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Endemics and the Protected

In Sri Lanka, at every turn it seems, there are rainbow-hued birds. Their numbers temporarily inflate during the August-April migratory season by crowds of internationally mobile waders like plovers and sandpipers but about 26 endemics, including the endangered Sri Lanka Blue Magpie and the Sri Lanka Hanging Parrot; imbue rich textures to the tapestry of the Sri Lankan skies.

Hosts of fragile painted butterflies with names like ‘Common Jezebel’ or ‘Ceylon Rose’, and dragonflies carrying romantic sobriquets such as ‘Malabar Sprite’ or ‘Asian Tiger’ flutter by, evoking images of a tropical paradise. Even among Sri Lanka’s 118 recorded dragonfly species, 52 are endemic to the country.

Sri Lankan frogs too are ‘hot’ in international ‘batrachologist’ (frog-ologist) circles. A path-breaking World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)-Wildlife Heritage Trust of Sri Lanka (WHT) survey discovered frogs never described before. It seems that Sri Lanka’s frog species number at least 250, seven per cent of the world’s total.   

There are so many other small-mammal delights in the country’s wild places: the nocturnal, bug-eyed ‘Slow’ Slender Loris; the Sri Lanka Black-naped Hare; the Indian Fishing Cat; the Sri Lanka Jungle Cat and the usually nocturnal Sri Lanka Rusty-spotted Cat are among them; and also the 92-centimetre long Indian Crested Porcupine. To catch a glimpse of these elusive types is still possible if one wanders carefully into the belly of the Sri Lankan wild.


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