Nature and Wildlife of Sri Lanka

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Strict Nature Reserves
|| Hakgala || Ritigala || Yala (Block 2) ||

Popular Wildlife National Parks
|| Bundala || Gal Oya || Horagolla || Horton Plains || Kaudulla || Lahugala Kitulana ||
|| Lunugamvehera || Maduru Oya || Minneriya || Pigeons Islands || Somawathi ||
|| Udawalawe || Wasgamuwa || Wilpattu || Yala (Ruhuna) || Yala-East (Kumana) ||
|| Flood Plains || Hikkaduwa (Corals) || Angammedilla ||

Popular Wildlife Sanctuaries
Anawilundawa || Bellanwila Attidiya || Gall Oya-Northeastern || Gall Oya-Southwestern ||
|| Mihinthale || Senanayake Samuddraya || Udawatta Kele || Vankalai ||

Popular Biosphere Reserves / Rainforests and Other
|| Bundala || Hurulu || Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN) || Sinharaja ||
|| Hiyare Reservoir Rainforest || Nilgala Forest Area ||

Nature and Wildlife in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka had an abundance of wildlife in the 1800s. Villagers used to hunt animals like deer, sambur, buffalo, wild boar etc. for their consumption. However, during the middle of that century, the government found that there was organized poaching by parties that came to the villages from outside and shot these animals including leopards for their skin and deer for antlers and meat, thereby reducing the animal population steadily.

In addition, the Britishers, who lived in this country, also indulged in hunting, which was one of their favourite sports. This further reduced the number of animals.

The government decided to enact, in 1872, an “Ordinance to prevent the wasteful destruction of buffaloes and game throughout the island”. The game included deer, sambur and peafowl.

In 1894, a group of planters formed the Ceylon Game Protection Society. Their main objective was to assist the government to protect wildlife or game as it was then called. The game was only those animals that they hunted.

Their motive in starting this association was also selfish in that it helped to protect the game, which they could later shoot with licences obtained from the government.

They also established Resident Sportsmen’s Reserves, which were solely maintained for hunting by members of the association. Yala and Wilpattu were the first of such reserves. Today these are two of Sri Lanka’s major national parks. Today Sri Lanka has 13% of its land area under protection for fauna and flora.

Depending on their objective, there are different types of protection offered to these areas such as Strict Nature Reserves, National Parks, Nature Reserves, Jungle Corridors and Sanctuaries. They cover all the ecological and climatic regions of the country.

Strict Nature Reserves

No human activities are allowed in these areas and they are protected as a pure natural ecosystem. Research work is allowed under strict supervision and strict guidelines.

The areas under this classification are

NameEstablishedSize (Sq. km)
NameDate EstablishedSize (Ha)
Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve1938.02.051,141.60
Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve1941.11.071,528.10
Yala (Block 2) Strict Nature Reserve1939.03.0128,904.70

National Parks

National Parks are the areas allowed for the public to see and study wildlife. However necessary rules and regulations are introduced to ensure the maximum protection to wildlife and their habitats.

The areas under this classification are (based on Department of Wildlife Conservation Web)

NameEstablishedSize (Sq. km)Visitors Allowed
Adam’s Bridge Marine National Park2015.06.22189.9
Angammedilla National Park2006.06.0675.3yes
Bundala National Park1993.01.0462.2yes
Chundikulam National Park2015.06.22195.7yes
Delft National Park2015.06.2218.5
Floodplains National Park1984.08.07173.5
Gal Oya National Park1954.02.12259.0yes
Galwaysland National Park2006.05.180.029yes
Hikkaduwa National Park2002.10.081.0yes
Horagolla National Park2004.07.280.013yes
Horrowpatana National Park2011.12.0625.7
Horton plains National Park1988.03.1631.6yes
Kaudulla National Park2002.04.0169.0yes
Lahugala Kithulana National Park1980.10.3115.5yes
Lunugamwehera National Park1995.12.08235.0yes
Madhu Road National Park2015.06.22630.0
Maduru Oya National Park1983.11.09588.5
Minneriya National Park1997.08.1288.9yes
Pigeon Island National Park2003.06.044.7yes
Ruhuna (yala) National Park1938.02.25978.8
Somawathiya National Park1986.09.02376.5
Udawalawa National Park1972.06.30308.2
Ussangoda National Park2010.05.063.5
Wasgamawa National Park1984.08.07370.6yes
Wilpattu National Park1938.02.251316.7yes
Yala East (Kumana) National Park1970.01.20181.5yes

Nature Reserves

Wildlife viewing and studying are not allowed in Nature Reserves. However scientific studies are encouraged under supervision. The Major difference in this category compared to Strict Nature Reserve is, in Nature Reserves traditional human activities are allowed to continue. But this right in not transferable.

