Sri Lanka's highlands are situated in the south-central part of the island. The property comprises the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the Horton Plains National Park and the Knuckles Conservation Forest. These montane forests, where the land rises to 2,500 metres above sea-level, are home to an extraordinary range of flora and fauna, including several endangered species such as the western-purple-faced langur, the Horton Plains slender loris and the Sri Lankan leopard. The region is considered a super biodiversity hotspot.
Outstanding Universal Value
The Central Highlands of Sri Lanka is a serial property comprising three component parts: Peak Wilderness Protected Area, Horton Plains National Park and Knuckles Conservation Forest. Its forests are globally important and provide habitat for an exceptional number of endemic species of flora and fauna. The property includes the largest and least disturbed remaining areas of the submontane and montane rain forests of Sri Lanka, which are a global conservation priority on many accounts. They include areas of Sri Lankan montane rain forests considered as a super-hotspot within the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka biodiversity hotspot. More than half of Sri Lanka’s endemic vertebrates, half of the country’s endemic flowering plants and more than 34% of its endemic trees, shrubs, and herbs are restricted to these diverse montane rain forests and adjoining grassland areas.
Criteria (ix): The property includes the largest and least disturbed remaining areas of the submontane and montane rain forests of Sri Lanka, which are a global conservation priority on many accounts. The component parts stretch across the Ceylonese rainforest and the Ceylonese monsoon forest. In the montane forests represented by the three serial properties, the faunal elements provide strong evidence of geological and biological processes in the evolution and development of taxa. The endemic purple-faced langur of Sri Lanka (Semnopithecus vetulus) has evolved into several morphologically different forms recognizable today. The Sri Lankan leopard, the only representative in the island of the genus Panthera, which diverged from other felids about 1.8 million years ago, is a unique sub-species (Panthera pardus kotiya). All three nominated properties provide habitat to this subspecies of leopard, endemic to Sri Lanka. Long isolation and the concomitant evolutionary processes have also resulted in a Sri Lankan molluscan fauna that is the most distinct in the South Asian region.
Criteria (x): The montane forests in the three serial components contain the only habitats of many threatened plant and animal species and are therefore of prime importance for their in-situ conservation. The property features exceptionally high numbers of threatened species, extraordinary levels of endemism, and high levels of species richness in a number of taxonomic groups. Of the 408 species of vertebrates 83%of indigenous fresh water fishes and 81 % of the amphibians in Peak Wilderness Protected Area are endemic, 91 % of the amphibians and 89% of the reptiles in Horton Plains are endemic, and 64% of the amphibians and 51% of the reptiles in the Knuckles Conservation Forest are endemic.
The small size of the components of the nominated property is a result of the limited extent of the most significant rain forest areas remaining on Sri Lanka. However, provided the property is effectively protected and managed, these areas are sufficient, especially since many of the plant and animal species have highly localized distributions. The boundary of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area includes a range of protected zones, and this component has a common boundary with the Horton Plains National Park. Effective arrangements to protect the properties from the impacts of surrounding land-use, as well as to address a range of threats are required, including via functioning buffer zones.
Protection and Management Requirements
The property has strong and effective legal protection through a combination of state ownership and a range of different protective legislation. The management of the three components of the nominated property is delivered by a number of different site specific management plans that need to be kept continually reviewed and updated, and made consistent with each other. An overall management system for the whole property is required, to ensure consistency of management, monitoring and presentation of the property, in addition to that provided by the individual management plans. Adequate and sustained budgets are required for the management of the property as a whole, and within each component.
The nature and magnitude of existing and potential threats to the three nominated properties varies between the components, and includes a number of issues. In case of the Peak Wilderness Protected Area, the major human use is from around two million pilgrims who visit the Adam’s Peak annually and contribute to both forest and environmental degradation along the pilgrim trails leading up to the peak. Illicit gem mining is also a threat. Additional threats come from the spread of invasive species, forest die-back, occasional fires and vandalism and pressure for cultivation of cardamom. Effective action is required to ensure all of these threats do not impact on the Outstanding Universal Value of the property. A strong programme of engagement with the communities who live in the area surrounding the property is an essential requirement of its approach to management. In addition to the complimentarity between its different components, the property has a strong link with the Sinharaja Forest Reserve, a World Heritage Site in the southern part of Sri Lanka. Links between these two World Heritage properties should be encouraged as part of the management systems of both properties.
The history of Adam's Peak is full of legends. According to the Mahavamsa, the Great Chronicle of Sri Lanka, the projection of Buddha's image is believed to have visited Sri Lanka in 550 BCE and to have planted one foot at the north of the royal city (Anuradhapura) and the other at the top of a mountain (Sri Pada or Adam's Peak). In the 11th century CE the reigning monarch, King Vijayabahu I, climbed the Peak with his army for the first time. In the 13th century King Panditha Parakrama Bahu I climbed the Peak and decided to make it less difficult for the pilgrims to reach the summit. Marco Polo visited the place in the 13th century and Ibn Battuta a century later. During the reign of King Magha, Buddhists were persecuted and monks fled in great numbers to neighbouring countries such as Burma, Thailand, and Laos. To continue their worship of the Buddha's footprint, the Sri Pada, they made replicas that were installed in temples abroad. As a result, the worship of the Sri Pada spread in South-East Asia, a practice that has continued unbroken since the 13th century. When the monks returned they brought these replicas back to the temples of Sri Lanka and the cult of the Sri Pada by means of small-scale copies became popular in the country. Over the centuries, right up to the present day, Adam's Peak has grown in importance as a place for worship.
