Black tiger safari in Odisha: What's special about it?

Melanistic tiger in Similipal of Odisha. Photo: PTI

Ever heard of 'melanistic tigers' or black tigers? They are the kind of tigers that have thick, black closely placed stripes covering their brown skin. A rare variant of the Royal Bengal tiger, they have such stripes because of a condition called melanism that results in dark pigmentation in animals. According to officials, there are just about 10 black tigers in India and they are all found exclusively in one place – Simlipal tiger reserve in Odisha's Mayurbhanj! Interestingly, more than 60% of the reserve's tigers are black. They were discovered in 2007.

A few days ago, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced that the state would set up a melanistic tiger safari, a first of its kind in the world. "Tourists and visitors can now have a glimpse of the rare and majestic species found only in Odisha," he said on his page in X. "The safari will be established near Baripada over a 200-hectare area, adjoining the National Highway 18.

About 100 hectares will be display area and the balance area shall be utilized for the creation of veterinary care facilities, including rescue center, staff infrastructure, and visitor amenities," said the state's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Susanta Nanda. The proposed site is about 15 km from the Similipal Tiger Reserve, and has a similar landscape, he said. "Surplus tigers from Nandankanan Zoo and rescued/orphaned tigers who are not fit for wild but fit for display shall be housed in the safari in an open enclosure," he added.

Sightings in 1975 as well
As per reports, forest officials of the state who were accompanying tourists had reported sighting two black tigers in the Matughar meadow in Simlipal, in the winter of 1975. Even in 1991, a family of melanistic tigers were seen in the Barakhamba range in this region. However, the sightings didn't lead to an announcement due to lack of proof. As most of these tigers aren't completely black, they are also termed 'pseudo-melanistic' by some officials and experts.

The comments posted here/below/in the given space are not on behalf of Onmanorama. The person posting the comment will be in sole ownership of its responsibility. According to the central government's IT rules, obscene or offensive statement made against a person, religion, community or nation is a punishable offense, and legal action would be taken against people who indulge in such activities.