Saturday, March 24, 2012

Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus)

The Sri Lankan Elephant (Elephas maximus maximus) is one of three recognized subspecies of the Asian Elephant, and native to Sri Lanka. Since 1986, Elephas maximus has been listed as endangered by IUCN as the population has declined by at least 50% over the last three generations, estimated to be 60–75 years. The species is pre-eminently threatened by habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation.Elephas maximus maximus is the type subspecies of the Asian elephant, first described by Carl Linnaeus under the binominal Elephas maximus in 1758.
The Sri Lankan elephant population is now largely restricted to a few National Parks and Nature Reserves. Udawalawe National Park, Yala National Park, Wilpattu National Park and Minneriya National Park are prime locations for spotting elephants.


In general, Asian elephants are smaller than African elephants and have the highest body point on the head. The tip of their trunk has one finger-like process. Their back is convex or level. Females are usually smaller than males, and have short or no tusks.
Sri Lankan elephants are the largest subspecies reaching a shoulder height of between 2 and 3.5 m (6.6 and 11.5 ft), weigh between 2,000 and 5,500 kg (4,400 and 12,000 lb), and have 19 pairs of ribs. Their skin color is darker than of indicus and of sumatranus with larger and more distinct patches of depigmentation on ears, face, trunk and belly.Only 7% of males bear tusks.
The elephant population in the National Parks of Sri Lanka is somewhat diminutive in stature when compared both with historical accounts dating back to 200 BC and with the early photographs taken in 19th century during the time of colonial British rule of the island. The smaller size could possibly be the end result of a long-continued process of removing the physically best specimens from the potential breeding-stock through hunting or domestication (see insular dwarfism).

Ecology and behaviour 

Elephants are classified as megaherbivores and consume up to 150 kg (330 lb) of plant matter per day. As generalists they feed on a wide variety of food plants. In Sri Lanka's northwestern region, feeding behaviour of elephants was observed during the period of January 1998 to December 1999. The elephants fed on a total of 116 plant species belonging to 35 families including 27 species of cultivated plants. More than half of the plants were non tree species, i.e. shrub, herb, grass, or climbers. More than 25% of the plant speciesbelonged to the family Leguminosae, and 19% of the plant species belonged to the family of true grasses. The presence of cultivated plants in dung does not result solely due to raiding of crops as it was observed that elephants feed on leftover crop plants in fallow chenas. Juvenile elephants tend to feed predominantly on grass species.
Food resources are abundant in regenerating forests, but at low density in mature forests. Traditional slash-and-burn agriculture creates optimum habitat for elephants through promoting successional vegetation.

Population trend

n the historical past, elephants were found in the dry zone, the lowland wet zone, as well as in the cold damp forests of the mountains in the island. They enjoyed wide distribution and good numbers from sea level to the highest mountain ranges. Until 1830, elephants were so plentiful that their destruction was encouraged by the Government, and rewards were paid for any that was killed. Their disappearance from the montane zone began with the largescale clearance of forests for the planting of coffee, and afterwards tea, during the first half of the 19th century. Even by the turn of the 20th century, elephants were distributed over much of the island.
Elephant populations in Sri Lanka were seriously depleted through capture and slaughter in the 19th century. Between 1829 and 1855 alone, more than 6,000 elephants were captured and shot.
Size of wild elephant populations in Sri Lanka estimated at

  • 12,000 to 14,000 in the early 19th century
  • 10,000 in the early 20th century
  • 7,000 to 8,000 in around 1920
  • between 1,745 and 2,455 individuals in 1969
  • between 2,500 and 3,435 in 1987
  • 1,967 in June 1993 fragmented in five regions
  • between 3,150 and 4,400 in 2000
  • 3150 in 2006
  • 2900-3000 in 2007
  • 5897 in total, 2011 elephant census


Kitulgala is a small town in the west of Sri Lanka. It is in the wet zone rain forest, which gets two monsoons each year, and is one of the wettest places in the country. Nevertheless, it comes alive in the first three months of the year, especially in February, the driest month. The Academy Award-winning The Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed on the Kelani River near Kitulgala, although nothing remains now except the concrete foundations for the bridge (and, supposedly, the submerged train cars that plunged into the river in the climactic scene). Kitulgala is also a base for white-water rafting, which starts a few kilometres upstream.

Kelani River
The Kelani river is wide at Kitulgala, but it is shallow apart from a deep channel near the opposite bank, so in the drier months it provides a safe and attractive place to swim, wash and play. The Academy Award-winning The Bridge on the River Kwai was filmed on the Kelani River near Kitulgala.

Rain Forrest 

The Kelani Valley Forest Reserve in Kitulgala was established to protect the watershed of the Kelani River and is home to many of Sri Lanka’s endemic fauna & flora. This area is also famous for its adventure activities including rafting on Grade 3 and 4 rapids down the Kelani River and jungle trekks or mountain bike rides through jungle-clad hills and plantations growing low-country tea and rubber.

