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

Name Date Established Size (Ha)
Hakgala Strict Nature Reserve 1938.02.05 1,141.60
Ritigala Strict Nature Reserve 1941.11.07 1,528.10
Yala (Block 2) Strict Nature Reserve 1939.03.01 28,904.70

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)

Name Date Established Size (Ha)
Angammadilla National Park 2006.06.06 7,529.10
Bundala National Park 1993.01.04 6,216.00
Floodplains National Park 1984.08.07 17,350.00
Gal Oya National Park 1954.02.12 25,900.00
Galwaysland National Park 2006.05.18 29.24
Hikkaduwa National Park 2002.10.08 101.60
Horagolla National Park 2004.07.28 13.36
Horrowpatana National Park 2011.12.06 2,570.00
Horton plains National Park 1988.03.16 3,159.80
Kaudulla National Park 2002.04.01 6,900.00
Lahugala Kithulana National Park 1980.10.31 1,554.00
Lunugamwehera National Park 1995.12.08 23,498.80
Maduru Oya National Park 1983.11.09 58,850.60
Minneriya National Park 1997.08.12 8,889.40
Pigeon Island National Park 2003.06.04 471.43
Ruhuna (yala) National Park 1938.02.25 97,880.70
Somawathiya National Park 1986.09.02 37,645.50
Udawalawa National Park 1972.06.30 30,821.00
Ussangoda National Park 2010.05.06 349.08
Wasgamawa National Park 1984.08.07 37,062.90
Wilpattu National Park 1938.02.25 131,667.10
Yala East (Kumana) National Park 1970.01.20 18,148.50

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)

Name Date Established Size (Ha)
Anavilindawa Sanctuary 11.06.1997 1,397.00
Anuradhapura Sanctuary 27.05.1938 3,500.50
Bellanvila Attidiya Sanctuary 25.07.1990 372.00
Buddangala Sanctuary 01.11.1974 1,841.30
Chundikulam Sanctuary 25.02.1938 11,149.10
Dahaiyagala Sanctuary 07.06.2002 2,685.07
Elahara Giritale Sanctuary 13.01.2000 14,035.20
Elluwila yaya Sanctuary 11.09.2003 186.00
Galoya -North Eastern Sanctuary 12.02.1954 12,432.00
Galoya -South East Sanctuary 12.02.1954 15,281.00
Galwaysland Sanctuary 27.05.1938 56.60
Honduwa Island Sanctuary 19.11.1973 8.50
Horagolla Sanctuary 05.10.1973 13.30
Kahalapallekale Sanctuary 01.07.1989 21,690.00
Kalamatiya Sanctuary 28.06.1984 2,525.20
Katagamuwa Sanctuary 27.05.1938 1,003.60
Kataragama Sanctuary 27.05.1938 837.70
Kegalle -kurulu kale Sanctuary 14.03.1941 113.30
Kimbulwana oya Sanctuary 21.06.1963 492.10
Kirala kale Sanctuary 08.09.2003 310.00
Kokilai Sanctuary 18.05.1951 1,995.00
Kudasobara Island Sanctuary 21.06.1963 6.50
Kudummbigala Sanctuary 28.09.1973 4,403.00
Lokusobara Island Sanctuary 21.06.1963 64.70
Ma embulkanda-Nittabuwa Sanctuary 31.10.1972 23.50
Madin Duwa Sanctuary 06.06.1980 0.80
Madu Road Sanctuary 28.06.1968 26,677.00
Madunagala Sanctuary 30.06.1993 995.20
Mahakandarawa Wewa Sanctuary 09.12.1966 519.33
Mihintale Sanctuary 27.05.1938 999.60
Minneriya – Giritale Sanctuary 29.07.1938 6,693.50
Muthiraja wela I Sanctuary 31.10.1996 1,028.60
Muthuraja wela II Sanctuary 31.10.1996 256.80
Nimalawa Sanctuary 18.02.1993 1,065.80
Padawiwewa Sanctuary 21.06.1963 6,475.00
Paraputuwa Meheni Sanctuary 17.08.1988 189.60
Peakwildeness Sanctuary 25.10.1940 22,379.10
Pegion Island Sanctuary 18.05.1973 97.1
Polonnaruwa Sanctuary 27.05.1938 1,521.60
Rawana ella Sanctuary 18.05.1979 1,932.00
Rock Islands -Ambalangoda Sanctuary 25.10.1940 1.20
Rumassala Sanctuary 03.01.2003 170.70
Sagaman Sanctuary 21.06.1963 616.40
Senanayeka samudraya Sanctuary 12.02.1954 9,324.00
Seruwila Allei Sanctuary 09.10.1970 15,540.00
Sigiriya Sanctuary 26.01.1990 5,099.00
Sri jayawardenapura Sanctuary 09.01.1985 449.20
Tabbowa Sanctuary 19.07.2002 200,193.31
Tangamalai Sanctuary 27.05.1938 131.50
Telwatte Sanctuary 25.02.1938 1,424.50
Trincomali Novel base Sanctuary 21.06.1963 18,130.00
Udawattekale Sanctuary 29.07.1938 1,041.20
Vankalai Sanctuary 09-09-2008 4,839.00
Vaunikulam Sanctuary 21.06.1963 4,856.20
Victoriya randenigala Rantebe Sanctuary 30.01.1987 42,087.30
Weerawila tissa Sanctuary 27.05.1938 4,164.20
Welhilla katagilla Sanctuary 18.02.1949 134.30
Welipara Sanctuary 03.04.1992 30,669.90
Willpattu noth Sanctuary 25.02.1938 632.00
Yodha wewe Sanctuary 24.09.1954 4,330.10

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