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Similipal Biosphere Reserve: Odisha

  • 04 Mar 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

Recently, a massive fire broke out in the Similipal Biosphere Reserve in Odisha. The core area of the biosphere was untouched by the fire, however the fire is threatening damage to its rich biodiversity.

Key Points

  • About:
    • Similipal derives its name from ‘Simul’ (silk cotton) tree.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • Vegetation:
    • 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).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Other Major Protected Areas in Odisha

  • National Parks:
  • Wildlife Sanctuaries:
    • Badrama WLS: It is characterized by the presence of Moist Sal Forests.
    • Chilika (Nalaban island) WLS: Asia's largest and world's second-largest lagoon. Recently, direct sightings of school of Irrawaddy dolphins has been reported here.
    • Hadgarh WLS: Salandi river passes through it which is home to mugger crocodiles.
    • Baisipalli WLS: It is a sal dominated forest with a significant number of tigers, leopards, elephants, herbivores like Chousingha.
    • Kotagarh WLS: It consists of dense deciduous forests with grasslands.
    • Nandankanan WLS: First in the world to breed White tiger and Melanistic tiger.
    • Lakhari Valley WLS: It is a dwelling place of a large number of elephants.
    • Gahirmatha (Marine) WLS: It is a mass nesting spot in Indian Ocean region and the only turtle sanctuary in Odisha. The Olive Ridley turtles travel across the South Pacific to breed on the coast of Gahirmatha.


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