Watch our video to see why our specialists love Sri Lanka...
Wildlife in Sri Lanka
Some of the wildlife that can be spotted on a Sri Lanka holiday...
Asian elephant (elephas maximus)
Smaller than their African cousins, they play an important role in the religious and cultural history of the region. They have smaller ears than African species, and only the males have tusks. They live in groups of 6-7 related females led by an older matriarch. The elephants found in Sri Lanka are a subspecies due to their isolated location. Unfortunately they are classified as endangered.
Found: Semi-evergreen and dry tropical forest.
Interesting fact: The largest gathering occurs yearly in Minneriya
Sloth bear (melursus ursinus)
Small, unique bear, having insects as a main food source. They are covered with a long shaggy coat and are typically dark in colour. A distinctive cream “U” shape on the chest and inward turned feet make this bear stand out from other bears. They use their claws to rip open termite mounds, then suck up the termites through a gap in their front teeth.
Found: Dry forests below 300m
Interesting fact: Young cubs ride on their mothers’ back.
Savy's pygmy shrew (suncus etruscus)
The smallest land mammal in the world, this shrew is solitary and very territorial. They are greyish-brown in colour with a short velvety fur. They have large ears and tail in comparison to their body size. Their long pointed snout sticks out from below their bottom lip, giving them the distinctive look for this mammal. They are often called musk shrews due to the scent glad on the males.
Interesting fact: Northern (temperate and tropical forests)
Interesting fact: Length: up to 8.1cm weight: max 2 grams.
Purple faced langur (trachypithecus vetulus)
A long-tailed arboreal monkey endemic to Sri Lanka, their coat colour varies depending on subspecies. Usually the troop is led by one adult male, with up to seven adult females and a number of sub adults or infants. They rely on protection from adequate canopy cover.
Found: Rainforest below 1,000m.
Interesting fact: Endemic to Sri Lanka.
Toque macaque (macaca sinica)
Stocky monkeys with a bad reputation, the macaques found in Sri Lanka are often categorized by their unusual spiral of hair and outgoing personalities. Their name comes from ‘toque’ meaning brimless hat. They have become famous for stealing things and have even adapted to contain large cheek pouches in which to store their stolen goods.
Found: Everywhere except the north-west.
Interesting fact: Will raid crops and rubbish dumps.
Gray slender loris (loris lydekkerianus)
Large, round eyes help them see perfectly in the dark. They are a tree dwelling species that move along the branches on all four elongated limbs, able to reach as far as a neighbouring tree. They are the only primates that use a toxic secretion from glands in their elbows to give them a venomous bite.
Found: Central, eastern and northern Sri Lanka.
Interesting fact: Sleep in groups of up to 7 individuals.
Leopard (panthera pardus)
Distinguishable by its magnificent black-spotted coat, the leopard is recognised for its extreme stealth and versatility. It is the smallest of all ‘big cats’ but the most widespread of all wild cat species. The leopard can stalk its prey within metres, before giving chase using its powerful back legs and reaching speeds of up to 60km an hour.
Found: All parts except the south or north-west.
Interesting fact: They drag their prey up a tree to avoid scavangers.
Fishing cat (prionailurus viverrinus)
As the name suggests, they are able to dive into the water to scoop the fish out of the water from above. As well as fish, the fishing cat will often take on other prey items such as snakes, birds and even goats. Like the majority of nocturnal predators, these cats will breed all year round. They live on average 12 years.
Found: Swamps and marshy areas.
Interesting fact: 76% of their diet is fish.
Asian buffalo (bubalus arnee)
Weighing more than a tonne, the Asian buffalo is an enormous, powerful animal. They have a wider horn span than any other bovid, spanning up to 2m, and well adapted hooves that are largely splayed to allow them walk with ease amongst the muddy, marshy ground. Forming a matriarchal society, it is the female buffalo that will take charge.
Found: Muddy grasslands near large water sources.
Interesting fact: Males have larger horns than females.
