Unusually for a moderately sized island it has large animals, notably elephants, leopards, sloth bears and sambur deer (Asian elk). It has the world’s highest annually recurring concentration of wild elephants (‘the gathering’) and probably the world’s highest density of leopards. Large whales are frequently seen close to shore. And it’s not only the big beasts. Sri Lanka has huge numbers of endemic birds, reptiles, and insects as well as seasonal migrants such as flamingos.
The renowned Sri Lankan naturalist Gehan De Silva Wijeyeratne explains the reasons for Sri Lanka’s astonishing biodiversity in an essay called ‘Why Sri Lanka is Super Rich for Wildlife’. He has kindly made this and several other of his publications available to us and you can download any of them below.
Very briefly, Sri Lanka’s biodiversity is due to a lucky combination of geographical, topographical, geological, climatic and human factors. The result is that, in Gehan’s words, “Sri Lanka is … arguably the [world’s] best all-round wildlife watching destination.” The other reason for this, aside from biodiversity, is that being relatively small and having wet, dry, lowland and mountainous zones and two monsoons a year there is always somewhere in the island where conditions are good for wildlife watching without having to make very long trips.
Sri Lanka is also a very populous country; Its 21.5 million population is over three times that of Ireland (North and South) and forty three times that of Tasmania. Both islands are approximately the same land mass as Sri Lanka. Although its main religions – Buddhism and Hinduism – show a great respect for all animal life, it is inevitable in such circumstances that humans and animals will come into conflict and that human population and agricultural pressures will reduce wildlife habitats. Less than eight per cent of the country’s wet zone now remains forested and urgently needs protecting. And this is where responsible tourism plays a big part. The money from wildlife tourism is crucial to protecting Sri Lanka’s threatened habitats, species, trees and plants. By spending some of your time and money in Sri Lanka on wildlife watching you will be making an important contribution – and reducing if not removing any guilt you feel about those air miles!
We don’t have elephants or bears up here in the Hanthana mountains. But wild leopards live within a kilometre or two from Jungle Tide. We’ve seen the footprints and other people’s night camera footage. You may well see wild pigs, porcupines, mongoose and muntjac or barking deer in our gardens as well as a wide variety of birds – forty four different species ranging from tiny sunbirds to huge black eagles. We have binoculars you can borrow, and if you want, we can arrange for an expert trekking and wildlife guide for a day’s wildlife observation in the mountains.