The Dambulla Arboretum

The Dambulla Arboretum

20 May

The Dambulla Arboretum


The Dambulla Arboretum was established in 1963 by Mr. Sam Popham on 7.5 acres of degraded chena land in he Dambulla area, the dry heartland of Sri Lanka. Mr.Popham helped local indigenous trees to survive by getting rid of the invasives and established this Arboretum of indigenous Dry Zone trees. He gifted the Arboretum to the Institute of Fundamental Studies (IFS) in 1989 before he left Sri Lanka for the UK. The IFS called for managers in 2005 and Ruk Rakaganno took over the management of the Arboretum.

Environment Resource Center

​Ruk Rakaganno established an Environment Resource Center in the Arboretum, to maintain the natural environment, to inform the public about the Arboretum, improve facilities for education and to enable people to visit and learn about dry zone flora and fauna. We conducted environment education programmes for schools and set up environment socieities in local schools. University students are encouraged to use the Arboretum to carry out research on plant or animal life. Checklists have been prepared for trees, butterflies and vertebrate animals.

The local community was involved in the activities of the Arboretum. Guides were employed and trained in ecotourism and these guides included young people from the surrounding areas. Beekeeping was also encouraged. Some benefit from the Arboretum flows directly to the community.

We improved facilities with the construction of an auditorium and guestrooms. Being in a rapidly-developing area, the Arboretum has to be protected from encroachments and poachers, therefore fences and trails have to be maintained. We are anxious to preserve the original biodiversity of the Arboretum which is the only dry zone Arboretum in the country.

The Popham Arboretum also contains the bulgalow designed for Mr.Popham by Geoffrey Bawa, which is a tourist attraction in its own right.

Visiting the arboretum

​If people wish to carry out environment education or stay overnight, the guest rooms are available, as are night safaris to see nocturnal animals. For more details, please contact 0777305226.

Ruk Rakaganno

By Ruk Rakaganno

Ruk Rakaganno is a volunteer based, non-governmental organization founded in 1975 implementing hands-on projects to conserve nature and advocate to protect and conserve the environment.