in the country, regularly accommodating over 15,000 at any one time! This park is the last refuge of the greater flamingo and during the northeast monsoon up to 2000 flamingoes have been seen.

You don’t have to look too hard to spot elephant, spotted deer and wild buffalo among the thorny scrub jungle in the park. The open habitat makes it ideal to spot other mammals such as the endemic toque macaque, common langur, jackal, leopard, fishing cat, rusty spotted cat and porcupine. Sea turtles love the golden beaches and sand dunes of Bundala, and frequent here often to nest. Among reptiles’ the mugger crocodile, estuarine crocodile, common monitor, python, endemic flying snake and beautiful star tortoise can be sighted here. The park is the home of every species of water bird resident in the country and during the northern winter, it is the final destination for countless numbers species. It is also home to several species of migratory waterfowl. The rare black necked stork is said to be a breeding resident in Sri Lanka.
Bundala’s richness in birds’ species is why it was declared a Ramsar Site in 1990, having international significance for wetland birds.

Wild Life in Sri Lanka

Wildlife Park 02
Wasgomuwa National Park
is located in the dry zone, Wasgomuwa National Park is almost completely surrounded by large rivers on all its sides. Probably one of the best places in the island for near wildlife fanatics as it contains more wildlife, in terms of both wild fauna and flora. 23 species of mammals, 143 species of birds (5 of which are endemic), 35 species of reptiles (of which 7 are endemic), 15 species of amphibians, 17 species of fish and 52 species of butterflies are known to be found here.

Wasgamuwa bear
Populations of around 150 elephants freely roam the park. Other interesting animals you could catch a glimpse of include the leopard as well as other endemic animals such as the purple faced langur, sloth bear, spotted deer, sambar and birds like the painted stork, oriental darter, purple swamphen, Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka grey and malabar pied hornbills, white-rumped shama and in winter many migrant waders and ducks.
Wasgamuwa Deer
Both the saltwater and the freshwater crocodiles take refuge in the waters of this national park. The park also harbors some reptiles and amphibians like the endemic skink and the rare endemic palm frond frog.

Wild Life in Sri Lanka

Wildlife Park 01
Udawalawa National Park
Is situated in the dry zone and is a large area of scrub, grass and old plantation around a large reservoir. Udawalawe National Park is very well known for its outstanding scenic beauty and wealth of fauna species, particularly mammals and birds. One of the main attractions of this park is the opportunity to view elephants at a really close range.

Herds of elephants, populations of sambar, spotted deer, barking deer, wild boar, water buffalo common langur, jackal, sloth bear, leopard, black napped hare, endemic golden palm civet and mongoose are some of the animals that can be sighted at this national park. Udawalawe is also a great place to watch water birds. Rare visitors and breeding residents such as the Indian cormorant and osprey can be found on the reservoir. Notable endemic species are the Sri Lanka junglefowl, Sri Lanka spurfowl, malabar pied hornbill, Sri Lanka grey hornbill and brown-capped babbler.


Watha Rathu Malkoha - Red-Faced Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus)


This is a large species at 46 cm with a long graduated tail. Its back is dark green, and the uppertail is green edged with white. The belly and undertail are white, the latter being barred black. The crown and throat are black, and the lower face white. There is a large red patch around the eye and the bill is green. Sexes are similar, but juveniles are much duller. The Red-faced Malkoha takes a variety of insects including caterpillars, giant stick insects, mantises and small vertebrates such as lizard. It occasionally may eat berries but this needs confirmation.


It inhabits tall forest, and lives either solitary, in pairs, or in small flocks. It is shy and restless, a dweller in the tree canopy, where, like the last species, it cleverly threads its way through tangled twigs, creepers and foliage.
The breeding season is in the first half of the year and probably again in August-September. The nest is described as a shallow saucer of grass, roots and twigs, very carelessly put together, and placed in high bushes in forest with thick undergrowth. The two or three eggs are white, with a chalky surface, and they measure about 35.8 X 27 mm.


The Red-Faced Malkoha is regularly seen at Sinharaja and few other remaining rain forests, frequents associating with feeding waves. It is also found in scattered riverine habitats in the dry zone, such as Lahugala, Wasgamuwa, Manik Ganga and Kubukkan Oya.


