Gileemale Forest Reserve – A lesser-known bio-diversity Hotspot

Gileemale Forest Reserve is a small patch of forest which is adjacent to the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary which is the foothills of the mighty Adams Peak Mountain.

Being a primarily lowland rainforest, this forest area holds quite a number of endemic species of flora and fauna.

Being a lesser-known area, the team of Classic Wild ventured out on a field recce to this forest to study its biodiversity as well as to assess its potential for travelers.

The forest itself is quite accessible from Colombo within a short drive of 2.5 hours from the capital city.

Daytime observations revealed a good bird population which included the Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Lesser Yellownape, Sri Lanka Lesser Flameback, Dark Fronted Babblers as well as the Sri Lanka Spot-winged Thrush. The forest though small consisted of many small clear streams where few endemic fish species such as Comb tails, Stone Suckers as well as Danio’s were observed. Several calls of the endemic Hill Mynah were observed despite visuals proving difficult due to the dense forest.

By nighttime the true study commenced, as Gileemalee is well known for its amphibian and reptilian diversity, which was the main target of this field visit.

One of the first notable frog species observed was the Leaf Dwelling Shrub Frog which was found quite numerously in the forest edge.

One of the main quarries of this field venture was the legendary Ranwellas Horned Frog, which was discovered in this habitat, and has distinctive horned/spined features along its neck.

Very similar in appearance to the Common Hourglass Tree-frog it was crucial for the team to clearly observe the distinctive markings and spines to truly identify a Ranwellas Horned Frog.

A Sri Lanka Checkered Keelback was observed swimming along the stream while the team were searching for the target frog.

A key observation was the brightly colored Lyre Headed Lizard, where a very large male specimen was observed sleeping on a tree trunk. Being the largest agamid lizard species in Sri Lanka it was truly a treat to observe this endemic lizard in its natural habitat. –

Another reptilian observed was the Sri Lanka Hump-nosed viper which is categorized as a highly venomous species.

Other frog species observed included many Leaf Dwelling Shrub Frogs as well as Common Hourglass Frogs, which included the largest individual ever observed by the team, which was easily almost one foot in length when legs were extended. Furthermore, Kelaarts Dwarf Toad as well as the Reticulated- thigh Shrub Frig as well as Sri Lankan Golden-backed Frogs were observed.

In the water areas the Sri Lanka Corrugated Water Frog was observed.

Another unique and new frog to the team was the Kandyan Shrub Frog.

The team kept their late-night search well past midnight, after which the activity of frogs slowed down, hence it was decided to end the days work.

The next day morning was spent birding around the village and local accommodation which was a historical manor converted to a guest house.

Among the species observed was the Sri Lanka Crested Drongo, Lesser Yellownape, Brown-capped Babblers, Dark-fronted Babblers, Lesser Flameback as well as the Spot Winged Thrush. Tickells Blue Flycatchers were quire numerous with some individuals observed inside the guest house itself.

After resting during the daytime house, the team venture back into the forest after dark.

This night many individuals of the Common Hourglass Tree Frog were observed. It proved quite challenging given it was imperative to closely observe the features of this species given they are quite similar to the target species the team were searching for the Ranwella’s Horned Frog.

Despite countless observations, no individuals of the Ranwella’s were found on this foray.

While searching, the team noticed a frog falling from atop a tree right onto the arms of one of the team members. It was none other than a beautiful specimen of the Hollow-snouted Shrub Frog, one of the most astounding and beautiful species found in Sri Lanka.

The textures and coloration of this species is very much akin to a mossy tree bark, and this particular individual displayed some of the most impressive color variations observed by the team. Providing some of the best photographic opportunities for the budding macro photographers among the team.

Another unique find during the nighttime foray were Malabar Trogon beautiful daytime species of birds fast asleep on their roost in the forest.

While traversing the main trail, the team observed a distinctive eye shine from the canopy of the forest. Observation revealed this was none other than the endemic and extremely elusive Red Slender Loris. It was a thrilling sighting given the rarity of this species.

Furthermore, continuous calling of the Sri Lanka Bay Owl was observed throughout the nighttime foray in the forest which concludes the presence of this rare and magnificent owl species in this eco system.

As the team was moving on, an amphibian was observed climbing a big tree trunk and further observation revealed it was a new species to the team which was the Sri Lanka Bull Frog which has the remarkable ability to climb the trunks of large trees.

Calling it a night the team returned back early morning for much needed rest.

The next day one more birding foray entailed observations of two individual Chestnut Backed Owlets, Sri Lanka Green Pigeon, Black-hooded Oriole, Yellow Billed Babblers as well as Indian Pitta.

A longer walk along the village revealed sightings of Sri Lanka Swallow, Tawny-bellied Babblers, Lotens Sunbird and Common Iora.

It can be concluded this was a fruitful reconnaissance to a new habitat which holds much potential for birding and herping tours, and a worthy area to preserve and conserve for future generations.



1Orange-billed Babbler
2Indian Peafowl
3Spotted Dove
4Asian Emerald Dove
5Greater Coucal
6Common Hawk Cuckoo
7Asian Palm Swift
8Indian Pond Heron
9Crested Serpent Eagle
10Crimson-fronted Barbet
11Brown-headed Barbet
12Sri Lanka Lesser Flameback
13Lesser Yellownape
14Layard’s Parakeet
15Sri Lanka Hanging-parrot
16Indian Pitta
17Orange Minivet
18Black-hooded Oriole
19Common Iora
20White-browed Fantail
21White-bellied Drongo
22Sri Lanka Crested Drongo
23Indian Paradise-flycatcher
24Large-billed Crow
25Common Tailorbird
26Plain Prinia
27Sri Lanka Swallow
28Red-vented Bulbul
29Square-tailed Bulbul
30Dark-fronted Babbler
31Brown-capped Babbler
32Yellow-billed Babbler
33Common Myna
34Spot-winged Thrush
35Oriental Magpie-robin
36Tickell’s Blue Flycatcher
37Purple-rumped Sunbird
38Jerdon’s Leafbird
39Scaly-breasted Munia
40White-rumped Munia
41Gray Wagtail
42Chestnut-backed Owlet
43Sri Lanka Hill Myna
44Malabar Trogon


1Leaf-dwelling Shrub Frog
2Orange-canthel Shrub Frog
3Kandyan Shrub Frog
4Common Hourglass Tree Frog
5Sri Lanka Golden-backed Frog
6Hollow-snouted Shrub Frog
7Sri Lanka Corrugated Water Frog
8Sri Lanka Bull Frog
9Reticulated-thigh Shrub Frog
10Common House Toad
11Kellart’s Dwarf Toad


1Lyre-headed Lizard
2Sri Lanka Wolf Snake
3Sri Lanka Kangaroo Lizard
4Sri Lanka Checkered Keelback

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