Sri Lankan Moist Forests

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Mahaweli, Sri Lanka.
© WWF-Canon / Mauri RAUTKARI

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Sri Lanka montane rain forests; Sri Lanka lowland rain forests. The southwest corner of Sri Lanka has a rainforest climate, with up to 5,000 mm of rain annually.

Sri Lanka's rainforests are a ‘super-hotspot’ for endemism and contain numerous endemic plants in addition to several butterflies, birds, reptiles, and mammals that also have limited distributions. It is an ideal habitat for many animals, and new species of frogs, lizards, fish, and crabs are still being discovered here.
Size:
15,500 sq. km (6,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Southwestern Sri Lanka

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
Among the bird species found only in these forests are Sri Lankan wood pigeon (Columba torringtoni), green-billed coucal (Centropus chlororhyncus), Ceylon magpie (Urocissa ornata), Sri Lanka grey-hornbill (Ocyceros gingalensis), and yellow-fronted barbet (Megalaima flavifrons).

Mammal species found on the island include toque macaque (Macaca sinica), Asiatic striped palm squirrel (Funambulus layardi), the endemic Kelaart's long-clawed shrew (Feroculus feroculus), Ceylon giant squirrel, the endangered Asian elephant (Elephas maximus), and the threatened leopard (Panthera pardus).

Floristically, the lowland and lower hill forests are the richest in Sri Lanka. An endemic ground orchid, Anoectochilus setaceus, commonly known as the king of the forest or wanaraja, is found only in undisturbed portions of these rain forests.

Featured Species

The leopard (Panthera pardus) is the smallest of the great cats (lion, tiger, jaguar, and leopard). However, it is the most agile climber of the great cats, and is capable of killing prey far larger than itself. The leopard ranges in size from 1 - 2 m long, and weighs between 30 and 70 kg. Females are typically around two-thirds the size of males.

It has an elongated body set on relatively short and stocky legs. The paws are broad. Its ears are short and rounded. They have a very short and sleek coat. Color varies from light tawny to deep rusty yellow, with a lighter underside. They have dark spots on their face, head, throat, chest, and legs. The rest of their body is covered in rosettes. They can also be totally black.

The leopard’s diet consists of monkeys, rodents, reptiles, amphibians, birds, fish, wild pigs, and ungulates. Leopards are capable of carrying animals up to twice their own weight into the trees. They are solitary, nocturnal, and secretive cats.

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Threats
Rice paddies, housing, and plantations of tea, rubber, and coconut have replaced most of the natural forests. The remnants in the southern lowlands and the montane habitats protected in the Sinharaja Natural Heritage Wilderness Area are globally significant for their biodiversity.
WWF’s work
Green turtles are widely harvested for meat in many tropical countries. In Sri Lanka, WWF is working with the government to develop and enforce regional conservation agreements such as the Inter-American Convention on the Conservation of Marine Turtles.

WWF is also working with local communities in the Indian and Pacific Oceans to ensure that traditional or subsistence take levels are sustainable, and where necessary identify alternative sources of income.

WWF has been combating the negative trends of poaching for more than 40 years. The organization focuses particular attention on a small number of threatened and endangered species which the organization calls flagship species.

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