Sinharaja Rain Forest
Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a national park and a biodiversity hotspot in Sri Lanka. It is of international significance and has been designated a Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests eco region, was saved from the worst of commercial logging by its inaccessibility, and was designated a World Biosphere Reserve in 1978 and a World Heritage Site in 1988. The reserve's name translates as Kingdom of the Lion.
The reserve is only 21 km (13 mi) from east to west, and a maximum of 7 km (4.3 mi) from north to south, but it is a treasure trove of endemic species, including trees, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals.
Because of the dense vegetation, wildlife is not as easily seen as at dry-zone national parks such as Yala. There are about 3 elephants and the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The most common larger mammal is the endemic Purple-faced Langur.
An interesting phenomenon is that birds tend to move in mixed feeding flocks, invariably led by the fearless Greater Racket-tailed Drongo and the noisy Orange-billed Babbler. Of Sri Lanka's 26 endemic birds, the 20 rainforest species all occur here, including the elusive Red-faced Malkoha, Green-billed Coucal and Sri Lanka Blue Magpie.
Reptiles include the endemic Green pit viper and Hump-nosed vipers, and there are a large variety of amphibians, especially tree frogs. Invertebrates include the endemic Common Bird wing butterfly and the inevitable leeches.
1. Kudawa entrance - Colombo --> Kalawana --> Kudawa
2. Pitadeniya Entrance - Galle or Matara --> Deniyaya --> Pitadeniya
3. Morning Side Entrance -- Galle or Matara --> Deniyaya --> Morning Side Estate
The vegetation of Sinharaja may be described either as a tropical lowland rain forest or tropical wet evergreen forest. Some striking characteristics of the forest are the loftiness of the dominant trees, the straightness of their bole, the abundance of regeneration and the diversity of species. Average height of the trees varies between 35m – 40m.Some individuals rise even up to 50m.The vegetation of Sinharaja is that of humid wet evergreen forest type with a high degree of endemism. In fact some families such as Dipterocarpaceae show an endemism more than 90%. The untapped genetic potential of Sinharaja flora is enormous out of the 211 woody trees and lianas so far identified within the reserve 139 (66%) are endemic. Similarly, high levels of endemism are perhaps true for the lower plants like ferns, epiphytes as well. Out of 25 genera endemic to Sri Lanka 13 are represent in Sinharaja. The total vegetation density, including trees, shrubs, herbs and seedlings has been estimated to be around 240,000 individuals per hectare, of which 95% comprise individuals of the ground layer below 1 m in height. The density of trees, lianas above 30 cm girth at breast height, ranges between 600 – 700 individuals per hectare while the number of merchantable individuals of trees of girth greater than 150 cm ranges between 45-55 individuals per hectare.
Studies on the fauna of Sinharaja have revealed that there is a high degree of endemism among the butterflies, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are greater than 50%. There have been reports of sightings of a few animals in the eastern Secter. The most common deer species is the Sambar deer, Indian muntjac and Indian hog deer are also found within the reserve. Leopards are very seldom sighted, but their frequent presence has been confirmed by tracks and other signs. Stripe-necked mongoose and the Golden Palm Civet have been occasionally sighted. The most commonly seen primate is the Purple - faced Leaf Monkey.
Out of the Birds recorded in the western sector of the reserve, 72% were resident non-endemic and 13% migrants. One of the most interesting and colorful spectacles to be found in the Sinharaja is the presence of mixed species of foraging bird flocks, a phenomenon commonly found in rain forests total of 100 such flocks were systematically observed, and studies have revealed that some flocks contained 48 species including 12 endemic species. The rare endemic birds to be seen in Sinharaja are the Red-faced malkoha, the Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, the Ashy-headed laughing thrush, and the White-faced starling and the Green-billed coucal the rarest of Sri Lankan birds. The Agamids are the best represented group of reptiles, the most common being the Common Green Garden Forest Lizard. Of Special significance are the sightings of Whistling lizard an arboreal species, the rarest of all agamids found in the island. The only Tortoise recorded in the reserve is the Indian black turtle, while of the species of skinks, the Bronze mabuya can be seen often. Among the snakes The Green Pit Viper and all 3 species of Hump-nosed Vipers are commonly found in this forest and are endemic to Sri Lanka.
The amphibians are fairly well represented in the reserve and nine endemic species have been identified. The endemic Torrent toad and the common house toad. In most streams and marshes, the Wrinkled frog and The Sri Lankan Reed frog is also found in Sinharaja. Ramanella palmata a rare endemic species is the only micro hylid recorded so far while the yellow-banded Caecilian is the only apodan recorded. It is desirable that you, who visit the forest, be sensitive to the need to conserve forests such as Sinharaja. Contrary to the chaos and congestion prevailing in urban areas, it is in forests that the quality of life is best expressed. In addition man finds peace and tranquillity in forest. Allow yourself sufficient time to roam about within this nature’s green cathedral and enjoy its beauty and majesty whether you be a photographer, artist, scientist or a nature lover.