Yala reserve is famous for one of the world’s highest densities of leopard – and some of its largest and most visible individuals.

On morning and evening safaris you may also see elephant, sloth bear, sambar, chital, wild boar, stripednecked, brown and ruddy mongoose, black-naped hare, marsh mugger crocodile and several civet species. Birding highlights include the southern sirkeer, blue-faced malkoha, yellow wattled lapwing, rufous-winged bush lark, thick-billed flower-pecker, purple sunbird, little minivet, white-rumped shama and rare black-necked stork.

The country’s top predator – the leopard – is found in all types of forest, from thorn scrub and dry deciduous forest to lowland rainforest and mountain forest. Research in 1996 led to the Sri Lankan leopard being classified as a separate sub-species to the Indian sub-species. Weighing in at 37-90 kilogrammes for males and 28-60 kilogrammes for females, the leopard is widely affected in Sri Lanka by habitat loss and poaching, and is now listed as a threatened species by IUCN (2007).

Like the elephant and leopard, Sri Lanka’s only species of bear is a distinct subspecies. The sloth bear, which is the most elusive of Sri Lanka’s Big Five, has a total population in the wild of as few as 1,000 individuals, spread over many isolated areas. Nevertheless it is only classified as ’vulnerable’ (IUCN Red List). Destruction of dry-zone natural forest is the main threat, and safeguarding its future will require considerable effort on the part of the authorities to raise the profile of this extremely interesting but reclusive animal, and awaken public interest.

  • Ideal for viewing: Asian elephant, leopard, marsh mugger crocodile, sambar, sloth bear
  • Where: Eastern Province, Sri Lanka
  • View on Protected Planet Yala National Park

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