The Lion, The Leopard, Rhinoceros, Elephant, and The Cape Buffalo – are well known as Africa’s big five, the big game hunters and refers to the five most dangerous animals in Africa to hunt. Just like Africa’s big five, our own Sri Lanka has got its BIG FOUR – The Elephant, The Leopard, The Sloth Bear and the largest mammal The Blue Whale.
This exclusive article on ‘The World Wildlife Day’ is all about the big four of Sri Lanka and where to see them.
Sri Lanka is an important stronghold for the world’s second-largest land mammal, the Asian elephant while the largest land mammal is known to be the African elephant.
Asian Elephants are red-listed by the IUCN as endangered with a total global population of wild animals estimated at 35,000–40,000.
Sri Lankan Elephants are smaller compared to African counterparts but tend to be slightly larger and darker than other Asian Elephants found on mainland Asia.
The Sri Lankan Elephants can be seen mostly at all national parks, with Udawalawe being the most reliable year-round destination and in Minneriya it is outranked during the dry season which is known as the largest gathering of elephants in a single place. This extraordinary natural phenomenon happens during the dry season from July to September when the rivers dry up and the elephants are forced to migrate towards the large reservoirs in Minneriya and Kaudulla.
There are no tigers, cheetah, and lions in Sri Lanka, but the island does support its own endemic subspecies of leopard – Panthera Pardus Kotiya, which is also red-listed by IUCN as endangered.
According to recent reports, there are about 1000 individuals in Sri Lanka who are somewhat healthy as per the modern standards. Sri Lankan leopard has evolved as the island’s alpha predator and thus seem to be less secretive and arboreal.
Yala National Park hosts the greatest number of Sri Lankan Leopards and can offer a great leopard watching. Other parks like Wilpattu and Udawalawe also often throw up some good sightings.
The Sloth Bear
The Sri Lankan sloth bear is a distinct animal and the only species of bear that is found in Sri Lanka. It also red-listed by IUCN as endangered with a population of just 500 individuals found to be on the island.
The sloth bear is a myrmecophagous bear species native to the Indian subcontinent. It feeds on fruits, ants, and termites and unlike other bear species, they carry their cubs in their back.
Wilpattu having the best population of sloth bears, while Yala and Udawalawe also have some moments. But mostly they wander alone at night in search of insects and fruits.
The Blue Whale
The blue whale is the largest mammal ever documented on earth with a wide distribution occurring in all the oceans of the world in three distinctive subspecies; Northern Hemisphere Blue Whale, Antarctic Blue Whale, and Pygmy Blue Whale.
The blue whales recorded around Sri Lanka reportedly belong to Pygmy Blue Whale subspecies. For several years now, Sri Lanka has been able to boast being the top location to spot not only blue whales but also the other magnificent sea creatures like sperm whales and dolphins.
Sri Lanka’s best place to see Blue Whales in their natural habitat is off the coast of Mirissa on the southern coast.
While we all love to watch wildlife in their habitats, it is our responsibility to take care of them since three out of big four names are listed endangered. These big four creatures are also the main inclusion of Sri Lanka’s bio-diversity and not only these four, but all the species have equal rights in this world as we do have as humans.