ODHISHA TIGER ESTIMATION (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     28th February 2024        

Context: Concerned over the sizeable number of pseudo-melanistic tigers in its Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), largely due to inbreeding, the Odisha government has recently written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to consider introducing female tigers from other landscapes to the reserve.

Odisha Tiger Estimation (AOTE 2023-24) Report Highlights

  • Tiger Population: The AOTE 2023-24 report revealed that 30 tigers were found in Odisha's forests.
  • Dominance: Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR) houses the largest share of the State’s tiger population, with 24 adult tigers, including all adult female tigers.
  • Pseudo-Melanistic Tigers in Similipal: The report identified 13 adult tigers, seven females, and six males, as pseudo-melanistic in Similipal, a unique occurrence not found elsewhere in the world.
  • Addressing Genetic Diversity: Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), emphasized the need to increase genetic diversity in Similipal by introducing female tigers from other regions. This process will be undertaken after proper studies, ensuring the stability of the tiger population.
  • Melanistic Tigers Study: Approximately 37% of tigers in Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR) exhibit pseudo-melanistic traits, characterized by wide, merged stripes, as per a study led by molecular ecologist Uma Ramkrishnan.
  • Habitat Isolation and Movement: Similipal's tiger population, despite residing in one of the largest contiguous forest tracts, exhibits movement within an isolated habitat, hinting at ecological complexities.
  • Tiger Relocation Challenges: Despite efforts to introduce tigers from Madhya Pradesh to Satkosia in 2018, challenges persist, including the threat of poachers' traps, highlighting the delicate balance in conservation efforts.

Similipal Tiger Reserve

  • About: Similipal is a tiger reserve in the Mayurbhanj district in the Indian state of Odisha covering 2,750 km2 (1,060 sq mi).
  • Located: In the Mayurbhanj District of Odisha’s northernmost region.
  • Declared as: Tiger Reserve in the year 1956 under Project Tiger in May 1973.
  • UNESCO Biosphere Reserve: Declared in 1994 by the government of India
  • Fauna: Sambar, Chital, Barking deer, Leopard cat, Fishing Cat, Jungle Cat, Flying squirrel, Mongoose, and Pangolin
  • Flora: Eastern Highlands moist deciduous forests ecoregion, tropical moist broadleaf forest and tropical moist deciduous forests with dry deciduous hill forest and high-level Sal forests
  • River: Budhabalanga, Salandi, and many tributaries of the Baitarani river