Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest and Biodiversity Research Center – ගාල්ල හියාරේ රක්ෂිතය

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Hiyare Reservoir and and the Sanctuary

Hiyare Reservoir and and the Sanctuary
Image source : facebook.com/wildlife.lk

Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest and Biodiversity Research Center is one of the best kept secrets of Galle, lying just 16 kilometers from the town. Hiyare reservior which has been built over 100 years ago to provide water to the Galle town with only gravitational pressure. This operation was stopped in 2002 when it was decided by the Municipal Council that the water was unfit for consumption in its stagnant state and turned to other forms of water supply.

In 2003 the reservoir and 600 acres of the surrounding low country tropical rainforest was turned over to the Municipal Council of Galle. One part of Hiyare is managed by the Sri Lankan Forest Department and the Wildlife Society of Galle administers the reservoir area. A unique Biodiversity Breeding Centre for endangered species has been established and an Animal Rescue Program, which provides immediate medical and surgical care for injured wildlife, maintains a tropical tree farm to promote reforestation and conducts regular classes to interested parties on the importance of conservation and protecting the biodiversity of Sri Lanka.

Dragonfly at Hiyare, Galle, Sri Lanka

Dragonfly at Hiyare, Galle, Sri Lanka
photo by JANITH Bandara licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest is a secondary lowland rain forest with a high diversity and endemism of species. There are 55 species of dragonflies, of which 12 are found only in the Hiyare area. 78 butterfly species have been identified with three endemic to this area.

Considering its small size, Hiyare contains an amazing number of endemic species. There are over 150 species of fresh water fish, reptiles, amphibians, land snails and mammals making Hiyare home. Out of that number, over 60 are endemic to the 600 acres that comprise the Hiyare Reservoir and Rainforest area. If you include the endemic birds, dragonflies and butterflies, this is one of the highest concentrations of unique species found in one small rainforest anywhere in the world! And more undiscovered species are being found each year.

Baby Collared Scops Owls at the animal rescue center at Hiyare

Baby Collared Scops Owls at the animal rescue center at Hiyare
Image source : facebook.com/wildlife.lk

The center can be reached through number of routes, the best being the Udugama Road through the Southern Expressway Access Road which would be the one you would be taking if traveling from Colombo on the Highway. Another is through the Deniyaya (A17) road and the third is through Labuduwa (B109 and B248).

Hiyare Reservoir Sanctuary, Hiyare Rainforest, Hiyare forest

Also See

Map of  Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest and Biodiversity Research Center

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The map above also shows other places of interest within a approximately 20 km radius of the current site. Click on any of the markers and the info box to take you to information of these sites.

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Travel Directions to Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest and Biodiversity Research Center

Route from Galle to Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest and Biodiversity Research Center Entrance

Through : Southern Expressway Access Road – Hiyare Junction
Distance : 17 km
Travel time : 1/2 hour.
Driving directions : see on google map

Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest

by Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne
The Island

Hiyare Reservoir RainforestOne of the most beautiful stretches of rainforest in Sri Lanka is the rainforest bordering the Hiyare Reservoir, about 18 km (approximately half an hour’s drive) from Galle. Visitors to the Hiyare Biodiversity and Education Center have a rare opportunity to see two Hog Deer. This extremely wary and nocturnal deer is rarely seen in the wild by naturalists. Its is confined to western seaboard. W. W. A. Phillips in his Manual of the Mammals of Ceylon published in 1935 gave its distribution as being from a few kilometers North of Kalutara to Kottawa in Galle.

It is found in a band which ranges from 10 to 30 kilometers inland. The Hog Deer is believed to spend the day in forested patches and come out at night to feed in swamps, paddy fields, etc. Its hooves are specially modified to spread out slightly when it walks, to distribute its weight on swampy ground. Hog Deer are free living in the wild in Sri Lanka, and are considered by many authors to be a native species, despite a curiously disjunct distribution in South Asia. W. W. A. Phillips writing in the first edition of Manual of the Mammals of Ceylon commented of a traditional belief that it was introduced by the Dutch or the Portuguese. However this comment was removed from the 1980 revised edition. The nominate species is found in tall grasslands and swamp forest in Northern India from Uttaranachal to Assam, Mizoram and Manipur. It is possible that DNA analysis may shed some clues as to the origin of the sub-species of Hog Deer in Sri Lanka.

Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest Hiyare Reservoir RainforestThe Hiyare Rainforest as it is popularly referred to, is an extension of the Kottawa Khombala Forest Reserve. This stretch of rainforest is scenically situated around the Hiyare Reservoir. The reservoir and the land surrounding it is administered by the Galle Municipal Council, whereas the much larger forest reserve is administered by the Forest Department. The reservoir ceased to supply water to the town of Galle in 2002 and in 2003 the Galle Municipal Council opened it to the public.

It has also encouraged and facilitated the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle (WCSG) which runs a field center there. The WCSG engages in education, conservation and research. The initiative by the Galle Municipal Council is a benchmark for other local authorities to engage with the public and to support conservation and education.

Thanks to the Galle Municipal Council’s Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest and the Forest Department’s Kottawa Rainforest and Arboretum, residents and visitors to Galle have superb and easy access to rainforests. Galle is the rainforest capital of Sri Lanka and is the richest of Sri Lanka’s districts in bio-diversity. In the first week of October I travelled to the Lighthouse Hotel in Galle to join Sharmini Serasinghe who is producing and presenting Discover Sri Lanka, a new travel series for Rupavahini. Together with Lighthouse Hotel Naturalist Anoma Algaiyawadu,

Hiyare Reservoir RainforestHiyare Reservoir RainforestI was to assist her in showcasing Galle as the Rainforest Capital of Sri Lanka. On my way South, I travelled through stretches of the A2, where I had swamps on my left right. The swamps reminded me that I had not yet seen a Hog Deer and I thought my only chance lay in an injured specimen been taken captive for treatment. A few days later, with Sharmini and her Rupavahini crew, I arrived at the education center of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle in Hiyare to film the rainforest.

Imagine my surprise and delight when Sameera Akmemana and Sampath Gunasinghe of the society pointed out two Hog Deer under its care. The Ruapavahini crew also filmed some of freshwater fish such as the Striped Rasbora and the endemic Sinhala Barb. The latter is easily seen in the reservoir. The word Hiyare originates from an expression which means a hundred streams. Over thirty species of freshwater fish have been recorded by the Wildlife Conservation Society in the rainforest streams of which several are endemic.

Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest

An enclosure presently has an injured Hog Deer fawn which has had the end of one of its feet bitten off by dogs. An un-related adult female has also been brought in. The female has bonded with the fawn. The female had been kept as a pet and it cannot therefore be released as it is trusting towards people and may be hunted. According to Sameera Akmemana and Sampath Gunasinghe of the Wildlife Conservation Society of Galle, these two Hog Deer take the number of Hog Deer brought to the center to a total of eight. For photographers and naturalists, this is a superb opportunity to view and photograph Hog Deer.

To enter the Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest, and the Kottawa Rainforest and Arboretum, a nominal fee is levied for tickets. To get to Hiyare, from Galle, take the Udugama Road (B 129). A hundred meters past the 9 km post of the B 129, take the road to the right. 4.4 km later you come to a big bridge, take the dirt track immediately to your left which leads to the Hiyare Reservoir, a hundred meters away.

For the Kottawa Rainforest and Arboretum, continue along the B 129. Just past the km. 13 post on the B 129, on the right, is the Kottawa Information Center. Buy your entrance tickets here. Further along the road before the 14 km post are gates to the left and a large yellow sign board “Kottawa Arboretum Wet Evergreen Forest Kottawa Khombala”. Enter the forest from here. Follow the wide trail that runs parallel to the road until it rejoins it about a km away.

Gehan de Silva Wijeyeratne (gehan@fetwing.lk) is CEO of Jetwing Eco Holidays. He has a penchant for researching and breaking stories to popularise wildlife and to position destinations. Free downloads of natural history publications are available on www.jetwingeco.com.

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