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CENTRAL HIGHLANDS

CENTRAL HIGHLANDS

The most recent addition to the world heritage list and the second natural world heritage site in Sri Lanka is the Central Highlands. It is a combination of peak Wilderness Sanctuary, Horton plains National Park and Knuckles mountain range. Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, named after the famous Adam’s Peak or Sri Pada(2238m), is a tropical rain forest that is spread over 224 square Km. Legends  derive from the mark on the summit resembling the impression of a gigantic human foot. This the Buddhists devoutly worship as the sacred footprint of the Buddha, while the Hindus equally claim it as that of Siva, and the Muslims as that of Adam.

Forest that covered a large part of what is now peak wilderness was cleared during British colonial rule in Sri Lanka to  gain land for coffee and tea estates. A part  was declared a wildlife sanctuary on 25 October 1940. The altitude of peak wilderness varies from 305 to 2243 m above sea level so it has a more varied geography compared to other natural reserves on the island. At an altitude of 1500 m, montane rain forest with rath dun  and other typical tree species still persist. Above 1700m cloud forest replaces that vegetation type. As one seconds into the hills, tree species with relatively big leaves are replaced by those with smaller leaves.

Horton plains is located on the southern plateau of the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The plains are about 3000 hectares in extent, and are situated at around 2100m altitude. They are not tatally flat,but are formed of an undulating terrain of rolling hills. The peaks of kirigalpotta (2389m) and Thotupolakanda (2357 m), the second and the third highest of Sri Lanka, are situated to the west and north respectively.

The southern portion of this great table – land, at World’s End, ends so abruptly as to give the sensation of having literally arrived at the end of the world. One may stand at the brink of the precipice and gaze straight down the sheer side of the mountain upon another world 850 m below. The vertebrate fauna of the region include 24 species of mammals, 87 species of birds, nine species of repiles and eight species of amphibians. The Horton plains slender Loris, considered one of the world’s most endangered primates, is found only in the highlands of sri Lanka.