Black Tigers | 16 Sep 2021

Why in News

Recently, scientists have unraveled the mystery behind Odisha’s ‘Black Tigers’ in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR)

  • The STR is the only tiger habitat in the world with melanistic tigers, which have broad black stripes running across their bodies and thicker than those seen on normal tigers.

Key Points

  • About:
    • Black Tigers are a rare colour variant of the tiger and are not a distinct species or geographic subspecies.
    • The coat colouration and patterning that make the wild cats appear dark boil down to a single mutation in the Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) gene.
    • The abnormally dark or black coat in such tigers is termed pseudo melanistic or false coloured.
    • If you pick any tiger from Similipal, the chance that it carries the mutant gene is almost 60%.
  • Factors for Occuring Black Colour:
    • Due to Geographic Isolation, genetically related individuals have been mating with each other for many generations in Similipal, leading to inbreeding.
      • It should be noted that this has important implications for tiger conservation as such isolated and inbred populations are prone to extinction over even short periods of time.

Similipal Tiger Reserve

  • About:
    • It was formally designated a tiger reserve in 1956 and brought under Project Tiger in the year 1973. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Other Major Protected Areas in Odisha:

Source: IE