Protected areas of 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.[1] 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.[2] Sinharaja Forest Reserve is an example for a National Heritage forest (it is also a World Heritage Site). 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.[1] This is a higher percentage of protected areas than in all of Asia and much of the World.


Plant diversity and endemism in Sri Lanka are quite high. Of 3,210 flowering plants belonging to 1,052 genera, 916 species and 18 genera are endemic.[3] All but one of Sri Lanka's more than 55 dipterocarp (Sinhalese "Hora") are found nowhere else in the world. Sri Lanka's amphibian diversity is only becoming known now. Sri Lanka may be home to as many as 140 species of amphibians. More than 50 known freshwater crabs are confined to Sri Lanka.


Between 1990 and 2000, Sri Lanka lost an average of 26,800 ha of forests per year.[4] This amounted to an average annual deforestation rate of 1.14 percent . Between 2000 and 2005 this accelerated to 1.43% per annum.

Conservation efforts

92 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) have been identified through a process coordinated by the Wildlife Heritage Trust and University of Peradeniya.[5] Many other data and published literature were also incorporated into the analysis, notably data on Important Bird Areas collected by the Field Ornithology Group of Sri Lanka. Nearly all of these KBAs lie in the wet zone in south western part of the country. These areas considered irreplaceable because all sites contain endemic species that found nowhere else, with some of them harboring more than 100 globally threatened species.

The flora and fauna of Sri Lanka are heavily understudied. For instance the Serendib scops owl was described and nine other bird species added to the list of endemics only in 2004.[5] Thus the number of endemic species is likely to be a gross underestimate.

Forest reserves and proposed reserves

A number of forest reserves and proposed reserves are managed by Department of Forest Conservation. These areas are ecosystems with rich biodiversity.[6] Some of the forest reserves and proposed reserves include[2]

Biosphere reserves

World Heritage Site, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is a protected area in Sri Lanka

There are four biosphere reserves declared under UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme. Those are Bundala, Hurulu, Kanneliya-Dediyagala-Nakiyadeniya (KDN) and Sinharaja.[7] Apart from these international biosphere reserves there are national biosphere reserves being designated. Thirty-three are administrated by Department of Forest conservation and another four by Department of Wildlife Conservation.[8]

National protected areas

National protected areas are mainly classified into six types.[9] The first four categories of protected areas cover all the ecological and regions of Sri Lanka. The 5th, 6th and 7th categories were introduced in 1993 by amending the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance. However, no regions have been declared under these categories so far.

  1. Strict nature reserves
  2. National parks
  3. Nature reserves
  4. Jungle corridors
  5. Refuge
  6. Marine reserves
  7. Buffer zones
  8. Sanctuaries

Strict nature reserves

Panorama view of Okanda area, Yala East.

Human activities are restricted in SNRs and they are protected as a pure natural system. Researchers are allowed under the supervision of the Department of Wildlife Conservation staff and with the prior approval of the director.[6]

Protected areaArea
in ha
Date of declaration


National parks

Pigeon Island National Park

National parks are areas allowed for the public to see and study wildlife. However necessary rules and regulations are introduced to protect wildlife and their habitats.

Nature reserves

Giritale tank in panoramic view

Wildlife viewing and studying is restricted in these areas. Similar to Strict nature reserves scientific researches are encouraged under the supervision of Department of Wildlife Conservation staff. These areas differ from strict nature reserves by allowing traditional human activities to continue.

Protected areaArea
in ha
Date of declaration
Block I7,529.1
Block II1,923.6
Block III4,745.3
Block IV8,335.5
Peak Wilderness12,979
Nagar kovil7,882


Jungle corridors

The only jungle corridor declared under the accelerated Mahaweli Development Programme.


Sanctuaries ensure the protection of wildlife of private lands which outside the state claim. In the sanctuaries protection of habitat and allowing of human activities occur simultaneously. Permission is not required for entry to these lands.


  1. "Biodiversity and Protected Areas – Sri Lanka". EarthTrends. Archived from the original on 2008-12-02. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  2. Senarathna, P. M. (2005). Sri Lankawe Wananthara (in Sinhala) (1st ed.). Sarasavi Publishers. pp. 13–17. ISBN 955-573-401-1.
  3. "Western Ghats and Sri Lanka". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2009-05-04. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  4. "Sri Lanka". Mongabay. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  5. "Conservation action and protected areas". Conservation International. Archived from the original on 2007-07-14. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
  6. The National Atlas of Sri Lanka (2nd ed.). Department of Survey. 2007. ISBN 978-955-9059-04-2.
  7. "Sri Lanka". UNESCO. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
  8. "Forest management in Sri Lanka". Sri Lanka MAB programme. 2005. Archived from the original on February 10, 2006. Retrieved 2009-10-06.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. "Protected Areas". Department of Wildlife Conservation. Archived from the original on 2005-08-29. Retrieved 2009-04-21.
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