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Odisha Govt Seeks NTCA Nod to Introduce Tigresses for Genetic Diversity in Similipal Tiger Reserve

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha government has approached the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) seeking approval to introduce tigresses from other landscapes into the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) with the aim of enhancing the genetic diversity of Royal Bengal Tigers. This move comes in response to the growing population of melanistic tigers, constituting 40% of the tigers in Similipal.

The All Odisha Tiger Estimation (AOTE) 2023-24 report, released on Monday, highlighted that 13 out of the 24 tigers camera trapped in Similipal exhibit melanistic traits. This population represents the exclusive presence of melanistic tigers in both Odisha and globally.

Susanta Nanda, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), stated, “The rise in melanistic tiger population in Similipal is attributed to inbreeding. While it is not an immediate threat, we aim to enhance the genetic diversity of this isolated tiger population. We have approached NTCA, seeking permission to introduce female tigers from other landscapes.”

Nanda further mentioned that protective measures are being formulated to safeguard the greater Similipal corridor, including Similipal, Hadagarh, and Kuldiha, frequented by these big cats.

However, he clarified that there is no new plan for creating a tiger reserve in the state, and the state government is evaluating rehabilitation measures for the proposed Sunabeda tiger reserve. Efforts are concurrently underway to revive the big cat population in the Satkosia tiger reserve, focusing on creating meadows and more inviolate space.

The AOTE 2023-24 report does not contradict the All India Tiger Estimate (AITE) 2022, which estimated 20 tigers, as the surveys were conducted in different years. Going forward, the state plans to conduct annual tiger counts using camera traps in Similipal throughout the year to enhance monitoring and surveillance. Additionally, an elephant census in the state is scheduled for May this year.

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