Lion King (Sinharaja) Tropical Rain Forest, Sri Lanka
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, a world
heritage site (1989)
Waterfalls & streams, flora & fauna, ferns & liana, birds & mammals,
butterflies & reptiles
To keep up with the Joneses. This time around, it would be
Indiana Jones with temperature at 20-34 degrees centigrade, humidity
at about 87% & annual rainfall of 5000 mm in the 15 million year old
Sinharaja Tropical Rain Forest also known as Lion King Tropical Rain
Forest of Sri Lanka, a living world heritage site. Sinharaja meaning
Lion king in Sinhala is believed to have been the last redoubt of the
Sri Lanka's lion. Lion King Sinharaja Tropical Rain Forest has
something for every one with diverse activities & interests: to the
nature lover, to the photographer, to the artist, to the ecologist & to
IUCN International Union for the Conservation of nature & Naural
Resources- Technical evaluation of Sinharaja Reserve states that "Sinharaja
is the last extensive primary lowland tropical rain forest in Sri Lanka.
It holds a large number of endemic species of plants & animals, & a
variety of plants of known benefit to man".
Pocketed between two sizeable rivers
The tropical island of Sri Lanka is well forested,
with more than 18899 acres (6648ha) of hilly virgin, uninhabited
woodland in the Sinharaja Forest alone. Pocketed between two sizeable
rivers, namely river Kalu Ganga from the north & river Gin ganga from
the south of the numerous rivers of this paradise like tropical island
of Sri Lanka, no larger than state of Virginia, is a virgin tropical
rainforest of enormous ecological significance, a treasure trove of
biodiversity. The wet zone rain forest, with a breadth of 3.7 km north
to south stretches 21km west to east over the hills, along the ridges &
across the valleys ranging in altitude 200m to 1300m. This narrow strip
of undulating terrain is drained by an intricate network of streams,
which flow into the two rivers.
The Portuguese, the Dutch & the British, the spice merchants.
The first records on Sinharaja date back to Portuguese & then
Dutch. Sinharaja is home to the spice Cardamom Elattaria
ensal. I needn't complete my sentences: they loved our spices while we
hated & waged war against them. The forest was first mapped by
British who made it a Crown Property in 1840. The first
survey was done by Naturalist George Henry Thwaites in the 1850s,
recording many plants found in Lion King Sinharaja Rain Forest.
Though Lion King Sinharaja Rain Forest was declared a forest reserve
as far back in 1875, heavy logging began in 1971 resulting in a peoples
protest against the misguided government directive that allowed felling
of timber. In 1978 Sinharaja was declared a national reserve & inscribed
on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1988. People Power
Prevails!!!! Long live People Power.
Live & Let Live
The conversation project making a provision for limited use of the
forest recourses to meet the local needs of the inhabitants of the
surrounding villages was launched in the run up to the status of UNESCO
World Heritage List. Among the variety of resources made available for
limited use are Kitul palm (Caryota urens) for
honey & jaggery (solidified honey); Weniwal
(Coscinium fenestratum) for
treatments; rattan (wewal Calamus),
used in making baskets & chairs; cardamom Elattaria ensal (as
spice); Shorea sp. (for flour); dun Shorea sp.
(for varnish and incense).
The vegetation of Lion King Rain Forest consists of Tropical Wet
Evergreen Forest & Tropical Lowland Forest, with lofty, very straight
dominant trees being a distinctive feature. It is reputed to shelter
some 120 trees species, including ironwood, satinwood, teak & ebony. The
oldest parts of the rainforest comprise dense stands of towering trees
enmeshed in exotic tangles of ferns & lianas; the top of
the canopy reaches heights up to 45m with giant Newada trees
among others. Nearly all the sub canopy tree found here are rare or
endangered. The vegetation below the sub canopy is thick. More than 65%
of the 217 types of trees & woody climbers endemic to Sri Lanka's
rainforest are found in Sinharaja. As the heart of the island's wet
zone, on most days the forest conjures rain clouds that replenish its
deep soil & balance water resources for a wide area of southwestern Sri
Lanka. Sinharaja's importance lies not just in its pristine nature, but
also in the high degree of endemism of its species.
