Sri Lanka’s Magical Mix of Wildlife
A couple of weeks ago we looked at a little of what Sri Lanka has to offer but this week we want to focus on what we do best: wildlife! Sri Lanka has one of the highest rates of endemism in the world as well as multiple zones thus lending itself to a wider range of species. Where else would you go looking for bears and elephants at the same time!? We will also mention the leopard only briefly because we had a whole post on it last week. Check it out here!
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Elephants are one of the main reasons many people head to Sri Lanka. The island is home to its own sub-species of the Asian Elephant. The Asian elephant has been listed as endangered since 1986, threatened largely by habitat degradation and conflict with humans. Fortunately Sri Lanka offers numerous national parks, including Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park, Lunugamvehera National Park, Wilpattu National Park and Minneriya National Park, in which elephants can roam.
Sri Lanka is also home to the Dugong. It is something like the elephant of the ocean: a gentle giant. It is the only herbivorous marine mammal and may have once inspired tales of mermaids. Dugongs do not grow quite as large as manatees (up to 3m and 3.5m respectively) but live longer – up to 17 years! Dugongs grazing on seagrass are a sign of a healthy marine ecosystem.
The Gray Slender Loris has an admittedly creepy name but wait until you see those eyes…they’re cute…right? I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether this little nocturnal creature is gorgeous or down-right eerie. Nonetheless, if you want to set your eyes on those eyes, you have to head to India or Sri Lanka, the only two countries in which they can be found. These creatures are mysterious; despite a slew of studies on their behaviour and ecology in the last decade, Gray Slender Lorises still remain among the least known of all primate species.
Who doesn’t love a pangolin. This armoured, insect-eating nocturnal creature is as cute as it is odd. It’s scales vary with its habitat to help it camouflage and curled up, it can even keep itself safe from lions! We don’t advise getting too close up to any wildlife but if you did, there would be no need to fear a pangolin bite as it has no teeth! Sadly the pangolin is under threat from poaching as parts are used in traditional medicines.
Descended from the brown bear, the sloth bear has become insectivorous, living off termites and honey-bee colonies as well as fruit. They are more lanky than the brown bear and have a shaggy coat and a mane around their faces. Sri Lanka has its own species of Sloth Bear, smaller than the Indian Sloth Bear. Cubs up to nine months old may be carried on their mother’s backs and we have to say that they do look very teddy-like!
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