• Similipal National Park / Biosphere reserve / Tiger reserve is located in the state of Odisha in Mayurbhanj district.
  • Similipal derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree.
  • Similipal was formally designated a tiger reserve in 1956 and brought under Project Tiger in the year 1973.
  • In 1979, the Simlipal was declared as a wildlife sanctuary by the Government of Odisha. It was declared a biosphere reserve by the Government of India in June, 1994.
  • It has been part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserve since 2009.
  • It is part of the Similipal-Kuldiha-Hadgarh Elephant Reserve popularly known as Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve, which includes 3 protected areas i.e. Similipal Tiger Reserve, Hadagarh Wildlife sanctuary and Kuldiha wildlife sanctuary.
  • Location:
    • It is situated in the northern part of Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. Geographically, it lies in the eastern end of the eastern ghat.
  • Coverage:
    • The biosphere spread over 4,374 sq. km. has 845 sq. km. of core forest (tiger reserve), 2,129 sq km buffer area and 1,400 sq km of transition space.
    • The tiger reserve is spread over 2750 sq km and has some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani.
    • The park is surrounded by high plateaus and hills, the highest peak being the twin peaks of Khairiburu and Meghashini (1515m above mean sea level).
  • Vegetation:
    • The vegetation is a mix of deciduous with some semi-evergreen forests. Sal is the dominant tree species.
    • Similipal has 1,076 flowering species and 96 species of orchids. It boasts of having tropical semi-evergreen forests, tropical moist deciduous forests, dry deciduous hill forests, high level sal forests and sprawling meadows.
  • Tribes:
    • Two tribes, the Erenga Kharias and the Mankirdias, inhabit the reserve’s forests and practise traditional agricultural activities (the collection of seeds and timber).
    • Other Prominent tribes Kolha, Santhala, Bhumija, Bhatudi, Gondas, Khadia, Mankadia and Sahara.
  • Wildlife:
    • Similipal is home to a wide range of wild animals including tigers and elephants, besides 304 species of birds, 20 species of amphibians and 62 species of reptiles.
    • The park is known for the tiger, elephant and hill mynah.
    • Similipal holds the highest tiger population in the state of Odisha.
    • Apart from the tiger, the major mammals are leopard, sambar, barking deer, gaur, jungle cat, wild boar, four-horned antelope, giant squirrel and common langur.
    • Grey hornbill, Indian pied hornbill and Malabar pied hornbill are also found here.
    • The park also has a sizeable population of reptiles, which includes the longest venomous snake, the King cobra and the Tricarinate hill turtle.
    • The Mugger Management Programme at Ramatirtha has helped the mugger crocodile to flourish on the banks of the Khairi and Deo Rivers
    • Similipal has turned out to be the haven for hunters and poachers as the region has witnessed several killings of elephants, tigers and leopards.
  • Vulnerability to Forest Fires:
    • Natural: Natural causes such as lighting or even soaring temperatures can sometimes result in forest fires here.
    • Man Made Factors: Instances of poaching and hunting wherein the poachers set a small patch of forest on fire to divert the wild animals, can lead to forest fires.
  • Threats:
    • About 20 adult breeding male elephants die each year, mostly to unnatural causes like poaching and electrocution.
    • The dwindling breeding male population and the isolated populations due to fragmented forests is weakening the gene pool due to mating among immature individuals and inbreeding.
    • There  is a link between poaching and trading of elephant tusks, tiger skins and leopard skins since these fetch a huge price in the international market despite the global ban
      • Even though Elephants are protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, there is a rise in poaching cases
      • While tiger population has gone up in most Indian states, in Odisha it has come down or remained static
  • Mitigation Strategies:
    • Forecasting fire-prone days and including community members to mitigate incidents of fire, creating fire lines, clearing sites of dried biomass, and crackdown on poachers.
    • The forest fire lines which are strips kept clear of vegetation, could help break the forest into compartments to prevent fires from spreading.
Similipal National Park

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