Among the carnivorous plants is lovely Baduara. The deep test tube
like green flower, Badura, closes its leaf lid whenever an insect creeps
in. The flower ages into fiery red.
There are 12 species of mammals to be found in Sinharaja, of which
eight are endemic to Sri Lanka. Kola Wandura (Purple-faced langur
monkey), Gona (Sambhur), Olu Muwa (Barking deer), Wild
boar (Pus scrofa), rusty spotted cats, fishing cats are found
here. The purple-faced langur monkey is the most commonly seen of
mammals. There are three species of squirrels: the dusky-striped jungle
squirrel, flame-striped jungle squirrel & western giant squirrel.
Leopard, Badger Mongoose and the Golden Palm Civet have been
occasionally sighted. Porcupines & Pangolins waddle around
the forest floor.
Birds of many feathers
Lion king Sinharaja Rain Forest is home to a total of 147 species.
Among the endemic birds are Ceylon Lorikeet (Loriculus beryllinus),
Layard's Parakeet (Psittacula calthropae), Ceylon Jungle Fowl (Gallus
Lafayetti), Spur Fowl (Galloperdix bicalcarta), Ceylon
White-headed Starling (Sturnus albofrontatus), Ceylon Wood Pigeon
(Columba torringtoni), Grey Hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis),
Spotted-wing Thrush (Zoothera spiloptera), Rufous Babbler (Turdoides
rufescens), Brown- capped Babbler (Pelleurneum fuscocapillum),
Ashy-headed Laughing Thrush (Garrulax cinereifrons), Ceylon Blue
Magpie (Cissa oronata), White Headed Starling (Sturnus
albofrontatus), Green-billed Coucal (Centrophus chlororhynchus),
Red-faced Malkoha (Phaenicophaeus pyrrhocephalus), Ceylon Hill
Mynah or Grackle (Gracula ptilogenys) and Legge's Flowerpecker (Dicaeum
Birds not of a feather too flock together when her poison isn't
An interesting phenomenon in Lion king Sinharaja Rain Forest is that
birds tend to move in mixed feeding flocks, led by the fearless Greater
Racket-tailed Drongo and the noisy Orange-billed Babbler: It is a mutual
relationship observed among birds, a method by which they improve the
availability of feed. The food of one species does not necessarily
Sri Lanka's National Bird
Pedestrian Wali kukula or Sri Lanka Jungle fowl (Gallus Lafayetti),
a very colourful cousin of domestic chicken, endemic to Sri Lanka is
found strutting about & scratching the ground for food here in Sinharaja.
Sinharaja is an ideal reserve to view Sri Lanka Jungle Fowl. Sri Lanka
Jungle Fowl can be seen at
Kitulgala as well as
Reptiles & Amphibians
Lion King Sinharaja Rain Forest is home to 21 of Sri Lanka's 45
endemic species of snake. Python (Python molurus) in here is
vulnerable. The most commonly seen reptile is the green garden lizard,
while snakes include the endemic Green pit viper
(venomous) which inhabit trees, krait (venomous) and
Hump-nosed viper (venomous) which lives on the forest floor.
There are several endemic amphibian species, including the torrent toad,
wrinkled frog & Sri Lankan reed frog.
The three main natural trails of Lion King Sinharaja Rain Forest are
Waturawa trail (4.7 km long), Moulawella trail
(7.5 km long) and Sinhagala (Lion Rock) trail (14km long).
At Lion Rock (742 m) we can view the unbroken tree canopy of an
undisturbed forest & various hill ranges. At moulawella peak (760 m) we
can see Sri Pada Adam's
Peak & look over forest canopy. Oh! The leeches are along the
trails. That's a plenty of nuisance. Soap or lighter or salt would do.
With the eco tourism in Lion King Sinharaja Rain Forest on the rise,
enterprising new hotels have opened up recently. The Boulder Garden &
Rain Forest Edge are top flight of boutique hotels that provide a
on photo to enlarge