Sri Lanka’s heritage of wildlife protection runs as far back as 2200 years. The first (fauna & flora) wildlife sanctuary in world at Mihintale, 12 km east of UNESCO World heritage Site of Anuradhapura was created by the King Devanampiya Tissa (307-266 BC), following the arrival of Buddhism to the island from northern India. With the establishment of Buddhism in ancient Sri Lanka in 250 BC, it became a Royal prerogative to carry out everything humanly possible to spread the doctrine throughout the island. Thereafter, throughout the history of the nation, all animals & plants in the wildlife sanctuaries of the island were left undisturbed in line with the basic right to life of all beings & conservation ethics of Buddhism, the taking of life being anathema to Buddhist beliefs. Renewal of laws giving protection to animals had been renewed and reinforced time and again by the kings of ancient Sri Lanka. Records of the wildlife protection are found in the great Sinhalese chronicle of Mahawamsa. A fine example is a twelfth century edict of King Nissanka Malla “ordering by beat of drum that no animal should be killed within a radius of 7 leagues of the city of Anuardhapura, he gave security to animals; he gave security to the fish in the 12 great tanks… and he also gave security to birds.” Those were the wild life sanctuaries of the old.



Protected areas of Sri Lanka are administrated by Department of Forest Conservation and Department of Wildlife Conservation of Sri Lanka. There are 501 protected areas in Sri Lanka. The protected areas falls under supervision Department of Forest Conservation include forests defined in National Heritage Wilderness Area Act in 1988, forest reservations and forests manage for sustainability. World heritage site, Sinharaja Forest Reserve is an example for a National Heritage forest. There are 32 forests categorized as conservation forests including Knuckles Mountain Range. Strict nature reserves, national parks, nature reserves, forest corridors and sanctuaries recognized under the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance are managed by Department of Wildlife Conservation. Total of all categories of areas protected is 1,767,000 ha. Protected areas in Sri Lanka accounts for 26.5 percent of total area. This is a higher percentage of protected areas than in all of Asia and much of the World.

Depending on their objectives National protected areas are classified into mainly six types. The first four categories of protected areas cover all the ecological and regions of Sri Lanka. The 5, 6, 7 categories were introduced in 1993 by amending the Flora and Fauna Protection Ordinance. However there are no regions declared under these categories so far.

  1. Strict nature reserves
  2. National parks
  3. Nature reserves
  4. Jungle corridors
  5. Refuge
  6. Marine reserves
  7. Buffer zones
  8. Sanctuaries

Strict nature reserves

Human activities are restricted in SNRs and they are protected as a pure natural system. Researches are allowed under the supervision of the Department of Wildlife Conservation staff and with the prior approval of the director.

Protected areaArea in haDate of declaration
Hakgala1,141.60February 5, 1938
Ritigala1,528.10November 7, 1941
Yala28,904.70March 10, 1939


National parks

National parks are areas allowed for the public to see and study wildlife. However necessary rules and regulations are introduced to protect wildlife and their habitats. The following are national parks in Sri Lanka administered by the Department of Wildlife Conservation.

NameLocationAreaDate of established
YalaSouthern Province and Uva978.807 km2February 25, 1938
WilpattuNorth Central Province and North Western Province1,316.671 km2February 25, 1938
Gal OyaUva and Eastern Province259 km2December 2, 1954
KumanaEastern Province181.482 km2January 20, 1970
UdawalaweSabaragamuwa and Uva Provinces308.21 km2June 30, 1972
Lahugala KitulanaEastern Province15.54 km2October 31, 1980
Maduru OyaEastern Province and Uva Province588.496 km2September 11, 1983
WasgamuwaCentral Province and North Central Province370.629 km2July 8, 1984
Flood PlainsNorth Central Province173.50 km2July 8, 1984
SomawathiyaNorth Central Province and Eastern Province396.455 km2February 9, 1986
Horton PlainsCentral Province31.598 km2March 16, 1988
BundalaSouthern Province62.16 km2April 1, 1993
LunugamveheraUva and Southern Province234.988 km2August 12, 1995
MinneriyaNorth Central Province88.894 km2December 8, 1997
KaudullaNorth Central Province69 km2January 4, 2002
HikkaduwaSouthern Province1.016 km2August 10, 2002
Pigeon IslandEastern Province4.714 km2June 24, 2003
HoragollaWestern Province0.133 km2June 24, 2004
Galway's LandCentral Province0.267 km2May 18, 2006
AngammedillaNorth Central Province75.289 km2June 6, 2006
UssangodaSouthern Province3.49 km2June 1, 2010
Mullaitivu National ParkNorthern ProvinceDecember 1, 2010


Nature reserves

Wildlife viewing and studying is restricted in these areas. Similar to Strict nature reserves scientific researches are encouraged under the supervision of Department of Wildlife Conservation staff. These areas differ from strict nature reserves by allowing traditional human activities to continue.

