Sinharaja Rain Forest
The Sinharaja region has long featured in the legends and lore of the people of Sri Lanka. In 1840, Sinharaja became crown property under the British and in 1875 it was declared as the reserve forest land of Sinharaja Mukalana. With its recently annexed eastern extension of 23 km2 of submontane wet evergreen forests, grasslands, and some abandoned agricultural lands, the total area of Sinharaja now stands at 112 km2.
Sinharaja lies within a rainfall of 3000 – 6000 mm. The vegetation within the reserve corresponds to three main topographies: the lower slopes and valleys (150 – 600 metres), middle slops (600 – 1000 metres), and the upper slopes and ridges (above 1000 metres). As rain forests, so in Sinharaja too, the forest is tall with canopy reaching a height of 30 to 45 metres. Below the canopy are sub-canopy trees usually 15 – 30 metres high.
Of the 25 genera of trees endemic to Sri Lanka, 13 are represented in the Sinharaja. Similary, out of the 217 endemic trees and woody climbers of the rain forest regions, 65 per cent (140) species have so far been recorded in Sinharaja. Over 80 species in both primary and secondary forests in Sinharaja are reported to have medicinal value. Among the most sought after plant species for non-timber products, are kitul (Caryota urens) for its sugary sap, rattans (Calmus spp.), Elattaria cardomomum for its medicinal or spice value, and a host of orchids and other herbaceous plants for their ornamental value.
To date, a check-list of 262 vertebrate species, which represents 36 per cent of the island total, have been recorded from Sinharaja, including 61 species endemic to Sri Lanka. The Sinharaja reserve is rich in bird life with an impressive 147 species recorded to date. It is also the only locality where 18 out of 20 bird species endemic to Sri Lanka may be found. The reptilian fauna of Sinharaja is represented by 45 species, of which 21 are endemic. The includes snakes, several lizards, tortoises and skinks.
The rain forest is the habitat par excellence for amphibians. It is not surprising therefore, that half the total number of amphibian species in Sri Lanka and nearly half the endemic amphibians are represented in Sinharaja.