Black Tigers of Similipal: Exploring the Myth and Reality
The existence of black tigers in Odisha’s Similipal forest has been a subject of intrigue and research for decades. Here’s an overview of the key points from the article:
1. Historical Sightings:
Since the 1970s, there have been multiple reported sightings of black tigers in Similipal, though many were dismissed as illusions or mistaken identities.
2. Melanistic Tigers:
Melanism refers to an increased level of the pigment melanin, leading to darker skin or fur. Pseudo-melanistic tigers have more extensive black stripes than normal tigers.
3. Key Discoveries:
In 1992, a pelt of a melanistic tiger was found, confirming their existence.
In 1993, a black tiger was killed near Similipal.
Union Minister Ashwini Kumar Choubey confirmed in 2023 that melanistic tigers are documented in Similipal.
4. Current Tiger Population in Similipal:
The reserve reportedly has 28 tigers, including seven adult pseudo-melanistic tigers.
Nine normal tigers have also been documented.
5. Genetics Behind Melanism:
Pseudo-melanism results from a major mutation governed by recessive genes, often due to inbreeding.
The mutation provides a selective advantage in dense forests for camouflage and hunting.
6. Research and Conservation Efforts:
National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) conducted genetic studies on these tigers.
Similipal Wildlife Intelligence Network (S-WIN) is actively involved in conservation and anti-poaching efforts.
7. Inbreeding Concerns:
The isolated community of black tigers results in inbreeding, but no inbreeding depression has been observed yet.
Plans are underway to expand the gene pool in the reserve.
This information enhances our understanding of these rare and enigmatic creatures, shedding light on the conservation efforts and scientific research surrounding them.
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