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The Knuckles Mountain Range also called the Knuckles Massif; a bio-diversity hotspot located in the districts of Kandy and Matale in the Central Province of Sri Lanka. Situated at a height of over 3000 ft above sea level, covering a land area of approximately 21 ha it consists of five peaks; namely Kirigalpottha, Gombaniya, Knuckles, Koboneelagala and Dotulugala which form the shape of the knuckles in a clenched fist. The area situated above 1500 m was declared a climatic reserve in 1873 and a conservation forest in 2000, later a National Man & Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site in 2009. It is today considered as one of South Asia’s important sites for the conservation of montane tropical forest habitats.
This picturesque mist laden mountain range is where the Knuckles Forest Reserve also known as the Knuckles Conservation forest is found. It is an UNESCO designated World Heritage Site that comes under the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka’s World Heritage Property, one of the two World Heritage Natural Properties in Sri Lanka.
The climate here varies from hot to very wet and cold with some higher elevations reporting ground frost during January – March with strong winds at most other times. The vegetation in the valleys and foothills consist mainly of semi evergreen vegetation with large trees, the upper slopes contain tropical montane humid evergreen rain forest and the upper levels possess cloud forests; a moist forest with a low-level cloud cover where various endemic species of ferns, orchids, lichens and mosses grow profusely. The other types of unique vegetation found here includes the distinctively beautiful grasslands called “Pitawala Patana”, the picturesque Riverine forests alongside the rivers and waterways, the Scrublands and the Pygmy forests with its twisted and gnarled plant life that grow up to 1-2 m from ground level.
The Knuckles massif separates itself from the central hills by the Dumbara Valley; a deep gorge. There are several trails to the Knuckles Mountain range, each one different and exclusive, making it ideal for hiking, trekking, waterfall hunting, bird watching and certainly a must place for some scenic photography. Visitors can travel on three routes from Kandy via Rattota, via Wattegama and via Teldeniya.
The Knuckles Forest reserve is considered a vital water catchment with many of its streams feeding important downstream rivers such as the gigantic Mahaweli River (the country’s longest), the Heen River, Maha Oya, Hasalaka Oya and the Theligamu Oya.
The Forest Reserve has recorded up of 1033 plant species belonging to 141 families of which 15% are endemic. In addition there are 128 bird species of which 17 are endemic; some of them are the Black eagle, Pale billed flower pecker, Barbets, Lorikeets, Egrets, Herons, Bulbuls, Babblers, Kingfishers and Wood peckers. The 31 mammal species include the Wild boar, Black-naped hare, Mouse deer, Sambar deer, Elephant, Wild buffalo, Monkey, Squirrel, Civet cat, Golden palm cat, Loris, Jackal, Mongoose, Bandicoot and Porcupine. The 20 amphibians’ species include the Kirthisingha’s Rock Frog and the Leaf nosed lizard, 15 species of fish include the Phillips Garra, Blotched filamented barb and Martenstyn barb. There are 60 species of butterflies, with two endemic species the Birdwing and the Blue Mormon. There are also 17 species of mollusks and 53 species of reptiles.