Sri Lankan Wildlife.....
Sri Lanka is an island filled with an abundance of natural treasures. The variety of natural habitats from cloud cloaked forests in the highlands, tropical rainforests, a vast network of mangroves along the coastal belt and arid scrub jungle with savannas across the dry lowlands can be compared to that found on an entire continent. The island is one of the most ecologically rich countries in the world, recognized as a global biodiversity hotspot (along with the Western Ghats in India) and has the highest species diversity in Asia.
Most of the endemic flora and fauna is restricted within the highland cloud forests and lowland rainforests within the geographically isolated wet zone. Of 3,210 species of flowering plants recorded in 1,052 genera, 916 species and 18 genera are endemic. The island is an excellent birding location with over 450 recorded species including migrants and 34 endemic species found nowhere else in the world. The ‘Sinharaja Bird wave’ contains the largest mixed species feeding flocks in the world. There are over 245 species of butterflies including 23 endemics species and 120 species of Odonates recorded with more than 50% of them being endemic species. The island is an excellent herping destination, with 238 species of reptiles and 112 species of amphibians. There are 107 species of snakes with over 50% being endemic while 15 of the 18 agamid lizards are endemic. 16 of the island’s 40 species of geckos have been discovered since 1990.
The island’s beaches are nesting grounds for five species of marine turtles: Olive Ridley, Green Turtle, Hawksbill, Leatherback and the Loggerhead. Estuarine Crocodiles (largest reptile species in the world) and Mugger Crocodiles, ancient remnants from prehistoric times, lurk in the rivers, marshes, lagoons and mangroves across the island. Sri Lanka a top destination for watching marine mammals with 30 recorded species. The main draw is the presence of the largest animal to have ever lived, the Blue Whale, while armadas of migrating Sperm Whales are encountered seasonally along with super pods of acrobatic Spinner Dolphins often numbering in their thousands.
The scrub jungles and grasslands of the dry lowlands are home to the Asian Elephant. Remarkably, Sri Lanka is home to an estimated 6,000 wild Asian Elephants, which is over 15% of the global population in just over 3% of its range. The Elephant Gatherings in Minneriya and Kaudulla are ranked among the world’s top wildlife spectacles with over 200 pachyderms congregating in the open meadows by the lake. The Leopard is the island’s apex predator and free from competing with much larger predators such as lions and tigers, are much bolder with regular sightings during daylight hours. The Yala national park is believed to have the highest density of these big cats in the world. The omnivorous Sloth Bear is another enigmatic creature which can be seen roaming the dry-zone forests feeding on wild berries, fruit and scavenging on carrion. The Golden Jackal is the only species of wild canid on the island and are often seen in pairs as they are believed to be a monogamous species.
Celebrated Sri Lankan naturalist Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne in his publications has made a strong claim that Sri Lanka can be viewed among the leading all-round wildlife viewing destinations in the world with a combination of large terrestrial wildlife, marine wildlife, a staggering biodiversity of endemic flora and fauna and diverse landscapes, all of which can be experienced over a single holiday. Sri Lanka is the ultimate island safari.