Stratification :- Lowland rain forest 

Size :- 263ha

Status :- Forest Reserve 

Altitude :- 100-820m 

Temperature :- Average 27 (degree C)

Annual Rainfall :- Average 3,500mm to 5,250mm


Many of the lowland endemics can be seen in Kitulgala including the Green-bill Coucal, Chestnut-backed Owlet, Sri Lanka Brown-capped Babbler, Red-faced Malkoha, Sri Lanka Spot-winged Thrush, Grey Hornbill, Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot, Layard’s Parakeet, Sri Lanka Orange-billed Babbler, White-faced Starling, Legg’s Flowerpecker, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Sri Lanka Myna, Yellow-fronted Barbet and the Serendip Scops Owl. Other specialties include the elusive Dollar Bird, Ceylon Frogmouth, Hill Swallow, Black-throated Munia, Black Bulbul, Black-capped Bulbul.


Kitulgala is also excellent for many rare species of butterflies. Most of the endemic species can also be seen here. The Tawny Raja, Red Helen, Blue Mormon, Tree Nymph, Common Blue Bottles and Blue Oak Leaf can be seen here.

Amphibians And Reptiles

This rainforest is home to endemic amphibians and the elusive Earless Lizard, the Kangaroo Lizard and the Hump-nosed Lizard. Many species of frogs are also heard in the forest. The streams hold a vast number of fresh water fish that are mostly endemic and endangered.


Some of the smaller mammals found in the forest include the endemic and endangered Purple-faced Leaf Monkey, Grizzled Indian Squirrel, Layard’s Striped Squirrel, Wild boar, Mouse Deer and a few varieties of bats.


Rain Forrest In Kithulgala

Kelani Valley Forrest Reserve

Kelani River

Branch Of  Kelani River

Green-billed Coucal - Centropus chlororhynchus - Endemic

White-throated Kingfisher - Halcyon smynensis

Black Drongo - Dicrurus macrocercus

Squirrel Eating Rice 

Kithulgala Temple 

Boat Service In kelani River 

Sun Set In Kithulgala

Monday, March 19, 2012

Spotted Deer (Axis axis)

The chital or cheetal (Axis axis), also known as chital deer, spotted deer or axis deer is a deer which commonly inhabits wooded regions of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and in small numbers in Pakistan. The Chital goes by various names in India, among which include: Chital horin in Bengali, Thith Muwa in Sinhalese, Jinke in Kannada, Pulli Maan in Tamil and Malayalam, Duppi in Telugu, Phutuki Horin in Assamese, Haran/Harin in Marathi, and Hiran in Hindi/Urdu (the latter two derived from Harini, the Sanskrit cognate for 'deer'). It is the most common deer species in Indian forests. The name Chital comes from the Bengali word Chitral (চিত্রল)/Chitra (চিত্রা), which means "spotted". The chital is monotypic within the genus Axis, but this genus has also included three species that now are placed in Hyelaphus based on genetic evidence.

The chital's coat is pinkish fawn, marked with white spots, and its underparts are also white. Its antlers, which it sheds annually, are usually three-pronged and curve in a lyre shape and may extend to 75 cm (2.5 ft). Compared to the hog deer, its close relative, the chital has a more cursorial build. It also has a more advanced morphology with antler pedicles being proportionally short and its auditory bullae being smaller. It also has large nasals. It stands about 90 cm (3 ft) tall at the shoulder and masses about 85 kg (187 lb), although males tend to be larger than females. Its lifespan is around 8–14 years.

Chital have well-developed preorbital glands which have hairs that are like stiff little branches.They also have well-developed metatarsal glands and pedal glands on their hind legs. Males have larger preorbital glands than females and are opened very often in response to certain stimuli.


 The chital ranges over 8–30ºN in India and through Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.The western limt of its range is eastern Rajasthan and Gujarat. The northern limit is along the bhabar-terai belt of the foothills of the Himalaya and from Uttar Pradesh and Uttaranchal through to Nepal, northern West Bengal and Sikkim and then to western Assam and the forested valleys of Bhutan which are below 1,100 m asl.The eastern limit of its ranges is through western Assam to the Sunderbans of West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh.Sri Lanka is the southern limit.Chital occur sporadically in the forested areas throughout the rest of the Indian peninsula.however it currently occurs only in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh as it became extinct in the central, north-east and south-east regions.

Social behavior and reproduction

 Axis deer most commonly occur in herds of ten to fifty individuals of both sexes. Large dominant stags without velvet stay in the center of the herd and are surrounded by the females and their young.Smaller stags with velvet occupy the boundaries of the herd.Chital stags pay close attention when a stag of equal size to them enters their group.They will follow, graze with and display to the newcomer. Sparring is more common between young stags while older, larger stags prefer horning, pawing and marking.Large stags with hard antlers are more likely to be well spaced out. Stags are known to stand on their hind legs and mark tree branches above.

