Sinharaja Forest Reserve

Last updated
Sinharaja Forest Reserve
20160128 Sri Lanka 4132 Sinharaja Forest Preserve sRGB (25674474901).jpg
Location Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces, Sri Lanka
Coordinates 6°25′00″N80°30′00″E / 6.41667°N 80.50000°E / 6.41667; 80.50000 Coordinates: 6°25′00″N80°30′00″E / 6.41667°N 80.50000°E / 6.41667; 80.50000
Area88.64 km2 (34.22 sq mi)
EstablishedApril, 1978
Governing body Department of Forest Conservation
Criteria Natural: ix, x
Reference 405
Inscription1988 (12th session)

Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a forest reserve 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. [1]


According to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Sinharaja is the country's last viable area of primary tropical rainforest. More than 60% of the trees are endemic and many of them are considered rare. 50% of Sri Lankan's endemics species of animals (especially butterfly, amphibians, birds, snakes and fish species). It is home to 95% endemic birds.

The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests ecoregion, 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.

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 15 or so[ vague ] leopards. The most common larger mammal is the endemic purple-faced langur.

Birds tend to move in mixed feeding flocks, invariably led by the fearless Sri Lanka Crested 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 birdwing butterfly and leeches.


Dense fog, dangerous, dark and mysterious forest is steeped in deep legend and mystery. The word "Sinharaja" means, lion (Sinha/සිංහ /சிங்கம்) king or kingdom (Raja/රාජ /ராஜா) and the popular folk it that the legendary lion lived in forest and protected forest.



Sinharaja Forest Reserve covers most of the Kalu Ganga basin and a small part of northern Gin Ganga, most of the forest, 60% is contained within the borders of Rathnapura District. The other parts include Galle District with 20% and Kaluthara District with 20%. [2]


The rainforest likely formed during the Jurassic era (from 200 million years to 145 million years ago). This forest encompasses a span of 36,000 hectares (88,960 acres/360 km²). [3] 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. Sinharaja forest vegetation density has been around 240,000 plants per hectare, the most dense rain forest in Asia. [4]

Human activity

The reserve is well-integrated with the local population who live in some dozens of villages dotted along the border. The villages are more in number along the southern border whilst the presence of some large estates along the northern border has resulted in only a few villages there. The locals collect herbal medicine, edible fruits, nuts, mushrooms, other non-timber forest products including bees honey and a sugary sap collected from a local palm species of the genus Caryota. The sap is converted into jaggery, a local brew and vinegar. Local people walk in the forest to collect the above items when they are not busy with their other agricultural pursuits. In addition, the crystal-clear water coming from dozens of streams is the main water source for all people living around the reserve. For generations, local people trekked through the forest from south to north to make their annual pilgrimage to the Adams Peak.

In 2013, UNESCO requested to halt the widening of ancient road linking Lankagama area to Deniyaya along a 1-km jungle patch inside the protected area after a complaint from The Centre for Environmental and Nature Studies of Sri Lanka. The construction recommenced on August 10, 2020 after prolonged appeals by the people living in villages to the Sri Lankan Government. A group of environmentalists carried out a big social media campaign and asked the Sri Lanka Forest Department, the President, the Ministry of Environment and the Central Environment authority to stop this but The Government of Sri Lanka has decided to go ahead with it to improve the livelihood of poor villagers of the area as it will clear only 0.006% of the total landmass of the forest.

Mr. Martin Wijesinhe is one of the most significant people in Sri Lanka. He is the unofficial guardian of the Sinharaja. He has been protector and caretaker since the 1950s. [5]

Endemic Mammals [6]

See also

Notes and references

    1. Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Sinharaja Forest Reserve". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved 2020-08-17.
    2. "Sinharaja Rain Forest Sri Lanka | Wildlife Places in Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2020-09-29.
    3. "Sri Lanka's Sinharaja rainforest reserve to be quadrupled in size". Mongabay Environmental News. 2019-12-17. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
    4. User, Super. "Mahoora tented safari camps Sinharaja Rainforest". Retrieved 2020-09-29.
    5. Gunatilleke, Nadira. "Unofficial 'caretaker' of Sinharaja". Daily News. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
    6. "Sinharaja Rain forest | Trekking in Sinharaja Rain Forest | Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Sri Lanka". Retrieved 2020-09-29.

    Related Research Articles

    Udawalawe National Park

    Udawalawe National Park lies on the boundary of Sabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces, in Sri Lanka. The national park was created to provide a sanctuary for wild animals displaced by the construction of the Udawalawe Reservoir on the Walawe River, as well as to protect the catchment of the reservoir. The reserve covers 30,821 hectares (119.00 sq mi) of land area and was established on 30 June 1972. Before the designation of the national park, the area was used for shifting cultivation. The farmers were gradually removed once the national park was declared. The park is 165 kilometres (103 mi) from Colombo. Udawalawe is an important habitat for water birds and Sri Lankan elephants. It is a popular tourist destination and the third most visited park in the country.

