Animals & Plants

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Animals & Plants

Sri Lanka is known for its hospitality, culture, and spices.But it also boasts of great diversity in wildlife. It is the most famous place for wild Elephants. Large numbers gather in groups in national parks. There are different types of wild animals in this country. This diverse wildlife is preserved in over 22 national parks across the country. Below are some of the animals native to Sri Lanka.

Sea Turtles

Drew Farwell - Turtle sanctuary - Ahangama, Sri Lanka

Five out of the seven species of sea turtles come ashore to nest in Sri Lanka, making it an ideal country for Turtle Watching. Turtles are very nervous when they are looking for a place to nest and can be easily scared off. Sea turtles lay eggs along the west and south coasts of Sri Lanka.

Dolphins & Whales

Sri Lanka’s waters are home to blue whales, the largest animal in the world; seeing a blue whale up close and personal is an experience that cannot be described in words. Blue whales are thought to live as long as 200 years and subsist on a diet of krill and other types of plankton. Off Sri Lanka’s coast is the largest known pod of blue whales in the world, with over 1000 whales.

In addition to whales, dolphin watching in Sri Lanka is also popular. If you are lucky, you might get to see both whales and dolphins. Among the species, you may see are Bottlenose Dolphins, Spinner Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins, and Striped Dolphins. Dolphins are lively and will swim alongside boats, jumping out of the water to be playful. The ideal locations for whale watching would be Dondra Point (accessible from Galle, Hikkaduwa, and Mirissa) and Trincomalee while the sea off Kalpitiya teems with an abundance of dolphins.

The Toque Macaque

The toque macaque is a reddish-brown-colored Old World Monkey endemic to Sri Lanka.  It is known as the rilewa or rilawa  in Sinhala.  They live in troops, sometimes numbering up to 20 members. The dry zone subspecies has earned the nickname “temple monkey” as they are commonly sighted in the Cultural Triangle of Sri Lanka, where many ancient monuments including temples are situated.


The purple-faced langur, also known as the purple-faced leaf monkey, is a species of Old World Monkey that is endemic to Sri Lanka. The animal is a long-tailed arboreal species, identified by a mostly brown appearance, dark face (with paler lower face) and very shy nature.

Also known as the Chital and Axis Deer, the Spotted Deer is a very common wild mammal that you will see during your wildlife experiences in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan axis deer are active primarily during early morning and again during the evening.  But they could be observed at any time near waterholes. They usually live in groups of between 10-60 animals, though herds may include up to 100 animals.

Water Buffalos can be seen mostly near waterholes in national parks around the country. Water buffalo is native to Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia. They are massive in stature, sometimes six feet tall at the shoulders. An adult male weighs between 700 – 1200 kg while the female weighs a little less. Both the male and female possess horns. The female has long horns and the male broader and stronger horns that grow throughout their lives. These horns are very useful in fighting off predators, especially leopards.

The sambar deer in Sri Lanka is the largest of the four in the deer family. Sri Lankan sambar lives in lowland dry forests and mountain forests. Large herds of sambar deer roam the Horton Plains National Park, where it is the most common large mammal. 

Grey Hornbill

The Sri Lanka grey hornbill is a gregarious bird found in forest habitats and native to Sri Lanka. It is a member of the hornbill family but the fact that it doesn’t have the top part of the beak sets it apart. The female lays up to four white eggs in a tree hole blocked off during incubation with a cement made of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. There is only one narrow aperture, barely wide enough for the male to transfer food to the mother and chicks. These birds usually live in pairs or small flocks consisting of up to five birds. 


The Sri Lankan Junglefowl, also known as Ceylon Junglefowl, which looks a lot like a rooster, is the national bird of Sri Lanka. Junglefowl is common in forests and scrub habitats, and is commonly spotted at sites such as Kitulgala, Yala, and Sinharaja.

The peacock, largest of the pheasants,is native to Sri Lanka and India. It is often the male of the species that are seen in photographs, showing off their beautiful plumage. Hence the simile "proud as a peacock". The female (peahen) lacks the beautiful ornamental feathers or bright coloring. Since the female of the species is not as colorful as the males, they have been hunted indiscriminately for their meat.

For Hindus in Sri Lanka, the Peacock holds a special place too, for Skanda, the God of Katharagama sits with his wives astride a peacock. Lord Vishnu, one of the major gods is also often shown with a peacock in the background.

These birds love showing off their color and being photographed.


It’s very rare to spot a leopard in the wild. Spotting a leopard on safari will depend on your guide and their sense of respect for the wildlife. The Sri Lankan leopard is larger than other leopards and is the highest in the jungle food chain since there are no tigers and lions around.


Elephants are important and sacred animals in Sri Lanka and are protected. The country has the largest concentration of elephants. The Sri Lankan Elephant is one of the three types of Asian Elephants and most visitors love to go on an elephant watching safari or visit the elephant orphanage. Elephants can be seen in most of the national parks, and the big gathering takes place in Minneriya National Park.