Island Images Sri Lanka’s Wildlife
Photographs by Palitha Antony
The ancient Indian epic Ramayana referred to this tiny island as Lanka. Islamic folklore maintains that Adam and Eve were offered refuge on the island after their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Struck by its location and beauty, various Asian poets have called it the ‘pearl upon the brow of India’. The island has a strong history of nature protection, with King Kirthi Nissanka Malla of Polonnaruwa passing a strict order against the killing of animals in the 2nd century AD.
This tiny island sports a great diversity of habitats that have given rise to an astounding variety of flora and fauna with a high degree of endemism. The island, for instance, harbours the highest density of frog species in the world at 3.7 species per square kilometre. Its megafauna, including leopards, elephants and crocs, makes this a world-class wildlife destination.
Flamingos in Flight
The migratory season is an eventful time for birdwatchers in Sri Lanka. The best place to see Flamingos is Bundala, where hundreds of these magnificent birds can be seen together with ducks and other waders.
This bird was found brooding in its nest close to a rest house in the Yala National Park. The Iora is a fairly common garden bird in the dry-zone forested area and is widely distributed in Sri Lanka.
Giant Squirrel Feeding on Jackfruit
These globally threatened mammals are considered to be pests in Sri Lanka’s coconut estates. This one was photographed in Sinharaja, where they are found in healthy numbers. Their only threat is from birds of prey.
Crested Tree Swift
This female Crested Tree Swift was perched on a branch, calling out for its mate to take over nesting duties. It soon flew off, revealing the tiny white egg that it had been nursing.
Elephants at Girithale
During the dry season, hundreds of elephants gather around this wewa (large reservoir). This tusker is mounting another young male in a display of dominance. Lanka’s elephant population is decreasing rapidly due to conflict with humans and encroachment by farmers. Poaching for ivory is also prevalent.
Leopard at Yala
The Medapara area has been dubbed the Leopard Lane of Yala National Park, as several leopard territories overlap here. The photographer was fortunate enough to catch this male on film. Yala is an ideal leopard habitat and is one of the best places to watch leopards in the wild.
Calotes at Sinharaja
Sri Lanka boasts of a high reptilian diversity, including this strikingly coloured calotes, basking in the sun at Sinharaja.
Sanctuary Asia Vol XXIII No. 3, June 2003.