The cultural heritage of the HPNP is connected with its prehistory. Archaeological findings demonstrate that the area was occupied by Mesolithic people. Recent systematic archaeological investigations based on scientific analysis have yielded evidence of hunting and foraging during the glacial maximum (24,000-18,500 BP). Traces of slash-and-burn and grazing practices have been detected in the following period, whilst during the Post-Glacial period (17,600-16,000 BP) evidence of the beginning of the management of cereals (oats and barley) has been found. The systematic cultivation of rice occurred in the period 13,000-8,700 BP. By that time the cultivation of oats and barley had decreased. Between 8,000 and 3,600 BP with increasingly dry conditions agriculture decreased and in the following period the area appears to have been almost deserted.
The KCF has traces of human life dating back to the Mesolithic period, the Early Iron Age, and the Pre- Colonial period (before 1505 CE). Several sites dated at 30,000 BP have been identified and associated relics, primary tool types, and microliths, have been found. A number of caves that were occupied by Mesolithic man have recently been identified. The area is rich in prehistoric evidence and further research is expected to provide additional information about its occupation in prehistory.
Several caves with drip-ledges dating from the Iron Age (2nd century BCE to 1st century CE) have been discovered.
[in French only]
L'histoire du pic d'Adam est riche en légendes. Selon le Mahavamsa, la Grande Chronique du Sri Lanka, la projection de l'image de Bouddha a visité le Sri Lanka en 550 avant notre ère et a posé un pied au nord de la ville royale (Anuradhapura) et l'autre au sommet de la montagne (Sri Pada ou pic d'Adam). Au XIe siècle de notre ère, le monarque régnant, le roi Vijayabahu Ier, monta pour la première fois au sommet du pic avec son armée. Au XIIIe siècle, le roi Panditha Parakrama Bahu Ier monta au sommet du pic et décida d'en faciliter l'accès aux pèlerins. Marco Polo visita l'endroit au XIIIe siècle et Ibn Battuta un siècle plus tard. Sous le règne du roi Magha, les bouddhistes furent persécutés et les moines fuirent en grand nombre dans les pays voisins tels que la Birmanie, la Thaïlande et le Laos. Pour continuer le culte de l'empreinte du pied de Bouddha, le Sri Pada, ils en firent des répliques qu'ils installèrent dans des temples à l'étranger. C'est ainsi que le culte du Sri Pada se répandit dans l'Asie du Sud- Est et s'est poursuivi sans interruption depuis le XIIIe siècle. À leur retour, les moines rapportèrent ces répliques dans les temples du Sri Lanka et le culte de Sri Pada, par le biais de copies à échelle réduite, devint populaire dans le pays. Au fil des siècles et jusqu'à aujourd'hui, le pic d'Adam n'a cessé de prendre de l'importance en tant que lieu de culte.
Le patrimoine culturel du HPNP est lié à sa préhistoire. Les découvertes archéologiques ont montré que la zone était occupée au Mésolithique. De récentes fouilles archéologiques systématiques menées sur la base d'analyses scientifiques ont mis au jour des témoignages de chasse et de fourrage pendant le maximum glaciaire (24 000-18 500 ans BP). Des traces de cultures sur brûlis et de pâturage ont été détectées pour la période suivante, tandis que dans la période post-glaciaire (17 600-16 000 ans BP) des traces de premières cultures de céréales (avoine, orge) ont été trouvées. La riziculture s'est développée dans la période 13 000- 8 700 BP. À cette époque, la culture de l'avoine et de l'orge avait reculé. Entre 8 000 et 3 600 BP, compte tenu des conditions de sécheresse de plus en plus importantes, l'agriculture a périclité et la zone semble avoir été pratiquement désertée.
La KCF recèle des traces de vie humaine datant du Mésolithique, du premier âge du fer et de la période précoloniale (avant 1505). Plusieurs sites remontant à 30 000 ans BP ont été identifiés, comportant des reliques, des outils rudimentaires et des microlithes. Plusieurs grottes qui étaient occupées au Mésolithique ont été récemment identifiées. La zone est riche en traces préhistoriques et des fouilles supplémentaires sont attendues afin d'étoffer les informations concernant son occupation pendant la préhistoire.
Plusieurs grottes dotées de larmiers datant de l'âge du fer (du IIe siècle avant notre ère au Ier siècle de notre ère) ont été découvertes.
Source: Advisory Body Evaluation