Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country with a population of 21 million in the northern Indian Ocean off the southern coast of the Indian subcontinent in South Asia; known until 1972 as Ceylon.
Sri Lanka has a documented history that spans over 3,000 years. Its geographic location and deep harbours made it of great strategic importance from the time of the ancient Silk Road through to World War II.
Sri Lanka is a diverse country, home to many religions, ethnicities and languages. It is the land of the Sinhalese, Sri Lankan Tamils, Moors, Indian Tamils, Burghers, Malays, Kaffirs and the aboriginal Vedda. Sri Lanka has a rich Buddhist heritage. The country's recent history has been marred by a thirty-year civil war which ended in a military victory in 2009.
Sri Lanka is a republic and a unitary state governed by a presidential system. The capital, Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, is a suburb of the largest city, Colombo. An important producer of tea, coffee, gemstones, coconuts, rubber, and the native cinnamon. Sri Lanka is known as "the Pearl of the Indian Ocean" because of its natural beauty, its shape and location, and "the nation of smiling people". The island contains tropical forests and diverse landscapes with high biodiversity.
The country has had a long history of international engagement, being a founding member of SAARC and a member of the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the G77 and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, Sri Lanka is one of 25 biodiversity hotspots in the world. Although the country is relatively small in size, it has the highest biodiversity density in Asia. Sri Lanka has declared 24 wildlife reserves, which are home to a wide range of native species such as Asian elephants, leopards, sloth bears, the unique small loris, a variety of deer, the purple-faced langur, the endangered wild boar, porcupines and anteaters.