Protected areaArea in haDate of declaration
Triconamadu25,019.30October 24, 1986
Riverine824.1July 31, 1991
Block II1,923.60June 25, 1993
Block III4,745.30July 7, 1995
Block IV8,335.50September 1, 1997
Wetahirakanda3,229June 7, 2002


Jungle corridors

A habitat corridor, wildlife corridor or green corridor is an area of habitat connecting wildlife populations separated by human activities or structures (such as roads, development, or logging). This allows an exchange of individuals between populations, which may help prevent the negative effects of inbreeding and reduced genetic diversity (via genetic drift) that often occur within isolated populations. Corridors may also help facilitate the re-establishment of populations that have been reduced or eliminated due to random events (such as fires or disease).

This may potentially moderate some of the worst effects of habitat fragmentation, wherein urbanization can split up habitat areas, causing animals to lose both their natural habitat and the ability to move between regions to use all of the resources they need to survive. Habitat fragmentation due to human development is an ever-increasing threat to biodiversity, and habitat corridors are a possible mitigation.

The only jungle corridor declared under the accelerated Mahaweli Programme.



Sanctuaries ensure the protection of wildlife of private lands which outside the state claim. In the sanctuaries protection of habitat and allowing of human activities occur simultaneously. Permission is not required for entry to these lands.

Protected areaArea in haDate of declaration
Chundikulam11,149.10February 25, 1938
Wilpattu North632February 25, 1938
Telwatta1,424.50February 25, 1938
Weerawila-Tissa4,164.20May 27, 1938
Katagamuwa1,003.60May 27, 1938
Polonnaruwa1,521.60May 27, 1938
Tangamale131.5May 27, 1938
Mihintale999.6May 27, 1938
Kataragama837.7May 27, 1938
Anuradhapura3,500.50May 27, 1938
Udawatta Kele Sanctuary104July 29, 1938
Rocky Islets1.2October 25, 1940
Peak Wilderness Sanctuary22,379.10October 25, 1940
Kurulu Kele (Kegalle)113.3March 14, 1941
Pallemalala13.7October 23, 1942
Welhilla Kategilla134.3February 18, 1949
Kokkilai1,995May 18, 1951
Senanayake Samudra9,324February 12, 1954
Gal Oya North-East12,432February 12, 1954
Gal Oya South-East15,281February 12, 1954
Giant's Tank4,330.10September 24, 1954
Vavunikulam4,856.20June 21, 1963
Sakamam616.4June 21, 1963
Padawiya Tank6,475June 21, 1963
Naval Headworks Sanctuary18,130June 21, 1963
Great Sober Island64.7June 21, 1963
Little Sober Island6.5June 21, 1963
Kimbulwana Oya492.1June 21, 1963
Mahakanadarawa Wewa519.3December 9, 1966
Madhu Road26,677June 28, 1968
Seruwila-Allai15,540October 9, 1970
Paretitivu Island97.1May 18, 1973
Honduwa Island8.5November 19, 1973
Buddhangala1,841.30November 1, 1974
Ravana Falls1,932May 18, 1979
Medinduwa0.8June 6, 1980
Kalametiya lagoon2,525.20November 1, 1984
Sri Jayawardenapura birds sanctuary449.2January 9, 1985
Victoria-Randenigala-Rantembe42,087.30January 30, 1987
Maimbulkanda - Nittambuwa25.1June 8, 1988
Parapuduwa Nuns' Island189.6August 17, 1988
Kahalla-Pallekele21,690July 1, 1989
Sigiriya5,099January 26, 1990
Bellanwila-Attidiya372July 25, 1990
Bar Reef30,669.90April 3, 1992
Nimalawa1,065.80February 18, 1993
Madunagala995.2June 30, 1993
Muthurajawela block I1,028.60October 31, 1996
Muthurajawela block II256.8October 31, 1996
Anawilundawa1,397June 11, 1997
Elahera-Girithale14,035.20January 13, 2000
Dahaiyagala2,685.10June 7, 2002
Tabbowa2,193.30July 19, 2002
Rumassala170.7January 3, 2003
Kiralakele310September 8, 2003
Eluwiliyaya186September 11, 2009
Kaudulla-Minneriya8,777.30June 1, 2004
Kirama45.7October 6, 2004
Kudumbigala6,533.90February 20, 2006
Rekawa-May 25, 2006
Godawaya-May 25, 2006
Bundala - Wilmanna3,339.40June 30, 2006
Maduganga2,300July 17, 2006
Bogahapitiya (proposed)