Golden jackal (canis aureus)
A slender member of the canid family, the jackal is medium in size. Highly territorial, usually moving around during the night, the jackal can be an elusive predator, using a high-pitched howl to communicate at dawn and dusk. Scavengers where possible, they eat carrion but when needed will also hunt birds, young antelope, fish, insects and reptiles.
Found: Forests, mangroves, agricultural areas.
Interesting fact: Breeding pairs mate for life.
Giant manta ray (manta birostris)
The largest species of ray in the world, it can reach sizes over 9m in width and can weigh up to 2 tonnes. These majestic creatures have the largest brain of all the world’s fish. Often caught for food and medicine across Asia, as their gills are believed to have magical healing properties. Their global numbers have dropped by 30% over the last 3 generations.
Found: Tropical and sub-tropical temperate waters.
Interesting fact: Melanistic and leucistic colour morphs can occur.
Blue whale (balaenoptera musculus)
The largest mammal to ever have lived, at roughly the size of a Boeing 737. They usually travel in groups of 2 or 3, although some pods will join together reaching numbers of up to 60 individuals. The whales produce calls louder than any other animal on earth, but often at such a low frequency that it goes unheard to our mere human ears.
Found: Every ocean except the Arctic.
Interesting fact: Their heart is the size of a small car.
Dugong (dugong dugon)
The only marine mammal to feed entirely on plants. Often referred to as “the Sea Cow”, this amazing beast also has a thick skin and short fins to drive itself through the water at a relatively slow pace. All dugongs grow tusks, but they are much more visible in adult males. They live in shallow to medium deep warm waters full of seagrass.
Found: North, east and west of Sri Lanka, south of India.
Interesting fact: Hunted for meat in the past.
Leatherback turtle (dermochelys coriacea)
The world’s largest turtle, weighing in at around 300-600kg. They are able to control their own body temperatures which allow these magnificent beings to dive 1,000m in search of prey. Once an adult, females will return to the same beach on which they were born every year to lay their own eggs.
Found: Found throughout the world.
Interesting fact: Eat jellyfish and other soft bodied marine animals.
Serendip scops owl (otus thilohoffmanni)
This elusive owl species is small, short-tailed and does not have ear tufts like many other species. This owl roosts near the ground where its reddish-brown colour is the perfect camouflage. Little is known about this species, except that it is largely nocturnal, using the first 2 hours of darkness to hunt.
Found: Southern rainforests of Sri Lanka.
Interesting fact: This tiny owl was only discovered in 2001.
Sociable lapwing (vanellus gregarius)
A black strip runs from the black beak through the eye of this plover, it has a white stripe above topped with a black cap, making its markings distinguishable. The male and female take turns incubating the four eggs laid in the nest. The diet of this small bird consists of insects such as beetles, grasshoppers and larvae.
Found: West coast of Sri Lanka.
Interesting fact: Found in Sri Lanka during the winter months.
Boulenger's keelback (balanophis ceylonensis)
Also known as the blossom krait. Found only below 900m above sea level, due to its secretive nature little is known about this snake. It was once considered rare although is now likely to be a widely distributed resident. It is threatened by deforestation for plantations and logging.
Found: Lowland wet zones and mid elevation forests.
Interesting fact: Endemic to Sri Lanka.
Mugger (crocodylus palustris)
The broad snout makes this crocodile look more like an alligator, but its visible fourth tooth indicates that it is a true crocodile. It can submerge the majority of its body keeping its eyes and nostrils above water. Communication between males takes place using loud, deep rumbles and tail thrashing to gain dominance and breeding rights.
Found: Freshwater habitats.
Interesting fact: Can propel itself through the water at rapid speeds.
Asian chameleon (chamaeleo zeylanicus)
A very rare and elusive chameleon.Chameleons move very slowly to avoid being eaten by predators. They use their specialised long sticky tongue to catch insects and have the ability to change colour to blend in with its surroundings.
Found: The scrub forests of north-west & north Sri Lanka.
Interesting fact: Its prehensile tail allows it to manoeuvre the dense leaves and branches.