Odisha’s Black Tiger Safari
Recently, Odisha announced the world’s first exclusive melanistic tiger safari adjoining the Similipal Tiger Reserve. The aim is to boost tourism and allow better research and public viewing access to these rare tigers that are hard to sight in forests.
What are Black Tigers?
Black tigers are regular Bengal tigers with increased melanin production, giving them dark stripes instead of the typical orange and black pattern. They are known as pseudo-melanistic tigers and found only in Odisha’s Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) currently.
First Sighting and Records
The first official sighting of black tigers in Similipal was by forest officials in 1975-1976. Later in 1993, the first melanistic tiger was killed in self-defense leading to scientific documentation. Research suggests the STR tigers likely descended from a small isolated population.
As per 2022 data, there are an estimated 10 pseudomelanistic tigers out of the 16 tigers in STR. Odisha’s ongoing tiger census indicates the STR population could be more than current estimates.
Safari Plan and Location
The Odisha government has identified a 200 hectare site along National Highway 18, about 15 kms from Similipal reserve. 100 hectares will house enclosures and facilities while 100 hectares will have visitor zones and veterinary centers.
Initially, 3 pseudomelanistic tigers from Nandankanan zoo and unfit rescued tigers will be housed. The numbers will be increased through breeding and more rescues subsequently.
In-Principle Approvals Received
The National Tiger Conservation Authority has given in-principle approval for the safari. A detailed site feasibility study will be done before final approvals. Other clearances like from Central Zoo Authority will also be needed.
Target Launch and Final Approvals
The state government aims to launch the unique melanistic tiger safari by October 2024 after all final approvals and construction are completed on the identified site near the Similipal reserve forests.
Concerns Among Activists
Some activists argue captive tigers lose natural behaviors compared to wild tigers. But others counter that controlled tourism may ultimately benefit conservation efforts, while visitors get to safely see the rare black tigers.
Category: India Nation & States Current Affairs