NameEstablishedSize (Sq km)
Minneriya-Giritale – Block 2
Minneriya-Giritale – Block 3
Minneriya-Giritale – Block 4
Nandikadal24.01.201741.42
Nargar Kovil01.03.201678.82
Nayaru24.01.201744.64
Peak Wilderness25.19.1940223.79
Riverine
Trikonamadu198625.02 
Vedithalativu (Wedithalathive)01.03.2016291.80
Vetahirakanda07.06.202232.29

Sanctuaries

Protection of the habitats and allowing human activities simultaneously done in the sanctuaries. Sanctuaries may include private lands too. Sanctuaries ensure the protection of wildlife which are outside the state land. It is not necessary to obtain a permit to enter into such areas. However, the activities are regulated by the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO)

The areas under this classification are (based on Department of Wildlife Conservation Web)

NameEstablishedSize (Sq km)
Anavilindawa Sanctuary11.06.199713.97
Anuradhapura Sanctuary27.05.193835.01
Bar Reef Marine Sanctuary (Welipara)03.04.1992306.70
Bellanvila Attidiya Sanctuary25.07.19903.72
Buddangala Sanctuary01.11.197418.41
Bundala-Wilmanna Sanctuary25.07.199033.39
Dahaiyagala Sanctuary07.06.200226.85
Elahera Giritale Sanctuary13.01.2000140.35
Elluwila Yaya Sanctuary11.09.20031.86
Galoya -North Eastern Sanctuary12.02.1954124.32
Galoya -South East Sanctuary12.02.1954152.81
Giant’s Tank Sanctuary24.09.195443.30
Godawaya Sanctuary25.05.20062.32
Great Sober Island Sanctuary21.0619630.65
Honduwa Island Sanctuary19.11.19730.09
Kahala Pallekale Sanctuary01.07.1989216.90
Kalamatiya Sanctuary28.06.198425.25
Katagamuwa Sanctuary27.05.193810.04
Kataragama Sanctuary27.05.19388.38
Kimbulwana Oya Sanctuary21.06.19634.92
Kirala Kele Sanctuary08.09.20033.10
Kirama Oya Sanctuary06.10.20040.05
Kodigahakanda Sanctuary03.10.20170.1263
Kokilai Sanctuary18.05.195119.95
Kotuattawala Sanctuary (Kotuaththawala)23.02.20170.35
Kudumbigala-Panama Sanctuary20.02.200665.34
Kurulu Kele (Kegalle) Sanctuary14.03.19411.13
Little Sober Island Sanctuary21.06.19630.07
Madampawila Sanctuary21.09.200712.18
Maduganga Sanctuary17 July 200623.00
Madunagala Sanctuary30.06.19939.95
Maimbulkanda-Nittabuwa Sanctuary31.10.19720.24
Mahakandarawa Wewa Sanctuary09.12.19665.19
Medinduwa Sanctuary6 June 19800.01
Mihintale Sanctuary27.05.193810.00
Muthurajawela block I Sanctuary31.10.199610.29
Muthurajawela block II Sanctuary31.10.199610.29
Naval Headwork Sanctuary1963
Rekawa Sanctuary
Nimalawa Sanctuary18.02.199310.66
Padaviya Tank Sanctuary21.06.196364.75
Paraitivu Island Sanctuary18.05.19730.97
Paraputuwa Meheni Sanctuary17.08.19881.90
Peak Wilderness Sanctuary25.10.1940223.79
Polonnaruwa Sanctuary27.05.193815.22
Rawana ella Sanctuary18.05.197919.32
Rock Islands -Ambalangoda Sanctuary25.10.19400.01
Rumassala Sanctuary03.01.20031.71
Sagaman Sanctuary21.06.19636.16
Senanayake samudraya Sanctuary12.02.195493.24
Seruwila Allei Sanctuary09.10.1970155.40
Sigiriya Sanctuary26.01.199050.99
Sri jayawardenapura Sanctuary09.01.19854.49
Tabbowa Sanctuary19.07.200221.93
Thangamale Sanctuary27.05.19381.32
Telwatte Sanctuary25.02.193814.25
Trincomalee Naval base Sanctuary21.06.1963181.30
Udawattekale Sanctuary29.07.19381.04
Vankalai Sanctuary09-09-200848.39
Vavunikulam Sanctuary21.06.196348.56
Victoriya randenigala Rantebe Sanctuary30.01.1987420.87
Weerawila Tissa Sanctuary27.05.19381.34
Welhilla Katagilla Sanctuary18.02.19491.34
Welipara Sanctuary03.04.199230,67
Willpattu north Sanctuary25.02.19386.32
Wilmanna Sanctuary06.200633.39
Yodha wewa Sanctuary24.09.195443.30ba

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