SINHARAJA RAIN FOREST
sinharaja Forest Reserve is a national park 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. The hilly virgin rainforest, part of the Sri Lanka lowland rain forests eco region, 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. The reserve’s name translates as Lion Kingdom.
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. 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 the 15 or so leopards are rarely seen. The most common larger mammal is the endemic urple-faced langur.
An interesting phenomenon is that birds tend to move in mixed feeding flocks, invariably led by the fearless greater racket-tailed 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 mphibians, especially tree frogs. Invertebrates include the endemic common birdwing butterfly and the inevitable leeches.
The vegetation of Sinharaja may be describedeither as a tropical lowland rain forest or tropical wet evergreen forest. Some striking characteristics of the forest are the loftiness of the dominant trees, the straightness of their bole, the abundance of regeneration and the diversity of species. Average height of the trees varies between 35m – 40m.Some individuals rise even up to 50m.The vegetation of Sinharaja is that of humid wet evergreen forest type with a high degree of endemism. In fact some families such as Dipterocarpaceae show an endemism more than 90%. The untapped genetic potential of Sinharaja flora is enormous out
of the 211 woody trees and lianas so far identified within the reserve 139 (66%) are endemic. Similarly, high levels of endemism are perhaps true for the lower plants like ferns, epiphytes as well. Out of 25 genera endemic to Sri Lanka 13 are represent in Sinharaja. Thetotal vegetation density, including trees, shrubs, herbs and seedlings has been estimated to be around 240,000 individuals per hectare, of which 95% comprise individuals of the ground layer below 1 m in height. The density of trees, lianas above 30 cm girth at breast height, ranges between 600 – 700 individuals per hectare while the number of merchantable individuals of trees of girth greater than 150 cm ranges between 45-55 individuals per hectare.
Sinharaja is a paradise of endemic and other species of fauna. Over 50% of endemic species of fauna are living in Sinharaja Tropical rain forest. There are about 282 birds are recorded in Sinharaja out of 384 in Sri Lanka. It is 73%. Most of species who are endemic to Sri Lanka can be seen on Sinharaja. Butterflies, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals are major fauna types.
The reserve is well-integrated with the local population that are living 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 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.
There are several bungalows to stay on the border of the reserve. Morning Side bungalow, Pitadeniya rough accommodation, Kudawa dormitory accommodation. It is also possible to stay in several village houses practically along the southern border of the reserve from Beverly Estate all the way to Warukandeniya. All government accommodation has to be booked with the Forest Department. It may be possible to book estate bungalows also located along the boundary of the reserve. Staying in village houses is fun and exciting though the facilities are minimal. One may have to work through a local guide to arrange a suitable village/house for accommodation.
Content From Future E-Magazine