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Sri Lanka Wildlife

Filled full of fascinating ancient sites, verdant tea plantations and wonderful culture, it is easy to see why Sri Lanka remains at the top of many traveller’s destination lists.

Sri Lanka’s biodiversity makes it a secret haven for a vast variety of flora and fauna, and its relative isolation from India has engendered an environment of unique and contained wildlife. Sri Lanka’s geography consists of a long sweeping coastline and rolling hill country with large tracts of forest and grassy plains in the south central regions. This makes this magical island the ideal habitat for leopards, elephants, stunning birdlife and some of the healthiest populations of marine life left on our planet.

Sri Lankan Elephant

Sri Lankan elephants generally have small ears and most have no tusks, which sets them apart from their larger African counterparts. These features give them characterful faces and make them somewhat less intimidating than the bulls and matriarchs of the African plains.Towards the north of the inland circuit, Minneriya is the setting for the gathering of elephants that occurs between July and October each year. This can be a remarkable sight, as you witness herds of up to 150 elephants and their sheer collective might as they wash and feed and care for their young.


Sri Lankan leopards are one of the largest subspecies of leopards anywhere in the world. They have rich, golden pelts with large rosettes and are often seen on the prowl at dawn and dusk seeking out their prey. Yala National Park in Sri Lanka boasts the highest density of leopards worldwide and Wilpattu National Park also offers good opportunities for sightings.


Head out on a whale-watching tour in Sri Lanka, and it is extremely likely you’ll be rewarded with sightings of a wide variety of whale species. From sperm, blue, humpback and Bryde’s whales, Sri Lanka ranks in the top three countries in the world to spot whales. Aside from the tonnes of krill filling the waters, there is an annual migration of blue and sperm whales between the Bay of the Bengal and the Arabian Sea, via the coast of Sri Lanka.

Sloth Bears

Sloth bears are nocturnal mammals found within the Indian Subcontinent namely India and Sri Lanka. These insectivorous bears are the inspiration for The Jungle Book’s Baloo and can be seen eating termites and fruit in the forest just like him! Sloth bears are considered vulnerable due to habitat loss and poaching. Unlike grizzlies and brown bears, sloth bears have longer limbs and shaggy fur around their faces.

SRI St Sri Lanka Leopard Shutterstock Michael Sanca

Birds of Sri Lanka

The national bird of Sri Lanka is the Junglefowl, found in forested areas and known for its striking plumage, with the male having vibrant colors. The striking, vibrant Blue Magpie is found in the hill and rainforest regions of Sri Lanka and is known for its long tail and loud calls. A small, green parrot found in the wet zone of Sri Lanka, the Hanging Parrot is easily recognizable by its bright colors and its habit of hanging upside down from branches. Recognizable by its large bill, the Grey Hornbill is commonly found in lowland rainforests and is known for its distinctive call. The endemic wood pigeon species with a subtle and beautiful plumage, often found in the central and hill regions of Sri Lanka.

Grizzled Giant Squirrel

The national animal of Sri Lanka, the unique giant squirrel can be found throughout the central region of the island. Measuring around 70cm form tip to tail, these curious mammals are entirely arboreal and are most active at dawn and dusk. There are three different subspecies found in the highlands of Sri Lanka and the southern Indian states of Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, which can be easily distinguised by their differing colour patterns.