• Elephants at Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka
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Minneriya National Park Sri Lanka

The Minneriya National Park is also home to Sri Lankan Leopards and Sri Lankan Sloth Bears. It is listed as one of the Important Bird Areas in Sri Lanka. The wildlife here comprises 26 species of mammals, 160 species of birds, 9 species of amphibians, 25 species of reptiles, 26 species of fish and 75 species of butterflies. The Park is an important habitat for the two endemic monkeys of Sri Lanka - the Purple-faced Langur and the Toque Macaque. It is also home to large herbivorous mammals such as the Sri Lankan Sambar Deer and Sri Lankan Axis Deer. Rare and endangered species such as the Sri Lankan Leopard and the Sri Lankan Sloth Bear also inhabit Minneriya and the Grey Slender Loris has been reported here as well.

Elephant Culture in Sri Lanka

Hardly a ceremony or celebration goes by without elephants being showcased, generally decorated in vivid colours, reminiscent of the heady days of Sri Lanka’s vibrant and exuberant past. To this day, most Buddhist Temples own an elephant.

The Sri Lankan Elephant is a recognized subspecies of the Asian elephant and is recognized as a threatened species. In a recent census of the elephant population in August 2011, it was estimated that there are approximately 5,800 of these majestic animals living mainly in the low-lying areas of Sri Lanka. During the country’s British Colonial era, and before the highlands were stripped bare of vegetation for the coffee and tea plantations, elephants could be found roaming freely in great numbers. The decline in the numbers of elephants in Sri Lanka has been due to loss of habitats, and the possibility that the best specimens had been taken from the breeding stocks and used for hunting or domestication.

Birdlife in the Minneriya National Park

Large water birds such as Lesser Adjutant, Painted Stork, and Spot-billed Pelican are recorded in the Minneriya National Park with instances of a flock of approximately 2000 Little Cormorants being sighted.  The Great White Pelican, Ruddy Turnstone and Grey Heron are the other water birds seen here. Birds endemic to Sri Lanka are represented by the Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Brown-capped Babbler, Sri Lanka Grey Hornbill, Black-crested Bulbul and the Crimson-fronted Barbet.

Reptiles and amphibians in the Minneriya National Park

Amphibians of Fejervarya pulla and Polypedates cruciger have been recorded in the area. There are eight species of reptiles endemic to Sri Lanka in the Minneriya National Park and all of them are considered threatened, of which the Painted-lip Lizard and Lankascincus fallax are noteworthy. Other reptiles include the freshwater Crocodile, Indian python, Water monitor, and Bengal monitor.

Flora in the Minneriya National Park

The main habitats of Minneriya are of several types, including low-canopy montane forests, intermediate high-canopy secondary forests, scrub lands, abandoned chena lands, grasslands, rocky outcrops, and wetlands. Terminalia arjuna, Manilkara hexandra, Neem, Azadirachta indica, Sacred fig (Ficus religiosa) and Bauhinia racemose floral species are common in the area surrounding the Minneriya tank. Plantations of Eucalyptus and Teak grown by the Forest Department can be seen as well.

The Minneriya National Park - History and Geography

The Minneriya National Park lies in the North Central province of Sri Lanka, and although declared a protected Wildlife Sanctuary in 1938, it was given National Park status only in 1997. Its wide open spaces, combined with the Wasgamuwa and Flood Plains National Parks allow the elephants vast tracts of protected land to safely reside in. Minneriya has a huge man made tank or reservoir, which dates back to the 3rd Century A.D. and was built by King Mahasen. During the monsoon rains the tank fills up, and when it is dry season the water starts to deplete. Never empty, the tank is a source of water and a feeding area for huge numbers of birds, mammals and amphibians year round.

Getting the most out of your Minneriya National Park wildlife safari

As with any wildlife safari an expert naturalist guide is high on your list of essentials. Being at the right place at the right time is key when it comes to observing wildlife and your guide will ensure that you miss nothing and that you do not obstruct the way of nature, especially when such large numbers of elephants are present at the gathering. Navigating the varied terrain of the Minneriya National Park requires the right kind of safari jeep and do give careful consideration to your safety as well.

Climate in the Minneriya National Park, Sri Lanka

Minneriyais situated in the dry zone of Sri Lanka and receives an average rainfall of 1,500–2,000 millimetres. The lowest and highest temperatures recorded in the park are 20.6°C and 34.5°C respectively. The wet season lasts during the north eastern monsoon from October to January and from May to September the dry season occurs.

The best time to visit the Minneriya National Park

Elephants can be seen in Minneriya throughout the year but the best months to visit are from July to September when large herds can be witnessed ‘gathering’.

How to get to the Minneriya National Park

Situated 20 km northwest of Polonnaruwa, the Minneriya National Park is in the Polonnaruwa District in the North Central Province. The Park’s boundaries on the north, west and east are outlined by roads: the Habarana-Polonnaruwa highway, Sigiriya-Moragaswewa and Katukeliyawa-Diyabeduma roads respectively. The distance from Colombo via the Habarana-Polonnaruwa Road is 182 km. You can also take a sea plane. For more information on air travel please visit  www.flysrilanka.lk.

Read more about Mahoora Minneriya National Park