Bird Watching in Sri Lanka Part .02

The Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Gallus lafayetii, is a member of the pheasant family which is endemic to Sri Lanka. It is a close relative of the Indian Red Junglefowl, Gallus gallus, the wild junglefowl from which the chicken was domesticated. This bird is known as Wali Kukula locally by the Sinhala speaking community. Known locally as Wali Kukula it is the designated national bird of Sri Lanka.
These are large birds, with colourful male plumage, but are sometimes difficult to see in the denser woodlands. It is common in forest and scrub habitats, and is commonly spotted at sites such as Kitulgala, Yala and Sinharaja. This is one of four species of bird in the genus Gallus. It is a ground nesting bird, which lays 2-4 eggs in a nest. As with many birds in the pheasant family, the colourful male plays no part in the incubation of the eggs or rearing of the precocial young. These duties are performed by the drab and well-camouflaged female. The male Sri Lanka Junglefowl ranges from 66-73 cm long. It is chicken-like in structure, and has orange-red body plumage, and dark purple wings and tail. The back of the head and the neck are golden, and the face has bare red skin and wattles. The comb is red with a yellow centre. Unlike other junglefowl, the cock does not have an eclipse plumage. The female is much smaller, at only 35 cm. She is mainly brown with white patterning on the lower belly and breast.
Like most of the pheasant family, Sri Lanka Junglefowl is a terrestrial species. It scratches vigorously for various seeds, fallen fruit and insects. The main breeding season is in the first quarter of the year, but often a second clutch is laid in August-September, and breeding may go on throughout the year. The nest is often a shallow scrape in the ground, concealded by herbage, at the foot of a tree or beside a dead log. The eggs number two to four; they are creamy-white, some very finely peppered, other more boldly but sparingly speckled with brown.
They measure about 48 ~ 35 mm.
Forests & scrub jungles & in upcountry tea estates. Breeding Grounds- All Zones. Common.

The Sri Lanka Spurfowl,
Galloperdix bicalcarata, is a member of the pheasant family which is endemic to the dense rainforests of Sri Lanka.
It is a very secretive bird, and despite its size is difficult to see as it slips through dense undergrowth. Often the only indication of its presence is its distinctive ringing call, consisting of series of three-syllabled whistles. Kitulgala and Sinharaja are sites where there is a chance of seeing this bird.
Sri Lanka Spurfowl is a plump, 37 cm long bird. Both sexes have brown upperparts, wings and tail. There is a red facial skin patch, and a whitish throat. The legs are red.
The adult male has scaly black and white underparts and head. There is also extensive white spotting on the brown wings and upperback. The legs have two long spurs, which give rise to the specific name. The female has chestnut underparts and a plain brown back and wings.

Strictly a forest bird, it is so shy and wary that its presence in a district would often pass quite unknown were it not for its unmistakable cry; this reveals that it is not uncommon in much of the more densely forested parts of its range. The cry is peculiar, ringing cackle, consisting of series of three-syllabled whistles.
Distinctly a ground bird. The food consists of various seeds, fallen berries, termites and other insects, and it scratches vigorously for them amongst the dead leaves, etc., of the forest floor. The breeding season is in the north-east monsoon, and sometimes a second brood is raised in July-September.
The nest is a slight scrape in the ground in the shelter of a rock, bush, etc. The eggs from the normal clutch, but up to five have been recorded; they are cream or warm buff in color, and exactly resemble miniature hens’ eggs in appearance. They measure about 43 ~ 31 mm.
Humid forests. Breeding Ground is in the Wet Zone, eastern & southern sectors of Dry Zone and seldom in the Hill Country. Rare.


Bird Watching in Sri Lanka Part 01

Sri Lanka is one of the best places in the world watch birds. Sri Lanka is truly a paradise for birds, especially around the bird sanctuaries and wetland reserves in the south east of the island.

The amazing abundance of over 400 varieties of birds in Sri Lanka is attributable to the tropical Climate and wide range of natural habitats, from mountains to lowlands to dry plains and lush forests. On a point of academic argument, there are either 26 or 23 endemic species in Sri Lanka, largely confined to the rainforests of the hill zone.

Bird watching in Sri Lanka will entice many bird enthusiasts. With over 56 species of birds endogenous to Sri Lanka, found on the rivers, hill country, rainforest and by the coast, it is a twitches’ paradise.

