Sri Lanka is a tropical island in the Indian ocean that is very rich in fauna and flora. There are seventeen National parks and sanctuaries at the moment in the country ant they are inhabited by large number of animal species including elephant, leopard, sloth bear, sambhur, deer and monkeys, wild buffalo, wild boar (pig), porcupine, ant-eater, civet cat, jackal, mongoose, loris (unique to Sri Lanka) several varieties of lizards, squirrels, reptiles and amphibians. Each park however has its own specialties.
YALA (Ruhuna) NATIONAL PARK
Situated 309 km. south of Colombo, Yala is approximately 1,259 sq.km. in extent and is located in the south eastern corner of the island. Its northern boundaries border on the Lahugala Elephant Sanctuary and it has the added bonus of a scenic ocean frontage. The terrain is varied flat plains alternating with rocky outcrops. The vegetation ranges from open parkland to dense jungle. Water holes, small lakes, lagoons and streams provide water for the animals and birds. The speciality here is the large numbers of elephants.
GAL OYA NATIONAL PARK
Situated at Inginiyagala, the Gal Oya National Park is 314 km. from Colombo and is most renowned for its elephant population.
UDA WALAWE NATIONAL PARK
Situated 170 km. South East of Colombo the Uda Walawe National Park is approximately 30,821 hectares in extent. This Park which lies within the Ratnapura and Monaragala Districts acts as the catchment to the Uda Walawe Reservoir and is located in the Dry Zone. This Park comprises grasslands and thorn scrubs and many valuable species of trees are found within it. Large herds of Elephants and Deer species such as spotted Deer, Sambhur, Barking deer and Langur, Wild Boar, Water Buffalo, Jackal are some of the prominent wild animals found in this Park and a variety of avifauna is seen.
WASGAMUWA NATIONAL PARK
Situated approximately 200 km. away from Colombo, the Wasgamuwa National Park lies within the Polonnaruwa and Matale Districts and have the Mahaweli river and Amban river as its eastern and western boundaries. Tropical intermediate dry mixed evergreen forest predominates its environment.
BUNDALA NATIONAL PARK
Bundala National Park is the latest addition to the National Parks and is situated 260 km. away from Colombo. All species of waterbirds resident in the country and the migrant birds inhabit this Park.
HORTON PLAINS NATIONAL PARK
The Horton Plains National Park is the only National Park situated in the Hill Country and falls within the Nuwara Eliya district and is 200 km. away from Colombo. Panoramic scenic beauty of the Hill Country could be witnessed within the Park. The famous `Worlds End’ is a major attraction within the Park. Endemic slender loris and endemic purple monkey are among the important animal species that could be seen in addition to sambhur, a member of the cat family etc. There are some endemic avifauna also found within this Park.
NATIONAL ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS
Situated 11 km. from the Fort, the Zoo has a fine collection of animals, birds, reptiles and fish from all over the world. The aquarium is the only one of its kind in Asia and displays over 500 varieties of aquatic life. Also walk in through Aviary, Reptilium, Butterfly Park. There are daily elephant performance at 5.15 p.m. Open daily between 8.00 a.m. and 6.00 p.m. Entrance fees : Rs 90/- per adult and Rs.45/- per child.
The sanctuaries at Kumana 312 km. from Colombo, Wirawila 261 km. Bundala 259 km. and Kalametiya 224 km. are all lagoon locations in Sri Lanka’s extreme south eastern coast. The Giant’s Tank in the north western corner of the island is a huge ancient irrigation reservoir of 3,800 hectares. The coastal sanctuaries are exotically picturesque with combinations of lagoon, swamp, river, jungle, lake and plain. Large flocks can be found here of both resident and migrant aquatic birds. The highland sanctuaries at Udawattakele 118 km. from Colombo and the Peak Wilderness 141 km. are quieter but equally picturesque with wooded hills and secluded streams and have the added bonus of rare flora such as our unique Wesak Orchid as well as numerous species of rare butterflies. The Udawattakele Sanctuary is in the suburbs of Kandy, our picturesque and fascinating hill capital. The Peak Wilderness is situated on the slopes of Adam’s Peak (Sri Pada), Sri Lanka’s sacred mountain.
An orphanage for elephants has been set up by the department of National Zoological Gardens, at Pinnawela, 90 km. from Colombo. It was established in 1975 and several animals brought here at the inception are now mature enough for breeding, which is the ultimate aim of the institution. Entrance fees : Rs.200. Pinnawala elephant orphanage has largest captive herd in the world The Pinnawala elephant orphanage has not only got the largest captive herd of elephants in the entire world but it also has become the most successful elephant breeding centre, according to reports. The elephant orphanage was established in 1995 with seven orphans today has a population of sixty two. The elephant orphanage now boasts of its sixteenth birth and the second generation of births in captivity. It has become a major tourist attraction because of its uniqueness. This is an ideal site for photography, research and education on elephants as the visitor is able to observe a large herd comprised of week old babies to sixty year olds.
A state of the art zoo is under construction at Pinnawala which will be open to the public by 2003. The Department of National Zoological Gardens now maintains two farms at Pallekelle and Gonapola to meet a part of its food requirements for animals.
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.
NATURAL IRON WOOD FOREST
JATHIKA NAMAL UYANA, ULPOTHAGAMA, MADATUGAMA