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Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation

Episode 28 – Sigiriya Sanctuary

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Sigiriya provides a model of reconciliation

I assumed duties in Sigiriya Sanctuary as a Beat Officer in 2016. As a tourism area tourist are abundant in Sigiriya. There were officials in charge of various tasks in this area, but there was no connection between them. There was no relationship between the officers of our Department and the public as well. Everywhere our officers were subjected to criticism.

The surrounding people were so out of touch that they could not dig a well or cut a toilet pit without a conflict. I called the people and told them that in future we will serve and do our utmost for the public. I started uniting the officers. It was finally possible to form a forum of heads of all institutions including the Dambulla Divisional Secretariat, the Police, the Divisional Council. We officers met in once a month. Discussed the problems between the institutions. Relationships were identified so that they could serve the public. After that, a situation arose where the work that took months could be done with one phone call.

On 27.06.2019, a person from SigiriyaKimbissa area died after being attacked by an elephant. He is a father of three children. He was attacked while coming from the field at around 6:00 pm. On that day, I had gone to the Battaramulla head office for some work. The deceased’s brother-in-law is a local councilor. He gave me a phone message and informed me about the incident. I told the member that tomorrow is Friday but I will talk to the divisional secretary and get the compensation money. Don’t let people worry you. I calmed him down. Kimbissa is a very risky area. I came there the next day. The compensation amount was 1 lakh rupees. The Deputy Minister also came that day. As they have no home. I promised in front of the minister, that we will build a house for them. He also said that it can be done with the cooperation of our institutions.

Burial was to be done the next day, everyone who spoke, even the monk, ready to take the coffin and parade on the road. But the deceased’s brother-in-law, the local council member, said that no matter what anyone says, Mr. Bandaranaike is a competent officer. He promised to build a house. That opportunity cannot be lost. Therefore, don’t take the body to the road. Accordingly, the protest of people planned to do stopped.

Three days later the aforesaid committee of our officers met and I made a request to everyone. “The family of the deceased has neither land nor a house, so, I promised to build a house for them. I appeal you to give the necessary support.” Everyone agreed to my request.

Major Nishantha, manager of the Central Cultural Fund, agreed to provide the aerial plan and labour. The Air Force agreed to provide labour, the Electricity Board to provide electricity through welfare fund, and the Water Resources Board agreed to provide water. The Veterinary Surgeon promised to set up a system to generate income through poultry farming and dairy farming. The Department of Forest Resources provided stone and sand whilst the Department of Wildlife gave the opportunity to cut some trees that were to be removed from the Cultural Fund. Rupees three hundred thousand received from Housing Development Authority in cash. Five lakhs in cash was received as compensation from the Wildlife Department and we found a suitable land to build the house.

Homework started with the determination to finish the work in three months. Before three months, we were able to build a beautiful house with 3 rooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a toilet. We bought items needed for the house.

We held a ceremony on the day the three months were completed, and all the officials participated and gave the house to that family under the leadership of the Divisional Secretary.

What I mean by this story is that good service can be provided to people through good coordination. Then we get good support from people for our official work. Although, I have conducted things like educational programs, building this house is a beautiful moment that I will always remember.

Mr. Chandra Bandaranike

Mr. Chandra Bandaranayake joined the Wildlife Department in 1986. He first worked at Wasgamuwa National Park and later served  at Giritale Wildlife Center for 10 years. He joined the Department as a minor employee and was promoted as a wildlife Ranger. Mr. Chandra Bandaranayake, who worked as a Field Assistant in Matale, Hambantota, Alahera areas, and later got promoted in 2015 and worked as a Ranger in the Sigiriya Sanctuary region.

He pursued the diploma course conducted by the Wildlife Department. Mr. Bandaranayake, who likes to work in harmony with everyone, is extremely satisfied with his service.

Mr. Bandaranaike’s beloved wife, Mrs. R. M. Sakuntala Ratnayake, is working in the Matale Regional Development Bank. His elder son Dinusha Bandara is working abroad and the younger son Erandaka Bandara is studying at Hotel School in Matale.

