Wildlife of Sri Lanka

One that thing really amazed me on my recent trip to Sri Lanka was the variety of wildlife available across the country’s many national parks – of which there are 100. In fact, Sri Lanka was the first recorded country in the world to set aside a region as a “reserve”, over two thousand years ago. Clearly a nation that takes its wildlife seriously.

Leopards

Probably the most thrilling animal to see in Sri Lanka is the Sri Lankan leopard. Although the current population is unknown, it is thought to have declined significantly over the last century for the usual reasons – poaching and habitat decline.

These days however, with awareness on the up, and folks like you and me heading out to spend our money on safaris rather than leopard skins, the future is a little brighter, even if there’s lots to be done still to balance the needs of the leopards with the growing human population.

The best places to see these guys in the wild is the Yala National Park, which has the highest density of leopards anywhere in the world. Here you can take a safari, which will offer you the best chance to get up close with these amazing cats.


Elephants

Whilst leopards are a big draw, they can be elusive and difficult to spot. Elephants on the other hand are much easier to track down, and you can see them quite easily in a number of national parks in Sri Lanka.The Sri Lanka elephant is native to Sri Lanka, so you can only see it here. The estimated population is in the thousands, although, like with the leopard, exact numbers aren’t known.

What is known is where to find them, with top spots being Minneriya, Wilpattu or Yala National Parks. In these parks you can usually take an elephant safari, where you are pretty much guaranteed a sighting of these wonderful animals. Just check which park they are in for the time of year, as they move around a bit.


Birds

Despite having grown up on an island called “Bird Island”, I have to admit that I’m not really an expert when it comes to identifying the various birds in the lands I visit. Sure, I can appreciate a nicely coloured bird, or a big raptor, but I generally have no idea what they are.Still, people in the know have reliably informed me that Sri Lanka is basically a birder’s paradise, with all sorts of gorgeous species to gawp at. I saw this Kingfisher, which I’m sure you’ll agree, is very pretty. Many, many more birds are waiting for you to discover them!


Bears

Sri Lanka is also home to the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, another native subspecies found only in Sri Lanka. These chaps are nocturnal, so not always easy to see, with the best times being at dusk or dawn.

They are also highly threatened, with less than 1,000 left, due to the destruction of their natural habitat and humans shooting them, often out of fear of attack. Whilst they are distributed across Sri Lanka, they are most commonly seen by visitors in Yala or Wilpattu National Parks, with June and July being the best time to see them.

And those were my top picks for wildlife to keep an eye out for in Sri Lanka. Enjoy!

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