Thursday, August 14, 2014

Journey to the end of World

Horton Plains National Park 

(Journey to the end of World)

Horton Plains National Park is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by Montane Grassland, Aquatic & Wetland Habitat and Cloud Forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 meters (6,900–7,500 ft) is rich in biodiversity. In early singhala the plains are known as Mahaweli Plains or Maha Eliya and Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture (before 1000 BC) have been found here.The second & third highest mountains of the country namely Kirigalpotta & Thotupola respectively are found within the borders of the park. Park receives rainfall from both northeast & southwest monsoons as well as inter-monsoonal rains with annual precipitation of about 5000mm. The area is headwaters of three rivers, the Kelani, Walawe & the Mahaweli. Due to altitude the area is comparatively cold. Mean annual temperature is around 15C and during colder months it will go down further. 

The plains vegetation is grasslands interspersed with montane forest, and includes many endemic woody plants. Most of the fauna and flora found in the park are endemic and furthermore some of them are confined to highlands of the island. 

Though this was one of the best elephant habitats in the country they are locally extinct due to sports hunting occurred during the British colonial era. Large heard of Sambhur & wild boar are the most common large mammals in Horton Plains. Endemic Bear Monkey, Rusty- Spotted and Fishing cats, Otter, Black napped hare and Giant Squirrel are among other mammals. The national park niches to largest carnivore cat species of the island the Leopard. Many species of endemic & threatened rats & shrews are also found in the park. Diversity & endemicity of reptiles (Lizards) and amphibians are remarkably high.

Though this is cold highland plateau the bird diversity is very high. More than 70% of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds are found here.

The park is named after Sir Robert Wilmot Horton, the British governor of Ceylon from 1831 to 1837, who travelled to the area 1836.Horton Plains was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on 5 December 1969 and because of its biodiversity value, was elevated to a National Park on 18 March 1988. The land area covered by Horton Plains is 3,160 hectares.

Photo credits - Ishanda Senevirathna (Naturalst, Jetwing St.Andrew's)