Mangrove forest as the local name (Kirala Kele) denotes; this magnificent wet-land covers 1800 hectares and located in southern Sri Lanka off Matara. It is comprised of marshlands, irrigation canals, and mangrove habitats with large collection of Sri Lanka wildlife. Mangrove distribution in Sri Lanka about 0.34% of the total land area or 6000 – 7000 ha is a very important ecosystem which provides a wide array of benefits to humans as well as for the balance of nature.
Presence of fossils of the Window pane oysters (Placenta placenta) in the area indicates that the area has been subjected to inundation by sea water during the Pleistocene period (3 million to 10,000 years before the present).
There are many mangrove species recorded here out of 29 mangrove species available in the country. Like in most of the mangroves habitats, high genetic, species and Eco-system diversity is recorded in the area. The Nilwala Flood Protection works and expanding agriculture has changed the ecology of the forest. A network recently repaired of irrigation canals has restored the water flow in the mangrove area. Today this wetland considered to be one of the most valuable conservation areas in the Southern Sri Lanka with an ideal habitat for wetland biodiversity.
Apart from being a very valuable contributor for the natural wealth of the country, Kirala kele supports about 35,000 people in the surrounding area. It provides a wide array of benefits to the people in the region; it is being used for raising cattle and fishing. Freshwater fishes form an important part of the wetland and provide food for the communities. Small scale fishing is very common to supplement household income.
This complex, rich wetland habitat is the home for many animals. Thirteen species of mammals have been recorded from the site, including the common and endemic Purple faced leaf monkey (Trachypithecus vetulus), and the Toque macaque (Macaca sinica).
Wetland birds are the most prominent animals of Kirala kelle. One hundred and three bird species were recorded from Kirala kele, of which 48 are wetland birds. Large flocks of Lesser whistling ducks (Dendrocygna javanica) is a common sight; Other common birds include the Asian Openbill (Anastomus oscitans), Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio), Purple heron (Ardea purpurea), Pheasant-tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus), and Pond heron (Ardeola grayii). Kirala kelle not only provides the feeding ground for many bird species, but also provides nesting habitats for many bird species such as herons, cormorants, egrets, coots, weavers and Munias. An influx of migratory wetland birds can also be observed during the migratory season from early September to late March every year.
About 25 species of fish are found in the waters of the wetland. The exotic species, Tilapia (Oreochromis mosambicus) and Niloti (Oreochromis niloticus) are the most abundant. Other commercially important fish are the Murrel (Channa striata), spotted snakehead (Channa punctata), stinging catfish (Heteropneustes fossilis) and walking catfish (Clarias brachysoma).
In addition to the above, many species of butterflies, reptiles, amphibians there are hundreds of invertebrate species also decorate the biological wealth of Kirala kelle.
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- important places with bird concentration
- Mangrove forests in Sri Lanka