His address is R.M.C Bandaranayake, 193/1, Palle Weheragama, Kaikawala, Matale.

Sigiriya Sanctuary

The Sigiriya Sanctuary lies at the heart of Sri Lanka’s Cultural Triangle and is populated with ancient monuments dating back thousands of years. Located in the Northern part of the Matale District of the Central Province, named as Sigiriya Sanctuary on 26.01.1990, this area consists of 5,099 hectares of forests and water bodies inclusive of Sigiriya and Pidurangala rocks and surrounding area.

Sigiriya Rock
Sigiriya and Pidurangala Rocks

The forest at the foot of the Sigiriya Rock is a favorite habitat for a large number of endemic, resident and migratory bird species. The Sigiriya Sanctuary consists of forests, lakes, canals and a surrounding road system that helps the pilgrims walk to the ancient Pidurangala temple.

Road system inside the Sigiriya Sanctuary
Ancient Pidurangala temple

A large part of the Sigiriya Sanctuary is still intact and the rugged terrain at the foot of the Sigiriya Rock is still home to a large number of wildlife.

Sinharaja Rainforest is one of the best places for bird watching in Sri Lanka, with thick foliage with dense canopy, high canopy and undergrowth. The specialty of Sigiri forest, which is not as thick as Sinharaja rainforest, is that it is much easier to spot birds than in Sinharaja. Some of the birds found in Sigiriya, a dry zone forest, cannot be found in the Sinharajarainforest. The Sigiri jungle trek lasts for about three hours during which visitors can spot dozens of bird species. Sigiriya Sanctuary is home to around 120 bird species, both common and rare as well as endemic, resident and migratory. Due to this diversity, the importance of Sigiriya Sanctuary has increased greatly.

                                                                                                                               Elephants at the sigiriya

The Sigiriya bird watching tour lasts around five hours and covers a large area around the Sigiriya rock fort. The bird watching tour starts from Sigiriya lake which is the best place to see a large number of birds.Some of the common birds seen here are Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Red-wattled Lapwing (Vanellus indicus), Pale-billed Flowerpecker (Dicaeum erythrorynchos), Common Iora (Aegithina tiphia), Scaly-breasted Munia (Lonchura punctulata), Pheasant- tailed Jacana (Hydrophasianus chirurgus), Oriental Darter (Anhinga melanogaster pennant), Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), Indian Robin (Saxicoloides fulicatus), Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus), Brahminy Kite (Haliastur indus) etc.

White Indian flycatcher

Sigiriya Sanctuary is high in ecological diversity but with low in plant diversity. The plant community here is semi-evergreen forests. Longan,Dragons eye (Dimocarpns lorgan), Bastard Ebony (Diospyros ovalifolia), Jodpakli (Dimorphocalyx glabellus), Rox burgh’s cherry (Eugenia bracteata), Thwaites (Diplodiscusverrucosus), shrubs like Fishing rod tree (Pterospermum sulerifolium), Karana (Tarenna asiatica), Hedge Box wood (Drypetes sepiaria) and shrubs like Glycosmis mauritiana, Dunal (Polyalthia korinti), Iron wood tree (Memecylon umbellatum), Oblong leaf salacia (Salacia oblonga), and Croton oil tree (Croton laccifer) are common. Other trees like Milla (Vitex altissima), Halmilla (Berrya cordifohia), Ceylon oak (Schleichera oleosa), Palu (Marilkara hexandra) etc., are also available. Gudance for jungle trekking and bird watching tours can be obtained from tour guides. If you are planning to spend a few days in Sigiriya, it is important to set aside some time to explore the Sigiri Forest and experience the wildlife and flora. Visiting Sigiriya Rock, Pidurangala Rock Temple, exploring Sigiriya Lake and introduction to its ecological approach is beneficial for you. The Sigiri Rock Fort was a well-planned city with a landscaped garden dating back to the 5th century AD. Today it is one of the most visited places in the island. It is advisable to start the hike early in the morning or in the evening to enjoy the view of the sunrise or sunset. You canvisit the Sigiriya Sanctuary, which is famous among local and foreign environmentalists and has aesthetic and historical value as well.

