Sri Lankan wildlife | The big four 🐾
Despite being a tiny island, Sri Lanka possesses the world’s one of the most diverse wildlife. The pearl of the Indian ocean has the highest biodiversity in Asia and 14 main national parks along with 4 highly sensitive biosphere reserved declared.
So, this fabulous nature boasts about four of her beauties more often than others. These 4 species have attracted the eye of tourists very much and in this article, we will look at the significant of them and why they are so special.
1. The Blue whale
Imagine you’re wandering in the blue waters, nothing happens for a while, nothing to be seen in the horizons and suddenly a big black thing comes out of the water, jumps up and splash misty-like water into you and suddenly disappear again…What a magical sight it could be…
It is the blue whale, one of the big four, in fact the “biggest” of them all.
Blue whales are known to be the largest mammal ever lived on the planet and from several years Sri Lanka boast for the world’s finest destination to watch whales and the longest season in whale watching. These Whales can be seen in close waters to the Mirissa, a southern coastal town, from November to April and several other months in Kalpitiya and Trincomalee.
The blue whales can be sized up to 30 meters and weight up to 180 tons. Their foods are shrimp like sea creatures and water can be filters from the plates of their jaws. They tend to travel in pairs or alone and sometimes in smaller groups.
Sperm whale is also can be seen in Sri Lankan waters and they travel in small groups as well. The gigantic thing has the largest brain of all the animals in the world and can have a lifetime of 60 years.
2. The Elephant
How could we miss the elephant from our any list? These gentle giants are the largest living things on earth and Sri Lankan subspecies is called Elephas maximus maximus.
Sri Lankan elephants are smaller in size than the African elephants and little darker than the Asian elephants in central Asia. Go to Udawalawa National park, you’ll never miss a chance to see wild elephants, but the most fascinating thing happens at Minneriya national park at dry season.
When the water streams, rivers and tanks are dried up in July to September, the large groups of elephants migrate towards the Minneriya national park and its reservoir and this extraordinary sighting is quite famous among the travelers and it is known t be the largest elephant gathering in the world. When the water dries, the fresh grass emerging from the reservoirs is a very pleasing food for the elephants they spend quite a good time having their meals on open space of Minneriya national park.
The Sri lankan elephant can be high up to 3.5 meters and females are identically smaller in size. The population currently left is about 4000 including 122 ,matured male tuskers. Elephants tend to travel in groups and an elderly female always lead the heard while matured males abandon the herd and find their own territories individually. They tend to eat about 300 pounds of vegetation per day and can have a life span up to 70 years.
3. Sri Lankan Leopard
Oh, the leopards, the cute big cats! The king of Sri Lankan wildlife! Focused, strong, silent, sharp, sometimes lazy but ever so glamourous! You name the adjectives, the lord, and the pride of our jungles.
Sri Lanka boast the record of having the most density of leopards in the world and Yala and Wilpaththu national parks are the pioneers of that. Sri Lankan sub specie is called Panthera parduskotiya and an endangered animal endemic to Sri Lanka currently having a population less than 1000.
They have yellowish coat with characteristic dark spots and males can be weighed up to 56 kgs and females up to 29 kgs. They are active at night, hunting and mating and can observe rather a lazy behavior at daytime. Their preys are mainly small mammals, birds, wild boars, buffalos, samba, and spotted deer.
photograph by Milinda Wattegedara
All males have their own identical territories and as thy grow older they tend to expand them and often there could be fights from any challenger of its own kind. But any female is welcome to come. The cubs live with the mothers for about one and half years and as they become sub adults, they leave their mothers territories and have to find their own territories in order to survive. It is a hard battle, only the strongest survive in the law of nature.
4. Sri Lankan Sloth Bear
The big black fur balls!
Sri Lankan sloth bear is also a endemic specie and an endangered animal in Sri Lankan dense jungles. They are somewhat harder to see, living in the caves underground or holes in rocky areas. The population is unfortunately less than 500 as documented and unlike other bear species, the sloth bears eat both fruits and, termites alike insects.
It’s a fascinating sight that in “weera fruit” seasons, the bears would climb up the trees to eat the “weera” and get toxic. They spend hours on those trees until they could afford getting down and it is the best time to observe the bears. Another specialty is that unlike other animals, the bear cubs are carried on mothers back, a unique and rare sight if you could see once.
Wilpattu offers the best chance to see bears and often they live in solitary, but cubs live with the mothers until 2 or 3 years before they move out. the males can be weighing up to 140 kgs and 6 ft long and 3 ft high. The females can be weighing about 95 kg and smaller in size and their greatest weapon is the sharp long nails that could easily tear any animal.
The battle for the supremacy between the leopard and the sloth bear is a very rare scene. They tend to evade each other in face-to-face scenarios but occasional fights do happen resulting heavy damaged to both parties.
So… this is the big four! How many of them have you seen in wild?
Hoping to write more on leopards in future, one of my favorites and until then, god bye!