Environment & Biodiversity

Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)

  • Concerned about the increasing number of pseudo-melanistic tigers in its Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR), which is primarily due to inbreeding, the Odisha government has written to the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to propose importing female tigers from other landscapes to the reserve. 

About Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)

Location and SizeLocated in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj District, it covers 2750 square kilometres.Surrounded by high plateaus and hills, Khairiburu and Meghashini summits reach 1515 metres. 
HistoryOriginally a hunting site, it was established as a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in 1973 and later became a wildlife sanctuary and biosphere reserve. 
Flora and FaunaTigers, leopards, elephants, gaurs, a variety of bird species, King cobras, orchids, and medicinal plants are all part of the rich biodiversity.
TribesInhabited by tribes like Kolha, with traditional conservation practices.
UNESCO RecognitionUNESCO listed it as a Biosphere Reserve in May 2009 due to its ecological significance.
Recent EventsA significant fire in 2021 posed a threat to the reserve’s biodiversity, highlighting ongoing conservation challenges.
Global RecognitionRecognized as a Global Network of Biospheres site since 2009.

Melanism at Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)

  • Melanism is a hereditary disorder that causes animals’ skin, feathers, or hair to be black or nearly black.
  • Pseudo-Melanism: The royal Bengal tigers of Similipal have a distinct lineage with higher melanin levels, resulting in black and yellow intermittent stripes on their coats, making them pseudo-melanistic rather than fully black.
  • Genetic Mutation: According to research, a single mutation in the Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) gene enables Similipal’s black tigers to develop different striped patterns.
  • Inbreeding and Isolation: Genetic tests indicate that Similipal’s black tigers may have descended from a tiny founding population, resulting in inbreeding owing to isolation from other tiger populations. 

Population Dynamics and Conservation efforts

  • High Frequency: Pseudo-melanistic features are present in approximately 37% of tigers at Similipal Tiger Reserve, demonstrating the frequency of this distinct phenotypic.
  • Conservation Measures: Odisha intends to create a melanistic tiger safari near Similipal in order to raise awareness about tiger conservation and provide visitors with the opportunity to see these uncommon big cats up close. 

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