The forest area around Sigiriya has been extensively reduced in the last few decades, mainly due to the expansion of human settlements. With the increase in the population of the village, a part of the Sigiriya Reserve has been targeted for deforestation and expansion of farmland. Constant clearing of a part of the forest means loss of part of the living habitat of the wildlife. Depriving a part of the habitat of wild animals makes it difficult to provide food and water to these native rainforest animals like wild elephants and wild pigs etc. The occasional invasion of these animals into villages cause severe damage to houses and crops. The neighbouring people should be concerned about protecting this forest.

List of animals in the Sigiriya Sanctuary

 Sinhala Names

Tamil Names

English Names

Scientific Name

අලියාஆசிய யானைAsian elephantElephas maximus

ගව කොකා

உண்ணிக் கொக்கு

Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis


சிவப்பு மூக்கு ஆள்காட்டி

Red-wattled Lapwing

Vanellus indicus

ලාතුඩු පිළිලිච්චා

திக்கெல்லின் பூங்கொத்தி

Pale-billed Flowerpecker

Dicaeum erythrorynchos

පොදු අයෝරාවා


Common Iora

Aegithina tiphia

ළය කායුරුවී කුරුල්ලා

புள்ளித் தினைக்குருவி

Scaly-breasted Munia

Lonchura punctulata

බළල් සේරාநீளவால் தாழைக்கோழிPheasant-tailed JacanaHydrophasianus chirurgus
අභිකාවාபாம்புத்தாராOriental DarterAnhinga melanogaster pennant

මල් පිළිහුඩුවා

சிறு நீல மீன்கொத்தி

Common Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis



Indian Robin

Saxicoloides fulicatus

පාදිලි මානාවා


Woolly-necked Stork

Ciconia episcopus

බ්‍රාහ්මණ උකුස්සා


Brahminy Kite

Haliastur indus

සුදු රෙදි හොරා

அரசவால் ஈப்பிடிப்பான்

White Indian flycatcher

Terpsiphone paradisi

List of trees in the Sigiriya Sanctuary

Sinhala Name

Tamil Name

English Name

Scientific Name


Longan, Dragons eye

Dimocarpns longan

කුණුමැල්ලஇறும்பிலிBastard Ebony

Diospyros ovalifolia


Dimorphocalyx glabellus

තැඹිලියஇளநீர்Rox burgh’s cherry

Eugenia bracteata

දික්වැන්නவித்பனிThwaitesDiplodiscus verrucosus
වෙළඟුவெண்ணங்குFishing rod tree

Pterospermum suberifolium


Tarenna asiatica

වීරவீரைHedge Box wood

Drypetes sepiaria

බෝපනகொஞ்சிOrange berry

Glycosmis mauritiana



DunalPolyalthia korinti


Iron wood treeMemecylon umbellatum
ගල්හිඹුටුபொங்கொரந்திOblong leaf salacia

Salacia oblonga

ගස් කැප්පෙටියා


Croton oil treeCroton laccifer
මිල්ලகாட்டு நொச்சிMilla

Vitex altissima

හල්මිල්ලசாவண்டலை மரம்Halmilla

Berraya cordifolia


Manilkara hexandra



Ceylon oakSchleichera oleosa

Editor–  Dammika Malsinghe, Additional Secretary,Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation, Section, Ministry of  Wildlife and Forest Resources Conservation  (MAWFRC)

Article on park written byHasini Sarathchandra, Chief Media Officer, Department of Wildlife Coservation (DWLC) Mahesha Chathurani Perera ,Development Officer, (DWLC)

Tamil TranslationsA.R.F. Rifna, Development Officer, MAWFRC

English Translations Asoka Palihawadana, Translator, MAWFRC

Web DesigningN.I.Gayathri, Development Officer,MAWFRC -C.A.D.D.A. Kollure, Management Service Officer, MAWFRC

Photography pictures by Janaka Jayasekara