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Click here for a visual bonanza of pictures and images of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka's Natural Heritage in brief..

picturesque birds found in Sri Lanka The abundance of Sri Lanka's birdlife makes it an ornithologist's paradise. 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 through out 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. Around mid August the first flocks of the species begin to arrive with large numbers of sandpipers, stilts, plovers, terns, etc. coming from Siberia, Scandinavia and Western Europe. In the forested areas migratory tree warblers, thrushes, cuckoos etc. can be seen. 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.

An interesting place to visit for more bird life is the Muthurajawela marshes, just outside the northern border of the Colombo city.


variety of butterflies To the naturalist, Sri Lanka offers a tantalising array of interesting and unique forms. Of the 242 known species, most are found in the regions of the lower foothills (i.e. up to 910 metres). A few (6 species) can be glimpsed above 1210 metres. A most spectacular scene is the seasonal migration of butterflies during March and April, when tradition has it that they fly towards 'Samanala Kande' (Butterfly Peak), the local name for the mountain more famous as 'Sri Pada' or `Adam's Peak'.

vertebrates Of the 86 species of mammals the pride of place goes to the majestic elephant. Although rapid destruction of its habitat has depleted the elephant population, sizeable numbers can be seen in Gal Oya and Udawalawe National parks and at Handapangala. Extinction also threatens the island's biggest cat - the leopard, although Wilpattu National park is justifiably proud of its leopard population. Many species of deer - the Sambhur, the Hog Deer, the Mouse deer can also be seen in the Parks.

Other mammals include the Sloth Bear, the protected Dugong, the Wild Boar, the Porcupine and Monkeys, especially the Grey Langur, which are common throughout the island. Of special interest is the endemic purple faced Leaf Monkey, found in the higher hill regions.

All major groups of vertebrates to be found in Sri Lanka, are mostly endemic to the island, especially the amphibians and reptiles. Most of the 54 species of fish are marsh and river dwelling fish, the 14 endemic species being restricted to the perennial streams of the wet zone. They are the beautiful fish of the Carplet group. The British introduced 16 species into the island including the Trout found today in the clear, cold streams of Horton plains. Of the 38 species of amphibia, 16 are unique to the island. One endemic genus, the Nannophrys, with 3 species, is common in the hill country. This frog lives on rock ledges covered by a continuous trickle of water and tadpoles share this habitat. None of the amphibians are poisonous to man.

The island abounds in reptiles of which 75 are endemic. Of the 2 endemic species of Crocodile, the commonest is the Marsh Crocodile. The beautiful Star Tortoise is the only land tortoise. All 5 species of Turtles are protected by law. Of the 83 species of snakes, only 5 are lethal, these being Cobra, Russell's Viper, Indian Krait, Ceylon Krait, and the Saw-scaled Viper. These are rarely found in builtup areas of city or village.

Flowers & Trees
To the botanist this is indeed a land of plenty. The diversified climate allows for trees, tropical as well as temperate. The luxuriant undergrowth and tall majestic trees of the wet-zone tropical forests contrast with the arid scrubland and talipot palms of the dry north and east. In the hills, vegetation varies from the almost tree-less patanas - Moon plains, Elk Plains, etc. to the dark Rhododendron forests, wreathed with the protected Spagnum Moss, to the gorse covered Horton Plains. From March to May numerous flowering trees such as the fiery Poinciana Regia, the white Mesua Ferrea, the cherry blossom-like Tabebuia, burst into bloom. Flowering orchids include endemic varieties such as the protected Daffodil and Wesak Orchids.

Special Note
The law protects certain endangered species of flora and fauna. Export and even possession of these species as well as live animals, birds, reptiles is illegal. Please also remember that production and sale of items made from wild animals and reptiles is illegal. Occasional exports are however permitted exclusively for bona fide scientific purposes and all applications for any such export should be made to the Director of Wildlife Conservation.

Fruits & Spices
spicesSri Lanka has a year round abundance of fresh fruits - Pineapple, papaya, banana and mango are plentiful throughout the year. Between the months of July and October, mangoosteen, passion fruit, avocado, pear, durian, rambuttan and oranges are also available. For centuries spices have been one of Sri Lanka's most celebrated exports, among them cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, pepper, etc.

The Spice Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Peradeniya has the most complete collection of spice plants and high quality fresh packeted spices are freely available for sale, especially in Kandy. There are also many private spice gardens open to the public.


tea Sri Lanka is the world's leading producer of high quality tea, which is our main export. Most itineraries which include hill country resorts also include a visit to a tea estate and factory to see production and processing which is done in some of the most scenic areas of the island. Every visitor is allowed 3 kilos of tea for export, duty free, and it is readily available everywhere. Excess over this quantity is dutiable.

Another large export item rubber was introduced by Sir Henry Wickham, who cultivated seedlings from seeds brought from Brazil in 1876. The milk like latex is tapped from the bark and made into crepe or sheets for export. The plantations are mainly in the south western zone of the island.


coconut Coconut grows widely in the coastal regions of the wet zone. Described as the 'tree of life' every part of it is made use of. Coconut milk, the extract of the kernel, is used for daily cooking. Other products obtained from coconut are oil, copra, dessicated coconut, vinegar and arrack, the local drink. Coconut fibre is used to make rope, rugs, matting, brooms and brushes.

Botanic Gardens Sri Lanka has three beautiful Botanic Gardens - Peradeniya at an elevation of 488 metres, Hakgala at an elevation of 1,680 metres and Henarathgoda in the low country.

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