Location and Values: The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka occupy land at higher elevations in the south-central part of the island, up to about 2,500m. The world heritage site comprises two geographically-separated components with the Knuckles Conservation Forest lying to the north and the Peak Wilderness/Horton Plains complex further south. These two areas protect much of the last remaining montane forest in Sri Lanka (where most of the surrounding land has been converted to tea plantations). Biogeographically the area shows close affinities with India’s Western Ghats, the range of mountains that follows the sub-continent’s western flank. Together with the Western Ghats, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is regarded as one of the eight ‘hottest hotspots’ for biodiversity in the world, with exceptionally high levels of species richness and endemism. The Sri Lankan part of the hotspot exhibits particular attributes related to its biological isolation as an island environment, enabling the evolution of especially high numbers of endemic species, including many that are restricted to montane areas of the island. There are 408 species of vertebrates known from the world heritage area, of which 141 (34%) are endemic to Sri Lanka, including many reptiles and amphibians, as well as 13 of Sri Lanka’s endemic birds. Evolutionary pressures have resulted in distinct forms of an endemic monkey (purple-faced langur), and a unique sub-species of leopard.
Conservation Status and Prospects. According to IUCN’s Conservation Outlook Assessment (2017) the conservation status of the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is ‘good, with some concerns’. The IUCN report notes that ‘ The values of the site remain intact due to relatively low levels of threat coupled with sound protection and a largely effective management regime. The recent completion of a more effective management planning framework for the site is welcome. However, the maintenance of the values is dependent on the continued efforts to address issues of concern and put in place the necessary staffing and funding to guarantee implementation of planned actions. Tourism impacts, invasive species and indirect impacts from the buffer zones appear to be the most significant current threats to the site. The management authorities will need to continually monitor the condition of values and adapt management accordingly to ensure the conservation outlook for this property remains positive.’
Official UNESCO Site Details
IUCN Conservation Outlook
UNEP-WCMC Site Description