    Malabar Coast moist forests

    The Malabar Coast moist forests is a tropical moist broadleaf forest ecoregion of southwestern India.

    <i>Paradoxurus</i> Genus of carnivores

    Paradoxurus is a genus of three palm civets within the viverrid family that was denominated and first described by Frédéric Cuvier in 1822. The Paradoxurus species have a broad head, a narrow muzzle with a large rhinarium that is deeply sulcate in the middle. Their large ears are rounded at the tip. The tail is nearly as long as the head and body.

    Nagarhole National Park Tiger reserve in Karnataka, India

    Nagarhole National Park is a national park located in Kodagu district and Mysore district in Karnataka, India. It is one of India's premier Tiger Reserves along with the adjoining Bandipur Tiger Reserve and Wayanad Wildlife Sanctuary.

    Wildlife of Kerala

    Most of Kerala, whose native habitat consists of wet evergreen rainforests at lower elevations and highland deciduous and semi-evergreen forests in the east, is subject to a humid tropical climate. However, significant variations in terrain and elevation have resulted in a land whose biodiversity registers as among the world’s most significant. But the district Alappuzha situated in Kerala is the only district of Kerala which have no forests.

    Golden palm civet Species of carnivore

    The golden palm civet is a palm civet endemic to Sri Lanka. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. Its distribution is severely fragmented, and the extent and quality of its habitat in Sri Lanka's hill regions are declining.

    Brown palm civet Species of carnivore

    The brown palm civet also called the Jerdon's palm civet is a palm civet endemic to the Western Ghats of India.

    Sri Lanka montane rain forests

    The Sri Lanka montane rain forests is an ecoregion found above 1,000 m in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. Owing to their rich biodiversity, this region considered a super-hotspot within the endemism hotspot of global importance. These forests are cooler than lowland forests and therefore they have ideal conditions for growth of cloud forests. These forests classifications tropical sub montane forest, tropical sub-montane and tropical upper montane. Half of Sri Lanka's endemic flowering plants and 51 percent of the endemic vertebrates are restricted to these forests. More than 34 percent of Sri Lanka's endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs can only be found in this ecoregion. Twisted, stunted trees are a common sight in these forests, together with many varieties of orchids, mosses and ferns. The trees of montane rain forests grow to a height 10–15 meters, shorter than the lowland rain forest trees. These high altitude forests are the catchment area for most of Sri Lanka's major rivers.

    Wasgamuwa National Park

    Wasgamuwa National Park is a natural park in Sri Lanka situated in the Matale and Polonnaruwa Districts. It was declared to protect and to make a refuge for the displaced wild animals during the Mahaweli Development Project in 1984 and is one of the four National Parks designated under the Project. Originally it was designated as a nature reserve in 1938, and then in the early 1970s the area was regraded as a strict nature reserve. Wasgamuwa is one of protected areas where Sri Lankan Elephants can be seen in large herds. It is also one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. The name of the Wasgamuwa has derived through the words "Walas Gamuwa". "Walasa" is Sinhala for sloth bear and "Gamuwa" means a wood. The park is situated 225 km away from Colombo.

    Wildlife of Karnataka

    The state of Karnataka in South India has a rich diversity of flora and fauna. It has a recorded forest area of 38720 km2 which constitutes 12.3467719% of the total geographical area of the state. These forests support 25% of the elephant population and 20% of the tiger population of India. Many regions of Karnataka are still unexplored and new species of flora and fauna are still found. The Western Ghats mountains in the western region of Karnataka are a biodiversity hotspot. Two sub-clusters of the Western Ghats, Talacauvery and Kudremukh in Karnataka, are in a tentative list of sites that could be designated as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. The Bandipur and Nagarahole national parks which fall outside these subclusters were included in the Nilgiri biosphere reserve in 1986, a UNESCO designation. Biligiriranga Hills in Karnataka is a place where Eastern Ghats meets Western Ghats. The state bird and state animal of Karnataka are Indian roller and the Indian elephant respectively. The state tree and state flower are sandalwood and lotus respectively. Karnataka is home to 406+ tigers.


    Kanneliya–Dediyagala–Nakiyadeniya or KDN is a forest complex in southern Sri Lanka. The forest complex designated as a biosphere reserve in 2004 by UNESCO. The KDN complex is the last large remaining rainforest in Sri Lanka other than Sinharaja. This forest area has been identified as one of the floristically richest areas in South Asia. The forest complex is situated 35 km northwest of city of Galle. The rain forest is a major catchment area for two of the most important rivers in southern Sri Lanka, the Gin and Nilwala Rivers. This biosphere reserve harbors many plants and animal species endemic to Sri Lanka.

