A fine example of the many ancient rainwater reservoirs (or tanks) that dot the island of Sri Lanka, Minneriya Tank (built nearly 2000 years ago) is the focal point for this small eponymous reserve of c.9000 hectares and the reason it exists. The tank supplies water to the surrounding area as well as large herds of elephants, who come in their hundreds during the dry zone’s dry season from May to October: the famous Gathering which is the main attraction for visitors.
However, the elephant is only one of 24 mammal, 170 bird, 25 reptile, 26 fish and 75 butterfly species found there. Minneriya is notable as one of Sir Lanka’s 70 Important Bird Areas: it is a habitat for large numbers of water birds. It also contains the two endemic Sri Lankan monkey species, purple-faced leaf monkey and toque macaque, and the rare grey slender loris.