Sri Lanka specialist’s Lakpura travels have reviewed over 100 traditional hotels and can provide expert advice on where to stay for stylish holidays or authentic bungalows located in the best bird watching locations across Sri Lanka. You can book online for bird watching holidays. Colorful and tropical birds visit the island at different times of year following the air currents. Ceylon flycatcher, Green beater, eagles, herons and woodpeckers are a few of the delights. So grab your birding supplies (i.e binoculars, cameras, clothes, contact lens supplies, etc) and come to Sri Lanka for the ultimate birding experience

Sri Lankan Endemic Bird List

Lanka Habam Kukula - Sri Lanka Spurfowl
Lanka Wali Kukula - Sri Lanka Junglefowl
Lanka Mailagoya - Sri Lanka Wood Pigeon
Lanka Giramalitha -Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot
Lanka Alu Girawa - Layard's Parakeet
Watha Rathu Malkoha - Red Faced Malkoha
Lanka Bata Eti Kukula - Sri Lanka Green Billed Coucal
Lanka Pitathbala Vana Bssa - Chestnut Backed Owlet
Alu Kadaththa - Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill
Rannalal Kottoruwa - Sri Lanka Yellow Fronted Barbet
Hisa Kalu Kondaya - Black-Crested Bulbul
Lanka Arangaya - Sri Lanka Whistling Thrush
Pulli Wal Awichchiya - Sri Lanka Spot-Winged Thrush
Kandu Hambu Kurulla - Sri Lanka Bush Warbler
Lanka Adhuru Nil-Massimara - Sri Lanka Dull Blue Flycatcher
Lanka Mudun Bora Demalichcha - Brown Capped Barbbler
Ratu Demalichcha - Sri Lanka Orange-Billed Babbler
Alu Demalichcha - Ashy-Headed Laughing Thrush
Lanka Pilachcha - White-Throated Flowerpecker
Lanka Sithasiya - Sri Lanka White-Eye
Lanka Kahibella - Sri Lanka Blue Magpie
Hisa-Sudu Sharikava - Sri Lanka White Faced Starling
Lanka Salalihiniya - Sri Lanka Mynah
Wana Kowlaspatiya - Ceylon Wood Shrike
Dhekathi Demalichcha - Lanka Scimitar Babbler
Pethi Gomara Wal Awichchiya - Ceylon Scaly Thrush
Paduwan Bassa -Serendib Scops Owl
Pita Rathu Batagoya - Sri Lankan Green Piegon
Konda Kawda - Sri Lanka Drongo
Maha Rathu Karala - Crimson Backed Flamback
Bada Rathu Wahilihiniya - Sri Lanka Swallow
Heen Kottoruwa - Ceylon Small Barbet
Kaha Kondaya - The Yellow - Eared Bulbul


Kottawa Forest

Kottawa Forest Reserve (Arboretum), which is situated about 19 km northeast of Galle, is a small (15-hectare), isolated patch of low country rainforest displaying all of the features of a typical wet evergreen rainforest. Tall trees with buttressed trunks and overlapping leaf canopies struggle upwards to reach any available sunlight and prevent the sun from penetrating to the forest floor. As trees are the dominant plant species, Kottawa is considered a climax community, which is a healthy sign for the forest's longevity. Any vegetation that does grow is dominated by Dipterocarpus species and tree ferns, while orchids and mosses inhabit the tree bark.

There are over 170 tree species identified in the area of which about 100 species are endemic to Sri Lanka. Seventy or so bird species have also been recorded, including 12 endemics such as the Yellow-fronted Barbet, Brown-capped Babbler, Spot-winged Thrush, Sri Lankan Spurfowl and Grey Hornbill. It is also a good place to spot some of the island's beautiful butterflies (e.g. Birdwing, Tree Nymph, Clipper, Blue Oakleaf), as well as the Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Toque Macaque and Giant Squirrel, which dominate the forest canopy. Among the reptiles are some of Sri Lanka's non-venomous snakes and endemic agamid lizards. The unpolluted streams that traverse the forest harbour a variety of fish including many endemic species.


Hiyare Rain Forest

Private efforts aid conservation at pristine rainforest
By Adilah Ismail, Pix by M.A. Pushpa Kumara
Drive along a twisting road to Udugama from Galle, and you will stumble upon one of the best kept secrets of the South. The Hiyare forest reserve, a lush 600-acre picture-postcard rainforest, located only 17 km from the city, is a veritable paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, with its pristine beauty and wealth of flora and fauna.

