Where the leopards roam today


Historically, the Sri Lankan leopard was distributed throughout the island. However, due to changes experienced by the landscape in the country, the leopard is no more seen in the south western areas and in the vast agricultural areas. Even though the Sri Lankan leopard roams around 50% of the island, its actual habitat is limited to about 20%, specifically in areas that are strongly linked with forest cover. Most of these areas are abundant with prey resulting in favourable conditions for the leopards. Protected areas in the dry zone such as the Yala National Park are the most common habitats of the Sri Lankan leopard. However, limited populations of leopards are also found in the central hills and the wet zone including Sinharaja forest. It is important to note that the total population of leopards have significantly reduced over the years. 





Leopards in Yala National Park

Yala National Park holds great significance as it is home to the highest leopard density in the world.

It is one of Sri Lanka’s first and most famous National Parks situated in the south east region bordering the coast. It provides refuge to 44 mammals including the Sri Lankan leopard and 215 bird species. The park’s biodiversity includes endemic and threatened species as well as resident and migrant birds.

Some of the most sought-after specie in the park include the Sri Lankan leopard, Sri Lankan elephant, spotted deer, sambar deer, wild boar, sloth bear, jackal and birds such as rosy starlings, paradise flycatcher, crested hawk eagle and the blue-tailed bee-eater.

The highest odds to spot a leopard is at this location due to its high species density and lack of natural predators.

In addition to leopards, Yala National Park is also a great location for bird enthusiasts as it is located in close vicinity to the ancient hermitage of Sithulpawwa, Debarawewa Wetland and Palatupana saltpans – all ideal birding destinations.





Leopards in Udawalawe National Park

Udawalawe National Park is celebrated as the home of the Sri Lankan elephant.

It is the only national park in the country where an elephant sighting is guaranteed during every safari trip. Its elephant population is said to be around 250 individuals who roam in herds around the park during all times of the year. The lush vegetation and abundance of water bodies within the Udawalawe National Park makes it an ideal location for the elephants as well as the other mammals.

Even though Udawalawe is only known to harbor a small population of leopards, it is in no way impossible to sight one. In a recent morning safari our naturalist managed to spot not only one female leopard but two of her adorable cubs in Galkoriya, an abundant quarry site within the park. The thick vegetation in the park makes it a challenge to view the Sri Lankan leopard. However, it is definitely a possibility.

In addition to the leopard , Udawalawe National Park provides refuge to a wide range of flora and fauna including endemics. The Ceylon spiny mouse and golden palm civet are two such endemic creatures. Sambar deer, Indian muntjac, grey jackals, wild board, sloth bears and Sri Lankan spotted chevrotain have been spotted in the park. Additionally, the smaller relatives of the Sri Lankan leopard – the fishing cat and rusty spotted cat are seen in Udawalawe.






Leopards in Wilpattu National Park

The home of the villus

Wilpattu National Park is famous for its abundance of seasonal water bodies called villus. This availability of water makes the park an ideal habitat for the leopard as well as other mammals like the elephant, deer and the mongoose. It is also home to a wide variety of birds including owls, gulls and Sri Lanka’s national bird – the jungle fowl.

Wilpattu National Park is visited by many nature enthusiasts witk the hope of sighting leopards as well as other interesting species such as the mugger crocodiles and the soft shelled turtles.






Hill Country Leopards 


The hill country of Sri Lanka is home to picturesque views and an enjoyable climate. However, it is also home to a significant Sri Lankan leopard population. The forest patches between Dunked and Norwood Bungalows are known to provide refuge to a such a leopard population according to camera trap data.  Visitors are encouraged to visit the research station located next to Dunkeld tea factory and learn about these fascinating, elusive, threatened cats, their habits and the conservation efforts we are supporting. Eco team






Leopards in Sinharaja Rain Forest

Sinharaja is Sri Lanka’s most diverse and important tropical rain forest as it is home to 95% of the endemic birds in the country. The endemism recorded among mammals and butterflies is also said to be greater than 50%. In addition, a large diversity of other animals and plants can be seen in the habitat making it a globally renowned biodiversity hotspot.

Leopard sightings however are quite rare in Sinharaja. They have been recorded in some locations in camera traps set by researchers. The sambar deer, mouse deer and barking deer are mammals that are frequently sighted in the park.






Leopards in Horton Plains National Park

Horton Plains National Park is a truly unique habitat situated in the hill country of Sri Lanka. It’s a destination for beautiful views, magnificent waterfalls and a wide variety of flora and fauna, including the Sri Lankan leopard. The location in fact is celebrated as the hotspot for highland leopards. The National Park is considered to be located in the highest plateau in the entire island and as a result welcomes many rare and endemic highland birds. In addition, its floral diversity is also highly unique. Some of the other species that can be seen in Horton Plains National Park include the spotted deer, sambar, wild board, wild hare and the porcupine.

Another attraction in Horton Plains is “World’s End”. This refers to an 880-meter steep escarpment that entertains beautiful views of the tea estate below as well as the distant coastline. For those eager to view the beauty of the protected area including the sighting of a leopard, a visit during a weekday is recommended. This is due to the overwhelming volume of local tourists who visit Horton Plains National Park during the weekends.





Leopards in Kumana National Park 


This 357-sq-km park, once known as Yala East in the past, is much less frequently visited than its busy neighbour, Yala National Park. Consequently, it's a far less zoo-like experience and it never feels too crowded here, even during high season. This park holds endemic birds and a variety of birdlife from afar soaring above the Himalayas just to stop for a breather at Kumana and soar across to Africa. 

Yes, the density of animals is lower, but it’s not rare to spot a leopard Sri Lanka holds the highest density of Leopards per square kilometer, Kumana National Park is the best place to see a leopard in privacy and in the raw. The Leopards of Kumana are a lot more elusive and a lot more inquisitive. They have not been disturbed by humans over the years because the reaches of this park are not easily accessible by mankind. 

Not only leopards, elephants, crocodiles, wild buffalo and tons of birds. About a dozen sloth bears live in the park, but they’re rarely seen. 


"This Is the Best Safari Destination Outside of Africa"

Forbes (2019)