Wildlife in Sri Lanka1
BIG GAME SAFARIS – SRI LANKA’S WILDLIFE
Sri Lanka, a true Pandora’s Box of wildlife discoveries in every corner of this unique and special island nation. At every turn you are met with an astounding display of spectacular wildlife of every shape and size, either resident or temporarily visiting Sri Lanka’s golden shores.
Sri Lanka, despite being such a compact size, has now become renowned for it’s numerous ‘world’s biggest and best’ for several natural wildlife phenomena. The country boasts the highest density of leopards in the world, the world’s largest gathering of wild elephants, the planet’s best location to spot Blue and Sperm Whales on their migratory route, and the world’s largest ‘bird wave’ in it’s virgin tropical rainforest.
However, similar to so many other countries in the world, Sri Lanka’s wildlife is suffering severely due to an ever-growing human population, whose requirements have resulted in vast encroachment into places of wilderness, leading to the loss of natural habitat of many animal
species. Many of Sri Lanka’s endemic species have now become critically endangered.
Fortunately however, Sri Lanka has many National Parks where the governing body of the Department of Wildlife, oversees the protection and conservation of, it’s national and natural treasures. Sri Lanka has a long history of regarding animals with a certain amount of deep respect, and this originates in the country’s 2,500 year old Buddhist beliefs. Back in the 3rd Century, B.C. the country’s first Buddhist monarch decided, that as Buddhism taught that all animals were sacred, areas of land were to be set aside for their protection, and thus became the world’s first animal sanctuary.
Sri Lanka now has approximately 13% of it’s land mass dedicated to the preservation and conservation of all things natural in the form of National Parks, sanctuaries and wetlands. With today’s use of pesticides, pollution and growing agriculture, it is imperative that Sri Lanka is educated rapidly to truly understand the importance of the island being home to such diverse flora and fauna, most of which is endemic to the country.
Wildlife enthusiasts who visit Ceylon, often revel in the knowledge that they may witness the Sri Lankan Leopard, the elusive Sloth Bear and the Asian Elephant roaming free in remote areas of stunning natural beauty. With 91 species of mammals alone living in the country, Sri Lanka provides a real hotspot of diversity for lovers of all animals. Sri Lanka’s south eastern Yala National Park, has the highest density of leopards to be found in the world, with confirmed reports of at least one leopard every square kilometers in one area of the Park alone. The Sloth Bear is Sri Lanka’s only bear, and is often heard, rather than seen, as he sucks up insects making an incredible noise whilst doing so. Recent reports estimate that there are approximately 5,800 Asian Elephants living in Sri Lanka. They roam freely around most of the National Parks, with the biggest herds living in Minneriya National Park.
Not only are the lands of Sri Lanka a melting pot of diverse and endemic creatures, so too are the waters surrounding the country’s coastline. On their annual migratory route from the Horn of Africa to the Bay of Bengal, Blue and Sperm Whales can be observed in several locations around the coast. The Blue Whale, the largest creature to ever have inhabited the earth, is one of 26 cetacean species to be found in Sri Lanka’s waters. With so many river systems flowing into the seas, there is a constant supply of nutrients available to allow for ideal food chain conditions. With the continental shelf being so close to Sri Lanka’s shores, the cold upwellings of water mixed with the warmer shallow waters combine to make the perfect feeding grounds for the Whales, as millions of tiny krill on which they feed on, also feed on these nutrients.
Sri Lanka’s natural treasures are endless – 30 species of bats, 171 species of reptiles, including the Mugger and Saltwater Crocodiles, 82 species of freshwater fish, and with the highest endemism rate in Asia for amphibians, Sri Lanka really has it all for animal lovers.
Unique and diverse, Sri Lanka is truly a Garden of Eden for those who are both passionate about nature and it’s magic, and those who care about the protection of the animal and plant kingdoms, which are so special to this planet.