26th February 2020
Wilpattu National Park is located in the Northwest coast lowland dry zone of Sri Lanka, it is the country’s largest national park. The unique feature of this park is the existence of “Willus” (Natural lakes) – Natural, sand-rimmed water basins or depressions that fill with rainwater.
The main target species are Sri Lankan Leopard and Sri Lankan Sloth Bear.
The Sri Lankan Sloth Bear, is as it’s name suggests an endemic sub-species of Sloth Bear, it is highly threatened with perhaps no more than 500 individuals living in the wild. It is not easy to see and even more difficult to photograph but Wilpattu perhaps offers the best chance.
The Sri Lankan Leopard is an endangered sub-species endemic to the island, there are perhaps no more than 900 wild individuals.
On our first safari drive in the park we had been in the park for no more than 30 minutes when news came through of a Sloth Bear siting, as is the way this results in a mad dash by virtually all the “jeeps” in the park converging. As this was one of our key target species we were quiet excited to get a siting so early in our trip – in the event we had quite a good siting with the bear fairly close to our “jeep” all be it somewhat partially obscured by vegetation making it difficult to capture a decent image.
The best I managed:
Sri Lanka has three species of endemic primate including the Toque Macaque which can easily be seen and photographed within the national park and indeed as we later discovered virtually everywhere in Sri Lanka. We also encountered the none endemic Grey Langur.
and two species of Deer, the Sri Lankan Axis Deer (locally called the Spotted Deer) and the Sri Lankan Sambar Deer. We also had a brief view of a Leopard, but more of that tomorrow.