The serene depths of the rain forest.

An artificial breeding place for frogs

A Kangaroo lizard

Arriving at Hiyare, we enter the premises of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, to be greeted by an endearing baby porcupine which scuttles around, sniffing newcomers unabashedly. After a final sniff of approval he bobs under some foliage and watches us from afar.

This baby porcupine is one of the many injured juveniles brought into the society’s Animal Rescue Programme at Hiyare for medical treatment and rehabilitation. Under this programme, injured wild animals are treated, rehabilitated and then released back into the wild. They are also monitored closely after release to make sure they have settled in suitably. The programme has thus far provided medical care to an assortment of animals and recently saw 22 python eggs being hatched.

While 80% of these rescued animals are treated and then released into the wild, sometimes circumstances make it impossible. The three-legged Hog deer, which gazes diffidently at us from its pen, is a permanent resident as it cannot fend for itself in the wild having lost a limb as a result of a road accident.

The Animal Rescue Programme is one of the many activities carried out under the Biodiversity Conservation Effort at Hiyare - an initiative between the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, the Municipal Council of Galle and Nations Trust Bank. The project consists of a series of conservation activities centric to the Hiyare rainforest.

“Our ultimate goal is to educate interested parties about conservation at a species level,” explains Anusha Madhura de Silva, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle.

Madhura de Silva

“While the bank carries out corporate activities, it places enormous emphasis on giving back to the community. Global warming is one of the biggest threats posed to our environment and although to a large extent its adverse effects haven’t been felt in Sri Lanka, it is only a matter of time before we too are critically affected. It is in lieu of this pressing need that the Biodiversity Conservation Effort was initiated last year,” says Nuzrath Hameed, Manager, Strategic Marketing of Nations Trust Bank.

The Biodiversity Breeding Centre set up in April this year is one of their noteworthy projects. Located slightly apart from the main premises, the centre houses a number of glass tanks where endangered species of freshwater fish such as the Cuming’s Barb and Ornate Paradise Fish, as well as the endemic Anthroprogenic shrub frog are bred under the watchful eye of researchers. The project aims to enable the observation of their breeding habits; to increase their numbers and reintroduce them to areas where the population is significantly low.

“As the breeding habits of amphibians are still unknown, the breeding programme will undoubtedly be a breakthrough in conservation,” explains Madhura steering us through the finer aspects of this effort. The Bank funds all facets of this project – from labour wages to provisions.

A view of the reservoir

A comb tail fish at the Breeding Centre

At home in Hyare: The Hog deer

The Wildlife Conservation Society believes that to begin conservation, it is essential to know about nature. They conduct workshops tailored to the requirements of various interested groups. These include treks to the rainforest and hands-on training inside – as Madhura gesturing towards the 600 acre rainforest, so aptly put it – ‘the biggest laboratory of all’.

Their field centre located on the outskirts of the rainforest overlooks the reservoir and is equipped with a well-resourced library, a laboratory containing equipment suited for biodiversity conservation, a lecture room for presentations and a large dormitory for overnight stays.

“While research is usually concentrated on certain areas of the country, undiscovered fragmented forest patches are important as they contain a staggering amount of undiscovered diversity,” says Madhura. He adds they are grateful to the Director of the Wildlife Department as well as the Municipal Council of Galle for supporting the society’s activities, since its inception in 1993.

Among its many activities, the Society also carries out educational workshops in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa to spread awareness about venomous snakes. Their book on Sri Lankan freshwater fish is due for release in December.

Trekking through the damp leaves, the smell of earth permeating the air and gazing at the various creatures which dart from one shrub to another, it is clear that the attraction of the Hiyare rainforest lies in its purity. Not as well known as other forest reserves like Sinharaja and visited solely by genuine nature lovers, mankind’s mark is noticeably absent at Hiyare.

With global warming and pollution rapidly affecting our ecosystem and resulting in the loss of many rare species, these conservation efforts are a step towards nurturing and protecting Hiyare’s rich diversity for the future.

