Thursday, 23 February 2012

Horton Plain National Park


Horton Plains National Park was designated a national park in 1998. This park is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka and is covered by montane grassland and cloud forest. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres  is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. 

Sri Lankan Post issued the stamp set comprises of  4 stamps and one souvenir sheet that depicts species of Horton Plains National Park in Sri Lanka on September 07, 2010. The species depicted  are Sri Lanka Whistling thrush, Rhino-horn lizard, Sri Lankan Sambar deer, and Purple-faced leaf monkey.


Sri Lanka Whistling thrush
Horton Plains contains 21 bird species which occur only on Sri Lanka. Four bird species, Sri Lanka Blue Magpie, Dull-blue Flycatcher, Sri Lanka White-eye, and Sri Lanka Wood-pigeon, occur only in Horton plains, while other endemic species include Sri Lanka Spurfowl, Sri Lanka Junglefowl, Yellow-fronted Barbet, Orange-billed Babbler, Sri Lanka Bush-warbler, and Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush.

The Sri Lanka Whistling-thrush, Myophonus blighi, is a whistling thrush in the thrush family Turdidae. It is found in the highlands of Sri Lanka in jungle or other dense forest near water.
It is omnivorous, eating a wide range of insects, frogs, earthworms and berries. It lays one or two eggs in a neat cup-shaped nest in a bush or on a ledge near water.This is a small whistling thrush, only 20 cm in length. Adult males are dark blue with a darker head and back.  The female is brown above and chestnut below.There are bright blue patches on the shoulders, supercilia and forehead.The male sings its simple whistling song from trees.
This is a notoriously difficult species to see, even when the males are singing in the breeding season, which starts in February. It is very shy, scarce, localized and declining due to habitat loss. 

The vertebrate fauna of the region includes 24 species of mammals, 87 species of birds, nine species of reptiles and eight species of amphibians.At present, the largest and the most commonly seen mammal is the Sambar Deer. Some research findings estimate the population of Sambar Deer to be around 1500 to 2000, possibly more than the carrying capacity of the plains.

Sri Lankan Sambar Deer (Rusa unicolor unicolor) is a sub-species of Sambar Deer that lives in Sri Lanka. This subspecies is one of the largest Sambar Deer species with the largest antlers both in size and in body proportions. Large males weight up to 275 kg. Sri Lankan Sambar occurs in lowland dry forest, montane forest. Large herds of Sambar Deer roam the Horton Plains National Park, where it is the most common large mammal.

Rhinohorn Lizard

Sri Lanka is considered a herpetological paradise in the world. Possibly about 15 amphibian species inhabit the park.  De Silva has observed six endemic reptiles from the plains. They are Calotes nigrilabris, Rhino Horn Lizard, Cophotis ceylanica, Lankascincus taprobanensis, Common rough-sided snake, and Rat snake.
Rhino-horned lizard (Ceratophora stoddartii), or Kagamuva Angkatussa in Sinhala, is a species of lizard in the Agamidae family. It is endemic to Sri Lanka.

Purple-faced leaf Monkey
Other mammal species found in the park include Kelaart's Long-clawed Shrews, Toque Macaques, Purple-faced Langurs, Rusty-spotted Cat, Sri Lankan Leopards, Wild boars, Stripe-necked Mongooses, Sri Lankan Spotted Chevrotains, Indian Muntjacs, and Grizzled giant squirrels.

The purple-faced langur (Trachypithecus vetulus), or purple-faced leaf monkey, is a species of Old World monkey endemic to Sri Lanka.
This is a long-tailed arboreal species, mainly brown with a dark facemask and paler lower face. The loud barking call, particularly of the highland form, can be mistaken for the roar of a predator such as a Leopard.

It is said to be very selective in its diet, and its range has contracted greatly in the face of human encroachment, although it can still be seen in Sinharaja, Kitulgala, in the mountains at Horton Plains National Park or in the rainforest city of Galle.


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