Sri Lanka is the paradise of flora & fauna. The country has over 90 species of mammal (including elephant, leopard, bear and monkeys), hundreds of butterflies, over 80 snake species (including deadly cobras and vipers), and about 435 species of birds. Sri Lanka has the distinction of having the world’s oldest recorded wildlife preserve. More than 2000 years ago, in the 3rd century BC, a region in north central Sri Lanka was set aside by royal decree to be free of all hunting. Today, more than 8% of the land is preserved as national park or nature preserve.
The exotic wildlife of Sri Lanka is another fascinating aspect of the country’s biodiversity. National parks such as Yala, Wilpattu and Minneriya are ideal sanctuaries to spot the wild life in their natural habitat. On your safari adventures keep a lookout for the Sri Lankan leopard, elephant, sambar deer, toque macaque monkey and sloth bear all of which are endemic. These reserves are also inhabited by a considerable range of reptiles, butterflies & amphibians that help keep this delicate ecosystem in the balance.
Birds are numerous, many varieties from colder countries wintering on the island. Sri Lanka has well-organized game and bird sanctuaries. Of the 431 recorded species 251 are resident and no less than 21 are endemic to the island. Most of the endemic birds are restricted to the wet zone, e.g. the Ceylon Grackle or to the hill – country, e.g. the Ceylon Whistling Thrush, the Yellow-eared Bulbul etc. Some, such as the striking Redfaced Malkoha and the shy brown-capped Babbler can be found throughout the island although confined to small areas of forests, National Parks and Forest Reserves. Among the best areas for these birds are the Sinharaja Forest Reserve and the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary. The large ‘tanks’ (reservoirs) in the dry zone attract numerous types of ducks, while the large water birds – the storks, herons and egrets – can be easily spotted in the National Parks. The Kumana Bird Sanctuary in the Eastern Province and Bundala, Kalametiya and Wirawila in the south, abound in these aquatic birds. Bundala is especially famous for its flocks of visiting flamingoes. The Ceylon elk (sambhur) and the polonga snake are unique to Sri Lanka. Insects abound and numerous fish are found in the shallow offshore waters. An interesting place to visit for more bird life is the Muthurajawela marshes, just outside the northern border of the Colombo city. .