For a small tropical island, Sri Lanka is packed with a myriad of places to see, things to do and experiences to be had. It is truly an island of DIVERSITY in every sense. The wildlife of Sri Lanka is a fine example of that diversity.
Relative to its small size, the island of Sri Lanka has one of the highest biodiversities in the world. It also has a very high rate of endemicity. Combine all that with the low cost of wildlife activities, and it makes Sri Lanka one of the best Wildlife Tourist destinations in the world. Here are a few reasons why you should plan your next wildlife trip to Sri Lanka.
Home of giants
The waters of the Indian ocean around Sri Lankan are home to many marine mammals and among them is the Blue Whale, the largest animal ever to have existed. Sri Lanka is one of the few places with a near 100% guarantee of sighting Blue Whales. Not far off inland, the largest subspecies of Asian Elephant – the Sri Lankan Elephant roams the scrub forests along the coast. The Island of Sri Lanka is one of the few places on earth where one can spot both these gentle giants in one day!
Unchecked by other large predators, the Sri Lankan Leopard has grown to become the largest subspecies of Leopard in the world and is a sight to see. The Yala NP in the south of the island had the highest density of Leopards in the world, making Sri Lanka the best place to spot Leopards in the wild. Wilpattu, Sri Lanka’s largest National Park has a sizable Leopard population too.
Largest Asian Elephant gathering
During the dry months of August to November, one of the grandest wildlife spectacles of Asia occurs in the national parks of Kaudulla and Minneriya. Over 400 Elephants gather around the receding lakes to feed on the lush grass, making it the largest gathering of Asian Elephants in the world. About 5000 Sri Lankan Elephants call Sri Lanka home and roam the many National Parks around the country.
Bird watchers’ paradise
Sri Lanka has recorded number of about 450 species of birds out of which 236 are residents. 34 species of them are endemic to the country. During the months of September to April, many wintering migrant birds find shelter in the coastal and wetland ecosystems around the country. This high species density of birds makes Sri Lanka a dream come true for avid bird watchers and wildlife enthusiasts.
Rare & unique
Sri Lanka is home to some of the strangest and rarest animals in the world. The elusive Dugong, Pangolin, Red SLender Lorris, Rusty Spotted Cat, Jungle Cat, Flying Squirrel, Ornate Flying Snake, Sri Lanka Relict Ant, Black Ruby Barb, Tiger Spider sp. 5 species of Sea Turtles including the majestic Leatherback Turtle, Rhino-horned lizard and the Leaf-nosed Lizard are but a few of them to name some. To meet some of these iconic animals face to face is a highlight in any wildlife tour.
Along with the Western Ghats of India, Sri Lanka is considered a biodiversity hotspot of the world. It has the highest species density for Flowering Plants, Amphibians, Reptiles and Mammals in Asia. For such a small country it also has a very high rate of endemism.
Apart from the 450 + species of birds that we mentioned before, Sri Lanka has over 125 species of Mammals (21 endemics), 240 species of Reptiles (33 endemics), 111 species of Amphibians (95 endemics), 245 species of Butterflies, 118 species of Dragonflies and 91 species of Freshwater Fish (50 endemics).
Although Sri Lanka has its fair share of Wildlife related problems, it is also a pioneer of conservation in the world. Currently, 16% of the total landmass is protected. As a result, 26 National Parks, 360 Forest Reserves, 55 Conservation Forests, 63 Sanctuaries and 3 Strict Nature Reserves to the flora and fauna of the country today. The idea of conservation is not new to Sri Lanka and it comes from the countries Buddhist roots. In fact, Sri Lanka boasts of the first protected land in the world dating back to the 3rd century BC! It is recorded that King Devanampiya Tissa, upon embracing Buddhism, declared the forests around Mihintale a protected land (abhaya bhoomi) and not a single plant of animal life was to be harmed in it.