Varied as the island itself the wildlife in Sri Lanka ranges from elephants and leopards, a variety of bird and to the most amazing ocean life. With many species endemic to the island, Sri Lanka boasts a rich and diverse fauna and flora.
About 12% of the land area is designated for wildlife preservation, and a range of safari parks and sanctuaries offer easy access to this unique experience of up-close glimpses of Sri Lanakan wildlife in their natural habitat.
Sri Lanka is home to about 91 species of mammals, 171 species of reptiles, over 106 species of amphibians, claiming the highest amphibian species density in the world, and 227 species of birds. Out of the 91 species of mammals, the large Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, the Sri Lankan Leopard, the Sri Lankan Elephant and the Sambar are endemic. The reptiles include the Mugger Crocodile and the Saltwater Crocodile and a variety of snakes. The birds consist of resident, visitors and migrants with 26 species endemic to the island.
To make the best of your visit to Sri Lanka, its best to plan in advance the areas to visit so as to experience the best of Sri Lankan wildlife. Depending on the area the kind of wildlife may differ and it is best to have an idea of the habitants of the different regions, parks and sanctuaries. Get the facts about best spots to stay for a nature lover see this.
The Yala National Park boasts an area of 1259 square kilometres and is the biggest national park in the island. Yala West is home to leopards, elephants, deer, peacock and other animals and Yala East is home to a wide range of birds. The 260 square kilometre Gal Oya National Park, about 314 kilometres from Colombo, is surrounded by Sri Lanka’s largest tank the Senenayake Samudra, and is home to a variety of animals. The Uda Walawe National Park, located 170 km southeast of Colombo, is largely inhabited by elephants and is also home to various other animals such as spotted deer, crocodiles, foxes and leopards. Bordered by the Mahaweli River, the Wasgamuwa National Park is about 200 kilometres way from Colombo. Wasgamuwa is home to elephants, sloth bears, leopards and spotted deer. The Horton Plains National Park is situated 200 kilometres from Colombo, amidst the hills of Nuwara Eliya and is home to a variety of birds and other animals.
With a mammoth population of about 2500 – 3000, elephants can be seen throughout the island in most wildlife parks. For the elephant enthusiast the best spectacle would be the seasonal movement of the elephants at the Minneriya Lake; a gathering of about 300 elephants travelling from Wasgamuwa and Trincomalee during the dry season of June to September.
The island’s top predator, the Sri Lankan Leopard is one of the nine known subspecies of leopard. The Yala and Wilpattu National Parks are home to this endangered elusive cat with the Yala Park boasting some of the biggest numbers in terms of leopard density around the world. Whilst at the National Parks, look out for the Fishing Cat, a skilled swimmer, searching for pray in marshes and ponds, the Spotted Deer replenishing itself at watering holes, the interesting Purple Faced Langur and the magnificent Sambar.