Nature and Wildlife in Sri Lanka

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Nature and Wildlife in Sri LankaSri 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 leopard 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”. 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. Game was only those animals that they hunted.

Their motive in starting this association was also selfish in that it helped to protect 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

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)

NameDate EstablishedSize (Ha)
Angammadilla National Park2006.06.067,529.10
Bundala National Park1993.01.046,216.00
Floodplains National Park1984.08.0717,350.00
Gal Oya National Park1954.02.1225,900.00
Galwaysland National Park2006.05.1829.24
Hikkaduwa National Park2002.10.08101.60
Horagolla National Park2004.07.2813.36
Horrowpatana National Park2011.12.062,570.00
Horton plains National Park1988.03.163,159.80
Kaudulla National Park2002.04.016,900.00
Lahugala Kithulana National Park1980.10.311,554.00
Lunugamwehera National Park1995.12.0823,498.80
Maduru Oya National Park1983.11.0958,850.60
Minneriya National Park1997.08.128,889.40
Pigeon Island National Park2003.06.04471.43
Ruhuna (yala) National Park1938.02.2597,880.70
Somawathiya National Park1986.09.0237,645.50
Udawalawa National Park1972.06.3030,821.00
Ussangoda National Park2010.05.06349.08
Wasgamawa National Park1984.08.0737,062.90
Wilpattu National Park1938.02.25131,667.10
Yala East (Kumana) National Park1970.01.2018,148.50

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.


Protection of the habitats and allowing human activities simultaneously done in the sanctuaries. Sanctuaries may include private lands too. Sanctuaries ensures 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 area regulated by the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance (FFPO)

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

NameDate EstablishedSize (Ha)
Anavilindawa Sanctuary11.06.19971,397.00
Anuradhapura Sanctuary27.05.19383,500.50
Bellanvila Attidiya Sanctuary25.07.1990372.00
Buddangala Sanctuary01.11.19741,841.30
Chundikulam Sanctuary25.02.193811,149.10
Dahaiyagala Sanctuary07.06.20022,685.07
Elahara Giritale Sanctuary13.01.200014,035.20
Elluwila yaya Sanctuary11.09.2003186.00
Galoya -North Eastern Sanctuary12.02.195412,432.00
Galoya -South East Sanctuary12.02.195415,281.00
Galwaysland Sanctuary27.05.193856.60
Honduwa Island Sanctuary19.11.19738.50
Horagolla Sanctuary05.10.197313.30
Kahalapallekale Sanctuary01.07.198921,690.00
Kalamatiya Sanctuary28.06.19842,525.20
Katagamuwa Sanctuary27.05.19381,003.60
Kataragama Sanctuary27.05.1938837.70
Kegalle -kurulu kale Sanctuary14.03.1941113.30
Kimbulwana oya Sanctuary21.06.1963492.10
Kirala kale Sanctuary08.09.2003310.00
Kokilai Sanctuary18.05.19511,995.00
Kudasobara Island Sanctuary21.06.19636.50
Kudummbigala Sanctuary28.09.19734,403.00
Lokusobara Island Sanctuary21.06.196364.70
Ma embulkanda-Nittabuwa Sanctuary31.10.197223.50
Madin Duwa Sanctuary06.06.19800.80
Madu Road Sanctuary28.06.196826,677.00
Madunagala Sanctuary30.06.1993995.20
Mahakandarawa Wewa Sanctuary09.12.1966519.33
Mihintale Sanctuary27.05.1938999.60
Minneriya – Giritale Sanctuary29.07.19386,693.50
Muthiraja wela I Sanctuary31.10.19961,028.60
Muthuraja wela II Sanctuary31.10.1996256.80
Nimalawa Sanctuary18.02.19931,065.80
Padawiwewa Sanctuary21.06.19636,475.00
Paraputuwa Meheni Sanctuary17.08.1988189.60
Peakwildeness Sanctuary25.10.194022,379.10
Pegion Island Sanctuary18.05.197397.1
Polonnaruwa Sanctuary27.05.19381,521.60
Rawana ella Sanctuary18.05.19791,932.00
Rock Islands -Ambalangoda Sanctuary25.10.19401.20
Rumassala Sanctuary03.01.2003170.70
Sagaman Sanctuary21.06.1963616.40
Senanayeka samudraya Sanctuary12.02.19549,324.00
Seruwila Allei Sanctuary09.10.197015,540.00
Sigiriya Sanctuary26.01.19905,099.00
Sri jayawardenapura Sanctuary09.01.1985449.20
Tabbowa Sanctuary19.07.2002200,193.31
Tangamalai Sanctuary27.05.1938131.50
Telwatte Sanctuary25.02.19381,424.50
Trincomali Novel base Sanctuary21.06.196318,130.00
Udawattekale Sanctuary29.07.19381,041.20
Vankalai Sanctuary09-09-20084,839.00
Vaunikulam Sanctuary21.06.19634,856.20
Victoriya randenigala Rantebe Sanctuary30.01.198742,087.30
Weerawila tissa Sanctuary27.05.19384,164.20
Welhilla katagilla Sanctuary18.02.1949134.30
Welipara Sanctuary03.04.199230,669.90
Willpattu noth Sanctuary25.02.1938632.00
Yodha wewe Sanctuary24.09.19544,330.10

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