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Common Name : Purple-faced Leaf Monkey     -       Scientific Name : Semnopithecus vetulus       -       Other Name : Purple-faced Langur (E), Kalu Vandura (S)
Palu Kola Wala
Palu Kola Wala

This species is endemic to Sri Lanka. Four subspecies have been recognized.

  • Southern Purple-faced Leaf Monkey S.v. vetulus: South West Sri Lanka (wet zone), south from Kalu River up to about Ranna close to Tangalle at elevations up to 1,000 meters with the area of distribution less than 5,000 sq km. This is the typical race and can be seen in Kalutara, Ratnapura, Sinharaja Forest Reserve, Kanneliya Forest Reserve, Galle, Rakwana etc
  • Western Purple-faced Leaf Monkey S.v.nestor: Western Sri Lanka (wet zone), low country wet zone north of Kalu River at elevations up to 1,000 meters. This is the smallest race of this species and can be seen in areas such as Moratuwa, Piliyandala, Thalangama wetlands, Panadura, Malabe, Kotte, Horana etc.)
  • Bear Monkey/ Highland Purple-faced Leaf Monkey S.v.monticola: central Sri Lankanmountains at elevations from 1,200 to 2,200 meters. Larger than S.v.vetulus and can be seen at Hakgala, Horton Plains National Park, upper regions of the Peak Wilderness Sanctuary, Piduruthalagala Forest, Moon Plains etc.
  • Northern Purple-faced Leaf Monkey S.v.philbricki: North & East Sri Lanka (dry zone) at elevations up to 1500 meters in the East Matale Hills and Madulkele Hills. This is the largest of the races and can be seen in Trincomalee, Ritigala, Polonnaruwa, Minneriya, Habarana, Sigiriya, Mullaithivu, Kantale, Eluwankulama and Wilpattu.

The conservation status of this species is regarded as Endangered (National Red List 2012). It is a species protected under the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance as amended by Act No. 22 of 2009.

In forests Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys are usually found in troops of 10-15 animals with a large male being the leader. The loud call of the dominant male is a familiar sound to the people who live in most wet zone villages. Despite much development and human activity that has taken place during the last two decades, Talangama wetlands is a location very close to the city of Colombo where these playful monkeys can still be observed.  

The western race of this interesting species found in areas close to the city of Colombo is the most vulnerable of all the subspecies due to loss of habitat. In 2011 a population comprising of a few troops of leucistic Southern Purple-faced Leaf Monkeys were discovered from the southern rainforests close to Deniyaya. Phillips in 1926 in reported on such an occurrence of colour in Purple-faced Leaf Monkey as well.

The subspecies that is found in Wilpattu is the Northern Purple-faced Leaf Monkey and is one location where this species lives along with its cousin the Tufted Grey Langur Semnopithecus priam. Unlike the Toque Monkey Macaca sinica seen at Kumbuk Wila this species is quite shy and is difficult to photograph at Wilpattu. I have seen them at Eluwankulama, Pomparippu, Maradanmaduwa, Palu Kola Wala and at Ibba Wala.