 The chital has a protracted breeding season due in part to the tropical climate, and births can occur throughout the year. For this reason, males do not have their antler cycles in synchrony and there are some fertile females at all times of the year. Males sporting hard antlers are dominant over those in velvet or those without antlers, irrespective of their size and other factors. Stags commonly bellow during the rut.Chital hinds have three week long estrous cycles. Chital courtship is based on tending bonds.A stag will follow and guard a hind in estrous.During this time the stag will not eat. The pair will do several bouts of chasing and mutual licking before copulation.Hinds birth one fawn, rarely two, at a time.Young fawns suckle longer than older fawns which suckle for 55 seconds. Hinds and fawns have loose bonds and it is common for them to get separated.However because chital tend to stay close to each other it is not difficult for a hind to find a fawn.Fawns sometimes gather in nurseries.

Chital are generally silent when grazing together.They do however make high-pitched chuckles when walking. When grazing chital do a "courtesy posture" when they pass each other.The bellow of a chital stag exists in a primitive state of development compared to other deer like the red deer or elk. Its calls is one or several coarse bellows and loud growls, which may be weaker versions of the bellow.Bellowing coincides with rutting.Stags guarding estrous females will make high-pitched growls at lesser stags that hung about.Stag will also moan during aggressive displays or when resting.When alarmed, chital will bark. These barks usually occur among females and juveniles and is repeated back and forth. Fawns that are separated from their mothers will squeal. When in danger, they run in groups. They will make bursts of high-speed running and then soon tire and dive into heavy cover to hide.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Black-hooded Oriole (Oriolus xanthornus)


Mostly yellow with black hood, wings and tail centre.
Duller, underparts greenish, black hood.
Young birds
Similar to the female. However, they have dark streaking on the underparts, hood is not solid black, particularly on the throat.


Southern Asia from India and Sri Lanka east to Indonesia.


There are 5 subspecies
O. x. xanthornus :
Northern India, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indochina and Sumatra
O. x. maderaspatanus:
Southern peninsular India
O. x. andamanensis:
On the Andaman Islands
O. x. ceylonensis:
Sri Lanka
O. x. tanakae:
In coastal north-eastern Borneo and adjacent offshore islands


Light open forest, plantations, groves, gardens and public parks.


Usually seen high in the canopy.
The diet includes insects and fruit, especially figs.
It nests in trees the clutch consists of 2 eggs.


In Warapitiya - Matale 
In Warapitiya - Matale
In Warapitiya - Matale 
In Malabe - Colombo
In Malabe - Colombo 
In Malabe - Colombo 

Monday, March 12, 2012

White-throated Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrnensis)


28 cm. Bright blue back, wings and tail, chestnut head, shoulders, flanks and lower belly, white throat and breast, bright red bill and legs, in flight large white patches are visible on the blue and black wings. Sexes are similar; juveniles are a duller version of the adult.


Sri Lanka,Egypt and Turkey east through Middle East and South Asia to the Philippines.


Six subspecies are recognized smyrnensis, fusca, saturatior, perpulchra, fokiensis, and gularis.


Habitats with some trees, not always near water.


The diet includes large insects, rodents, snakes, fish and frogs. It is reputed to eat tired migratory passerine birds like Chiffchaffs where the opportunity arises.The nest is a 50cm tunnel in an earth bank. 4-7 round white eggs are laid.


Sunday, March 11, 2012

Red-vented Bulbul (Pycnonotus cafer)


20cm in length, with a long tail. Brown or black upperparts, white rump, brown or black breast, white underparts apart from the red around the vent. The head and small crest are black.Sexes are similar in plumage, but young birds are duller than adults.


India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and southwestern China; introduced to Fiji and Hawaii. It is also common in urban parts of Dubai, the United Arab Emirates.


This is a bird of dry scrub, open forest, plains and cultivated lands.In its native range it is rarely found in mature forests. A study based on 54 localities in India concluded that vegetation is the single most important factor that determines the distribution of the species.


Red-vented bulbuls feed mainly on fruits, petals of flowers, nectar, insects and occasionally geckos.They have also been seen feeding on the leaves of Medicago sativa.Red-vented bulbuls build their nests in bushes at a height of around 2–3 m (7–10 ft; two or three eggs is a typical clutch. Nests are occasionally built inside houses or in a hole in a mud bank.In one instance, a nest was found on a floating mat of Water hyacinth leaves and another observer noted a pair nesting inside a regularly used bus.Nests in tree cavities have also been noted.
They breed from June to September. The eggs are pale-pinkish with spots of darker red more dense at the broad end.They are capable of having multiple clutches in a year. Nests are small flat cups made of small twigs but sometimes making use of metal wires.The eggs hatch after about 14 days.Both parents feed the chicks and on feeding trips wait for the young to excrete, swallowing the faecal sacs produced.