    Protected areas of Sri Lanka are administrated by Department of Forest Conservation and Department of Wildlife Conservation of Sri Lanka.There are 501 protected areas in Sri Lanka. The protected areas that fall under supervision of the Department of Forest Conservation include forests defined in National Heritage Wilderness Area Act in 1988, forest reservations, and forests managed for sustainability. Sinharaja Forest Reserve is an example for a National Heritage forest. There are 32 forests categorized as conservation forests including Knuckles Mountain Range. Strict nature reserves, national parks, nature reserves, forest corridors, and sanctuaries recognized under the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance are managed by Department of Wildlife Conservation. Total of all protected areas is 1,767,000 ha. Protected areas in Sri Lanka account for 26.5 percent of the total area. This is a higher percentage of protected areas than in all of Asia and much of the World.

    Sri Lanka lowland rain forests

    The Sri Lanka lowland rain forests represents Sri Lanka's Tropical rainforests below 1,000 m (3,281 ft) in elevation in the southwestern part of the island. The year-around warm, wet climate together with thousands years of isolation from mainland India have resulted in the evolution of numerous plants and animal species that can only be found in rain forests in Sri Lanka. The thick forest canopy is made up of over 150 species of trees, some of the emergent layer reaching as high as 45 m (148 ft). The lowland rain forests accounts for 2.14 percent of Sri Lanka's land area. This ecoregion is the home of the jungle shrew, a small endemic mammal of Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has the highest density of amphibian species worldwide. Many of these, including 250 species of tree frogs, live in these rain forests.

    Udawattakele Forest Reserve

    Udawattakele Forest Reserve often spelled as Udawatta Kele, is a historic forest reserve on a hill-ridge in the city of Kandy. It is 104 hectares large. During the days of the Kandyan kingdom, Udawattakele was known as "Uda Wasala Watta" in Sinhalese meaning "the garden above the royal palace". The sanctuary is famous for its extensive avifauna. The reserve also contains a great variety of plant species, especially lianas, shrubs and small trees. There are several giant lianas. Many of small and medium size mammals that inhabit Sri Lanka can be seen here. Several kinds of snakes and other reptiles might be seen. Udawattakele was designated as a forest reserve in 1856, and it became a sanctuary in 1938.

    Lunugamvehera National Park

    Lunugamvehera National Park in Sri Lanka was declared in 1995, with the intention of protecting the catchment area of the Lunugamvehera reservoir and wildlife of the area. The national park is an important habitat for water birds and elephants. The catchment area is vital to maintain the water levels of the five tanks in the down stream of Kirindi Oya and wetland characteristics of Bundala National Park. This national park also serves as a corridor for elephants to migrate between Yala National Park and Udawalawe National Park. The national park is situated 261 km (162 mi) southwest from Colombo. After being closed because of the Sri Lankan civil war, the national park is now open to the general public.

    Central Highlands of Sri Lanka

    Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is a recognised world Heritage Site in Sri Lanka. The site comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These are rain forests, where the elevation reaches 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) above sea level. The region harbors a variety of mammal species including the bear monkey, Trachypithecus vetulus monticola, and the Horton Plains slender loris, Loris tardigradus nycticeboides,.

    Kaludiya Pokuna Forest

    Kaludiya Pokuna Archeological Forest Site, is a forest with archeological remains in Kandalama, in the Dry Zone of Sri Lanka. The site has been handed over to the Girls' High School, Kandy in accordance with the "Urumaya Thani Nokaramu" program organized by the Department of Archeology. For the first time in Sri Lanka, a school was given custody of an archeological site.

    Malwattage Celestine Violet Savitri Gunatilleke is professor emeritus at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka's Central Province. She has had a long career in forest ecology and has been a leader in quantitative ecology and education. Most of her research has focused in the Sinharaja rain forest in Sri Lanka. She considers her main contribution to forest ecology to be spreading the idea that successful forest conservation depends on local conservationists. In line with this, she is proud of her students and their accomplishments in the field of conservation.

    Sri Lanka is a relatively small continental island, it exhibits a remarkable diversity of forest types, which are among the biologically one of richest forests in Asia. In these forests plant species show extraordinary patterns of localized distribution. Sri Lanka's forest became one of highest density of species diversity in the world. Sri Lanka natural forests cover about 12,493 km2 29.46% According to the National Red List said, Sri Lanka counts 253 land species, 245 species of butterflies, 240 birds, 211 reptiles, 748 evaluated vertebrates and 1,492 invertebrates. Forest coverage is about 70% tropical dry monsoon forests, 15% tropical moist monsoon forests and 5% tropical lower montane forests. By the dawn of the 19th century, Sri Lanka's forest cover was estimated at up to 70% of the total land area. Since then, the forest cover has decreased progressively over time. Significant loss of Sri Lanka's forest cover was first reported in the 19th century, with the introduction of plantation agricultural crops such as tea and vegetables. Commercial timber extraction policy of colonial rulers (British colonial time also led to clearing of forests in the dry zone. Irrigation development and agricultural expansions have been identified as key drivers of forest cover change.