Minneriya National Park

Minneriya National Park, situated in the North Central Province of Sri Lanka, was designated as a national park on 12 August 1997, after originally being declared as a wildlife sanctuary in 1938. Its protected status aims to safeguard the catchment of Minneriya tank and the wildlife of the surrounding area. The tank itself holds historical significance, constructed by King Mahasen in the third century AD. Located 182 kilometers (113 mi) from Colombo, the park serves as a dry season feeding ground for the elephant population residing in the forests of Matale, Polonnaruwa, and Trincomalee districts.

Faunal diversity within the national park includes 24 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish, and 75 species of butterflies.

During the dry season, large gatherings of Sri Lankan elephants can be observed in the grass fields on the reservoir’s edges, with reports estimating their numbers to range from 150 to as high as 700. These elephants migrate from Wasgamuwa National Park, benefiting from the food and shelter provided by the park’s forest. Tourists are drawn to Minneriya, particularly during the dry season, to witness these magnificent creatures.

The park also serves as crucial habitat for endemic monkey species such as the Purple-faced Langur and Toque Macaque. Additionally, large herbivorous mammals like the Sri Lankan Sambar Deer and Sri Lankan Axis Deer are common sights. Rare and endangered species including the Sri Lankan Leopard and Sri Lankan Sloth Bear also inhabit Minneriya, contributing to its ecological significance. The Gray Slender Loris, another endangered species, is reportedly found in the area.

Minneriya reservoir acts as an important habitat for large water birds such as the Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, and Spot-billed Pelican. The park is also a sanctuary for both resident and migratory bird species. Amphibians such as Fejervarya pulla and Polypedates cruciger have been documented in the area. Among the eight species of endemic reptiles found in Minneriya, all are considered threatened, including the Painted-lip Lizard and Lankascincus fallax. Additionally, reptiles like the Saltwater Crocodile, Indian Python, Water Monitor, and Bengal Monitor are also present. Four freshwater fish species recorded in Minneriya are endemic to Sri Lanka.