Hiyare's attractions

A low country tropical rain forest, Hiyare has a large man-made lake within its boundaries.
Endemic species recorded at the Hiyare rainforest include the Sri Lankan Green Pigeon, Ceylon Rose, Two-spotted Threadtail, Black Ruby Barb, Sri Lankan Green Pit Viper and the Sri Lanka Purple-faced Leaf Monkey.
The Forest Department manages one part of the rainforest while another section- the reservoir catchment area is administered by the Wildlife Conservation Society under the aegis of the Municipal Council of Galle.
To visit the rainforest for educational or research purposes, contact the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle through the Municipal Council, Galle.
Hiyare's amazing biodiversity

118 Bird species - 13 endemic
33 Freshwater fish species - 13 endemic
78 Butterfly species - 3 endemic
55 Dragonfly species -12 endemic
34 Reptile species -14 endemic
18 Amphibian species-13 endemic
28 Land snail species -13 endemic
29 Mammal species - 13 endemic
(Wildlife Conservation Society, Galle)
copied from


With its romantic sunsets, friendly smiles of the locals, amazing coral reefs, delightful seafood and as a great place to let your hair down on a good night out partying, Unawatuna Beach can be considered to be the most desirable location for a romantic or enjoyable tropical holiday. With a unique theme concept of a Sri Lankan fishing village, Unawatuna Beach, together with its amazing turquoise blue sea, sandy beaches and sunset views, is an ideal tourist location.
Protected by a double reef over the bay creates a natural pool that make bay safe for swimmers. From the midway of the stretch the swimmers are able to reach to the Rock island. Galapiteala reef and Napoleon Reef, multi level dives brings in the opportunities to enjoy an exceptional marine life: Napoleon Wrasse, Bat Fish, Golden Moray Eels and numerous other colorful species of fish.
Besides swimming, Unawatuna beach is also famous for snorkeling and surfing in view of the reef. The wrecks of sunken ships make Unawatuna beach popular among the scuba divers too. A boat ride of 20 to 30 minutes takes the diving enthusiasts to locations of wreck dives.

The wreck of “Rangoon” British steamer sunken 100 yeas ago, still lying upright with its masts intact, is a popular diving site. Sunk within the same area is the “Tango”. The other location, a wreck of a cargo ship called “Lord Nelson” is about ten years old. Diving schools at Unawatuna are at the service of the diving enthusiasts: they assist, equip and guide the tourists to engage in diving at the beach.

Kanneliya rain forest

Kanneliya Rain Forest in the Galle district, a rich biodiversity hotspot known world over, is threatened with a mystery disease.

The disease that resembles the 'Rust' that completely destroyed coffee cultivations 150 years ago, covers the leaves of the affected plants with a brick red coating, blocking its food production process that may lead the plants to wither.

"It is spreading at an alarming rate in and around the forest reserve," the forest officers and the residents lamented adding that the authorities don't seem to have realized the danger this disease could pose its rich vegetation, diverse to that of even 'Sinharaja', according to experts, since no action has been taken so far to identify the problem let alone find a resistant to it.

"The officials in Colombo were alerted a long time back but no one showed up as yet," a jungle trekker working for the Forest Department as a guide to visitors said.

This disease, has not spared the domestics such as coconut, arecanut, rambutan and ornamental plants in home gardens in the surrounding villages.

The affected plants appear as if the leaves have been poured red paint on them. The disease seem to have affected the bottom parts of the trees in the forest as leaves on the top part still retain their ordinary green colour.

"It has not destroyed the plants completely so far, but we are disturbed at the rate it is spreading and by the fact that it contracts to anything within its path," a concerned villager whose known by nom de guerre Patti Aiya said.

Inside the forest reserve, from creepers like Weniwel to tall 'Hora' trees bared its red leaves and the disease seem to have already engulfed large areas of the unique forest.

Some of the Kanneliya residents voiced that the disease could have contracted from the oil palm cultivations that borders the forest reserve. Large patches of trees in these cultivations had brick red leaves but without a proper study, what caused the disease will remain a mystery.

Other than world heritage site Sinharaja, Kanneliya is the last large remaining rain forest in the country and it is regarded as one of the most biologically diverse areas in Sri Lanka as well the world. It shelters 220 species of animals, out of which 41 are endemic.

Of the 26 endemic birds, 20 varieties can be seen in this terrain including several species that are listed endangered. The area boasts of 234 woody plants out of which 52 percent are endemic. Moreover, 27 floral species here are listed vulnerable and 45 are in the rare plants category. For its unique ecosystem, the Forest complex was designated as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 2004.