Gal Oya National Park Some 32 terrestrial mammals have been recorded here. Mugger crocodiles and Indian star tortoises are the dominant reptiles. More than 150 species of birds have also been recorded and include the resident lesser adjutant, spot-billed pelican and red-faced malkoha. The endemic Sri Lankan Lesser Albatross butterfly can also be found in this region.
KUMANA NATIONAL PARK About 255 species of birds have been recorded with regular sightings. The rare black-necked stork, lesser adjutant, Eurasian spoonbill and great thick-knee are breeding inhabitants. The rare yellow-footed green pigeon, greater racket-tailed drongo, Malabar trogon, red-faced malkoha and sirkeer malkoha also migrate here.
LAHUGALA KITULANA NATIONAL PARK The last recorded sighting of knob-billed duck, now thought be extinct in Sri Lanka, was right here. The resident endemics include the red-faced malkoha and the Sri Lanka spurfowl. It is also home to a variety of amphibians including the endemic Atukorale’s dwarf toad (Yala toad), as well as venomous snakes, two species of freshwater turtles and the endemic walking catfish species.
MADURU OYA NATIONAL PARK Home to a number of endemic species of flora and fauna, it is also one of the recorded habitats of the gray slender loris. Its diverse aquatic avifauna includes storks, sea eagles, pelicans and a variety of water birds. Notable forest species include the rare broad-billed roller, white-rumped shama and endemic red-faced malkoha.
PIGEON ISLAND NATIONAL PARK Named after the feral pigeons that have colonised this island, the largest coral reef fauna is dominated by colourful stony coral while random patches of soft coral can also be seen. Juvenile and adult blacktip reef shark visit the shallow coral areas. Hawksbill, green and olive ridley sea turtles are also frequent visitors.
SOMAWATHIYA NATIONAL PARK Along with elephants, jackals, fishing cats, rusty-spotted cats, leopards, porcupines and Indian hares, 75 migrant bird species call this park home. A wide variety of forest birds, raptors and waders are also found here.
TRINCOMALEE Alongside iconic sperm and blue whales, there are Bryde’s whales, Eden’s whales (which are a small form of Bryde’s whales), whale sharks, killer whales, dwarf sperm whales and pygmy sperm whales that also roam the waters. The dolphins that can be seen include the pilot whale, and spotted, common, bottlenose, spinner, striped and white-beaked striped dolphins, as well as false killer whales and Risso’s dolphins.
Gal Oya National Park Located near the Senanayake Samudraya, the largest reservoir in Sri Lanka, this park is famous for elephant herds that can be seen all year round. The protected catchment area was established in 1954, and forest, scrub and grassland provide vegetation for its fauna.
Kumana National Park Wintering grounds for large flocks of migratory waterfowl and wading birds, the park is also referred to as Yala East. The Kumbukkan Oya, a vast mangrove swamp, multiple lagoons and tanks sustain the bird life in this park.
Lahugala Kitulana National Park One of the smallest parks in the island, it is an important habitat for Sri Lankan elephants and endemic birds. Classified as a Dry Zone evergreen forest, it provides ample feeding grounds for elephants.
Maduru Oya National Park This sanctuary for wildlife – especially elephants – also includes the immediate catchments for five reservoirs surrounding the park. A vedda community lives within the park boundary at Henanigala.
Pigeon Island National Park Sri Lanka’s other marine national park is situated a kilometre off the coast of Nilaveli and hosts some of the island’s best remaining coral reefs.
Somawathiya National Park One of the four national parks under the Mahaweli River development project, the park is home to many mega herbivores.
Trincomalee An emerging hotspot for whale and dolphin watching, this is one of the best places for sighting these marine mammals.
Compiled by Nicola Jayasundera