13 Amazing Animals You Can See in Sri Lanka

Green Turtles mating in Sri Lanka waters |
Green Turtles mating in Sri Lanka waters | | © Vilmos Vincze / Flickr
Photo of Orana Velarde
Sri Lanka Hub Writer28 April 2018

Sri Lanka is famous for the amount of wild elephants that gather in groups in the national parks. The island is also well known for Sri Lankan leopards and colorful peacocks. Keep reading to find out about some of the most amazing animals in Sri Lanka.

Animal lovers and bird watchers will have a great time spotting sambar deer and toque macaques while going on jungle safaris. Whales, dolphins and sea turtles can be spotted from boats. The friendly sambar deer will make any trek on the Horton Plains just a little more memorable. For more animals and information, visit the animal profiles on the Dilmah Conservation Center website.

Sri Lankan elephants

The Sri Lankan elephant is one of the three types of Asian elephants. The country has the largest concentration of elephants and most visitors to the island go on an elephant watching safari or visit an elephant orphanage. Elephants are important and sacred animals in Sri Lanka and are protected. It is not recommended to ride an elephant with a wooden seat since this hurts the elephants, nor is it recommended to chase them in a jeep when encountered on the road. Elephants can be seen in most of the national parks, and the place where the big gathering takes place is in Minneriya National Park.

Wild Sri Lankan Elephant | © Amila Tennakoon / Flickr

Sri Lankan leopards

Not every wildlife safari tour will be lucky enough to spot a leopard. They are solitary creatures, but females do wander with their young until they are old enough to hunt. The Sri Lankan leopard is larger than other leopards and are the highest in the jungle food chain since there are no tigers and lions around. Spotting a leopard on safari will depend on your guide and their sense of respect for the wildlife.

Sri Lankan Leopard in a bush | © Chris Shervey / Flickr


Peacocks are native to India and Sri Lanka and are considered some of the most beautiful and sacred animals. Unfortunately, since the female of the species is not as colorful as the males, they have been hunted indiscriminately for their meat. Some hotels have peacocks and peafowl in their gardens. These birds love showing off their color and being photographed!

Peacock on a Tree | © Peyman Zehtab Fard / Flickr

Sri Lankan junglefowl

The Sri Lankan junglefowl, which looks a lot like a rooster, is the national bird of Sri Lanka. It is depicted in postal stamps and cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Don’t be put off by its common looking colors, this bird is quite beautiful and a top catch for bird watchers.

Sri Lankan junglefowl | © Davida De La Harpe / Flickr

Grey hornbill

The grey hornbill is native to Sri Lanka. It is a member of the hornbill family but the fact that it doesn’t have the top part of the beak sets it apart. The reproduction process of the grey hornbill involves the male trapping the female, and its eggs, inside a hole in a tree. He brings them food through a small opening and both adults open the covering of the hole once the babies are ready to learn to fly.

Sri Lankan grey hornbill | © Pinkstg / Wikicommons

Sambar deer

The Sri Lankan sambar deer is relatively larger than deer found in other countries. They live in herds inside national parks, especially Horton Plains where visitors can see the sambar deer wandering around. The males have large antlers but the females do not.

Sambar deer at Horton Plains | © Michael Shehan Obeysekera / Flickr

Spotted deer

The spotted deer are the most common deer found in Sri Lanka. The herds are quite large and populated. Visitors can find spotted deer in all of the national parks, just don’t get too close to them to take photos.

Spotted deer in Yala National Park | © NH53 / Flickr

Water buffalo

In Sri Lanka like most South Asian countries, there are wild water buffalo and domestic water buffalo. The wild water buffalo is more scarce than their domesticated cousins and can be found in the national parks. The domesticated water buffalo are used for working the fields and their milk is used for making curd, a Sri Lankan delicacy.

Water Buffalo taking it easy | © shankar s. / Flickr

Toque macaque monkeys

The toque macaque monkeys are the most common monkeys seen in Sri Lanka. They are separated into dry zone, wet zone and highland and their physical difference is in the shape of their toque style hair. The dry zone toque macaques are knows as temple monkeys since there are so many of them in the Cultural Triangle.

Toque Macaque | © Jan Hazevoet / Flickr


Langurs are the other type of monkeys found in Sri Lanka. These are considered leaf monkeys and live up in the trees. There are grey langurs and purple faced langurs. The purple faced langurs are endemic to Sri Lanka.

Tufted Grey Langur | © Peyman Zehtab Fard / Flickr

Dolphins and whales

Dolphins and whales can be seen from boats off the coast of the south and southeast shores of Sri Lanka. The art of dolphin watching has become precarious in recent years as boats and tourists crowd the waters and follow the animals, scaring them. If you really want to see the dolphins and whales off the coast of Sri Lanka, please make sure you take a tour that is respectful of the wildlife. The types of whales that can be seen in these waters are blue whales, humpback whales and orcas. Very infrequently you might come across a dugong.

Dolphins in southern Sri Lanka | © Hassan Rafeek / Flickr
Orca whale in southern Sri Lanka | © Jose Ozorio / Flickr

Sea turtles

In the southern town of Unawatuna, there is a sea turtle hatchery and conservation area for the protection of these delicate animals. They can sometimes be seen in the ocean, usually by surfers, but has become increasingly uncommon due to pollution of the oceans.

Green Sea Turtles | © Vilmos Vincze / Flickr

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