Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is a distinct subspecies of the Asian Elephant and is indigenous to the island. The Sri Lankan Elephant can be described as being smaller in size than the African Elephant yet it is the largest of the three Asian subspecies. It is has a shoulder height between 2 and 3.5 m (6.6 and 11.5 ft) and weighs between 2000 and 5500 kg, with a darker skin tone and greater de-pigmentation patches on its body. The females are distinctively smaller than the male with females having short or no tusks with about 2% of the male populations being tuskers. It is believed that the Sri Lankan Elephant with its distinct physical characteristics is better looking when compared with its Asian cousins, the Indian Elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) and the Sumatran Elephant (Elephas maximus sumatranus).
Known as the ‘Lord of the Jungle’, the Sri Lankan Leopard (Panthera parades kotiya) is one of the eight recognized subspecies of Leopard and is indigenous to Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan Leopard, the smallest of the ‘Big cats’ is still the only large mammal predator in the country and relatively bigger in size than its relatives living elsewhere. It is rusty yellow coloured with its characteristic dark spots and lithe elongated bodies. It is stocky in build, with a shoulder height of about 45 to 80 centimeters with males weighing around 56 kg and females around 29 kg and lives up o 20 years. They are highly graceful and agile animals are predatory carnivores making them excellent hunters who pursue different prey such as small mammals, birds, reptiles, wild boar, sambur and barking-deer of which the spotted deer makes a larger part of its diet. They hunt mainly during the nights and are best observed during dawn and dusk and sometimes during the daytime as well.
Sri Lanka is a birder’s paradise. A tropical island in the Indian Ocean situated 10 degrees north of the equator, boasting of diverse and favourable climatic conditions and natural habitats such as forests, scrublands, grasslands, wetlands, seas and agricultural lands. The country is home to 439 species of birds of which 236 are breeding residents, 203 migrants and the rest vagrants. For a country as small as Sri Lanka having 33 endemic species and 68 endemic subspecies of birds with a species endemism of 11% goes to demonstrate why Sri Lanka is one of the finest birding destinations in the world. This includes endemics such as Fowls, Pigeons, Parrots, Parakeets, Malkoha, Coucal, Owl, Owlet, Hornbill, Barbet, Magpie, Bulbul, Warbler, Babbler, Thrush, White-eye, Mynah, Starling, Flycatcher, Flowerpecker, Pigeon, Barbet, Flameback, Woodshrike, Drongo and Swallow.
Wild Water Buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) can be witnessed in plenty at the waterholes in the National Parks around the country. They are massive in stature sometimes six feet tall at the shoulders, an adult male weighing between 700 – 1200 kg with the female weighing a little less. Both the male and female possess horns, the female has longer horns and the male broader and stronger horns that grow throughout their lives. These horns are very useful in fighting off predators, especially leopard. The Wild Water Buffalo is native to the Indian Subcontinent and South East Asia. This magnificent creature has been listed as endangered in the IUCN Red List since 1986 with less 4000 animals remaining, of which 2,500 are mature individuals.
The Bear found in Sri Lanka (Melursus ursinus inornatus) is a subspecies of the Sloth Bear and is endemic to the country. The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear is stocky in build covered with long black shaggy fur and long hair around its neck; the adult male weighs about 140kg and is typically about 3 ft high at the shoulders and about six ft long, while the female weighing about 95kg is slightly smaller in size and stature. Each paw of the bear has soft pads with long non-retractable curved claws that can grow as long as 4 inches. It also has a long blackish white muzzle, protruding lips, long tongue, bony palate and no front teeth, all of which aids in feeding on termites and ants.