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Asia’s Eden – The Surreal Fauna of Sri Lanka

As a denizen of a concrete jungle, nature, especially forests, tug at me every single day. The pristine emerald jungles of our continent house marvels we simply cannot fathom. Now when it comes to South Asia, we’re spoiled for choices. However, there’s hardly a country like Sri Lanka, and rightfully so, it gets bragging rights when it comes to conserved and untouched forests and wildlife. 

Although a small island, the Lankan land boasts of undeterred efforts when it comes to protecting its wildlife. Sri Lanka has a rich and diverse wildlife, thanks to the favorable climatic conditions, a strong and self-sustaining ecosystem, and finally, the government for ensuring that Sri Lanka’s crown jewel isn’t harmed by poachers. To cover this magnificent wildlife, no set of words are enough, neither can a single trip do justice to it, but let’s try. Here are some national wildlife parks that have successfully conserved Sri Lanka’s wildlife, and are all worthy of a visit! 

Sinharaja Forest Reserve 

The etymology behind the park’s name is a no brainer; Sinharaja Forest Reserve is home to countless species of animals and birds. Yes, even lions traverse this land, a fact made popular by Sri Lanka’s media. Each year, the Sinharaja Forest Reserve experiences a heavy flow of tourists and now has been declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. 

Located in Galle, this park houses a staggering 80 percent of Sri Lanka’s diverse wildlife. A thick canopy of clouds hover over this forest reserve constantly, ensuring that the thick forest is well-equipped to sustain against poaching activities and negative environmental effects. 

Yala National Park 

Sri Lanka’s most famous national park comes with its own set of problems. Initially, the park grounds were an infamous spot for poaching. Thankfully, Sri Lanka’s wildlife protection forces took action against poaching, and without mercy. Now, the Yala National Park is a gigantic (1300 sq. km. ) ecosystem that houses quite possibly every species of birds and animals on record in South Asia. 

Elephants, monkeys, crocodiles, deer, and hundreds of species of birds all call Yala National Park their home. Such is Yala National Park’s popularity, that you can experience heavy crowds on weekends, especially during summers. 

Bundala National Park 

Renowned for housing hundreds of species of birds, Bundala National Park is extremely popular in Sri Lanka. Stretching over 20 kilometers, this National Park is also home to crocodiles, monkeys, giant squirrels, and other lagoons/swamp animals. However, the centre of attraction is the birds; several species of birds migrate to this national park from neighboring countries like India, Bangladesh, Serbia, and China. 

The marshland also houses fierce crocodiles, and during the mating period, baby crocodiles can be seen basking under the sun along with their parents. Bundala National Park also houses around 50 huge elephants that can be seen grazing in a herd. This National Park attracts several renowned photographers as they all tussle to capture breathtaking photos of majestic animals traversing this land.

Wilpattu National Park 

Wilpattu National Park is the largest wildlife national park in Sri Lanka. From dry grasslands to lush green forests, Wilpattu National Park is as diverse as its wildlife. Depending on the topography, you can experience the National Park’s two famous animals – the sloth bear and leopard. During monsoon, countless species of birds fly over the National Park; vibrant colors flickering and fading over the emerald green forest. 

Some other animals residing in Wilpattu National Park are deer, monkeys, crocodiles, elephants, and bears. Guided tours of this National Park are highly recommended as they cover several different aspects of the Park which are normally inaccessible for solo backpackers. 

Gal Oya National Park 

Spread over a breathtaking 26,000 hectares, the Gal Oya National Park is a visual treat. And speaking of sights to see, you can and should visit this National Park with an open jeep safari. Gal Oya National Park offers the best of both flora and fauna, and you’d need multiple trips to see all the marvels this land has to offer.

Segregated into arid fields, grasslands, shrubs, and lush forests, the National Park caters to all the species of birds and animals that depend on varying ecosystems and weather conditions. Elephants are the highlight of Gal Oya National Park, along with water buffalos, wild boars, and monkeys. During harsh summer months, you can experience entire herds of elephants swimming in the waters of the National Park. 

Kumana National Park 

Home to almost 500 species of birds, Kumana National Park is a stalwart National Park when it comes to bird watching. Migratory and residential birds can be viewed here depending on the season, and with around 20 lagoons and water sources, the National Park is a perfect sustaining ground for these birds. 

A few species of Yala National Park can also be found in Kuman National Park. The reservoirs and marshes cater to reptiles and other aquatic life which is worth experiencing. However, the Kumana National Park should be visited with a guided tour, as some areas of the National Park can be hostile towards tourists.

Curated by Yashodhaan Burange

All photos sourced from Pexels.com