Wildlife And Eco

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bio diversity in Sri Lanka

The Magnitude of bio diversity found in Sri Lanka is not in line with it's physical proportions. United Nations has acknowledged this fact by ranking Sri Lanka, as the 10th highest in bio diversification present per square area. Through out this tropical island, geographical facade changes dramatically, from the patinas (Grass Lands) to tropical rain forests, and from sandy beaches dotted with mangroves to monsoon dependant greenery. These consist the likes of Horton plains, sitaeliya plains, Agarapatana (all are grass lands/plains), Sinharaja (a rain forest since pre historic times), and Beaches of unawatuna, bundala and hikkaduwa, wildlife sanctuaries like Yala, Wilpattu and mangrove abundant marshes of muthurajawela & attidiya. Apart from the obvious geographical variations there is a vast number of less prominent ecological systems in Sri Lanka such as forests of ritigala and rumassala, udawatte kelle in kandy etc. All these contribute to an exotic system, which is the natural habitat of a variety of animal and plant species. Contrasting eco systems means that Sri Lanka is a haven for a nature lover who want to do exploring to his/her heart's content.

An important part of ecological systems prevalent in Sri Lanka would be the animal species. Like the variety among environment one can find so many kinds of fauna who observe many a behavioral pattern. Animals in Sri Lanka could be broadly categorized in to many groups such as Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, Fish, and etc. what ever the creature it would always follow a behavioral pattern suitable to its habitat. A major attraction for a nature lover would be the national parks of Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka’s wildlife is as varied as the island itself. In its national parks, you can hire a jeep for elephant and leopard safaris, become engaged in turtle conservation and, for birdwatchers, the country is a veritable delight.

Then there is Sinharajah, a couple of hours inland from the west coast, and the last significant area of rainforest left on the island, home to a vast array of endemic species. The wildlife might be hard to spot in the thick forest, but the whole experience can be uplifting.

With 12 per cent of the country designated for wildlife protection, there is no doubting Sri Lanka’s commitment to its natural heritage. Safari parks and sanctuaries, most prominent in the southern and central zones, offer the easiest way to see the animals in their natural habitat. Stay alert for a sighting of the endangered leopard; take your time as you watch the elephants feeding and washing in a tank or lagoon; or walk with the turtles until they stop to lay their eggs.

In the 3rd century BC Sri Lanka became the first country to set up a flora and fauna sanctuary with Mihintale. Now the strict natural reserves are out of bounds for visitors but at the national parks, such as Uda Walawe – the closest rival to an African gamepark - and Bundala, you only need a permit to see the protected wildlife. The nature reserves of Sinharaja and Minneria and the 50 sanctuaries also offer animal protection and treasured experiences.

Unless you spot a rare leopard then the sight of a Sri Lanka elephant will probably be the highlight of the tour. The elephant population has dropped from 20,000 to 3,500 since the 1800s, but the level has stabilised with the establishment of corridors, national parks, reserves and the charming orphanage at Pinnewala.

The parks offer easy viewing via a guided jeep tour. At the Uda Walawe National Park you are guaranteed to see elephants and it is possible for herds of up to 100 to graze lazily. Watch in awe of the hulking beasts as they splash and spray in groups of up to 150 at the Minneriya Sanctuary.

Asian elephants are smaller than their African cousins, rarely reaching a height of three metres, and they have a more rounded back and smaller ears. Not all of them have tusks.

For the cutest elephant experience of all, try the elephant orphanage at Pinewella. The island’s most popular elephant attraction lies near Kegalle, just off the main Colombo-Kandy road, and when the 60 orphans bathe or feed a few mnetres away from you it is easy to understand why.

If it is leopards you are hankering for, your best chance lies at Yala, in the remote south-east, or in the recentle reopened Wilpattu national park, which is best approached from either Negombo or Anaradhapura.


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