Mammals in Colombo wetlands

Purple‐faced leaf monkey

Scientific name – Semnopithecus vetulus

IUCN Conservation Status – Endangered

‘Kalu Wandura’ is a long-tailed arboreal species endemic to Sri Lanka, characterized by a mostly brown appearance, dark face (with paler lower face) with white sideburns and a very shy nature. The species was once highly prevalent, their loud barking calls heard in suburban Colombo and the wet zone villages but rapid urbanization has led to a significant decrease in their population level. Its natural habitat is closed canopy forests in Sri Lanka’s mountains and the southwestern part of the country. They mostly feed on leaves, flowers, seeds, and prefer fruit such as jak, rambutan, banana and mango.

Rusty‐spotted cat

Scientific name – Prionailurus rubiginous

IUCN Conservation Status – Vulnerable

Rusty Spotted Cat is the smallest wild cat in Sri Lanka, measuring up to about 18 inches in the body with a tail of no more than half its body length. It is similar in size to an ordinary domestic cat and called ‘Kola Diviya’ / ‘Balal Diviya’ in Sinhala. The Rusty-spotted Cat is named after its specific markings – The base fur is usually grey in colour and is covered by small rust red coloured spots which form into solid stripes along the back and on the top of the head while the underparts of the body, the chest bib and the chin are white. Its habitats include forest and scrubland. However, it is an elusive nocturnal animal that is rarely seen. It hunts and feeds mainly on insects, small birds, rodents, frogs, small lizards and domestic fowl.

Fishing cat

Scientific name – Prionailurus viverrinusIUCN Conservation Status – VulnerableThe Fishing Cat is known as ‘Handun Diviya’ in Sinhala, and is smaller than the Leopard. It prefers wetland habitats such as swamps, marshes, reed beds, mangroves, paddy fields and found throughout the country including heavily populated suburbs of the capital city of Colombo. Its tail is flattened, coat is light brown with dark brown irregular spots, fading to white underneath and the backs of its ears are black with a central white spot. Contradictory to the belief that cats don’t like water, these wildcats are powerful swimmers with partially webbed toes to help them swim easily. The fishing cat is nocturnal, hunts and feeds on fish, small reptiles such as lizards, skinks, frogs and crabs. It has also been known to feed on birds and mammals. The destruction of its wetland habitat is the primary threat facing this species of wildcat.



Scientific name – Lutra lutraIUCN Conservation Status – VulnerableThe Ceylon Otter, known as ‘Diya balla’ in Sinhala, is a shy and elusive mammal, about 1m long, weighing about 8 Kg. Their fur is roughly a dark brown on the back, shading to buff or grey on the belly and throat. They enjoy water sports, and are known to build slides by the river to entertain themselves. Its diet mainly consists of fish, but they also eat various types of water birds, crayfish and frogs. Like most animals, to mark their territory otters too use their droppings, also known as “spraint”, which smells somewhat like jasmine tea! Water pollution, illegal hunting and habitat destruction have caused major threats to their survival.