BHUBANESWAR: In a unique venture that seeks to redefine wildlife tourism and safari experiences, the Odisha government will set up a melanistic tiger safari - a first-of-its-kind in the world, at Baripada, close to the Similipal National Park, very soon.
Announcing the same at micro-blogging site X, CM Naveen Patnaik said it will be an exclusive Melanistic Tiger Safari near Similipal Tiger Reserve in Mayurbhanj. Tourists and visitors can now have a glimpse of the rare and majestic species found only in Odisha, he said.
Sources said a proposal in this regard submitted by state government to National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has been accorded ‘in-principle’ approval by the technical committee of the apex body.
A committee to be constituted by NTCA will shortly visit the site for feasibility study before according final nod. Other statutory clearance including approval from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) will also follow.
The safari will be established on a 200-hectare area adjoining NH-18 of Baripada town in the district for which the Forest Department has already earmarked the land. About 100 hectares of the total land will be the display area and the balance area will be utilised for creation of veterinary care facilities including a rescue centre, staff infrastructure and visitors’ amenities among others.
The site will be about 15 km away from the Similipal Tiger Reserve matching the same landscape and being located adjoining the NH, near to Baripada town, it is anticipated to receive impressive footfall of visitors. Further, it would be an added attraction for visitors coming to Similipal TR. Surplus tigers from Nandankanan Zoo as well as the big cats, rescued or orphaned and are not fit for wild, will be housed in an open enclosure in the safari for display.
Sources said a total six tigers, four melanistic and two white tigers, will be released to the safari initially. While three melanistic tigers along with two white tigers of the same lineage will be brought from the Nandankanan Zoo, another melanistic tiger, unfit for rewilding, will be brought from Ranchi as part of an agreement between the Odisha and Jharkhand governments.
“The safari is set to elevate wildlife tourism sector in Odisha to new heights. This pioneering attraction will highlight the state’s commitment to preservation and showcasing its unique biodiversity. This initiative will allow conservationists, researchers and enthusiasts and the general public to witness the rare beauty of these majestic creatures up close, while raising awareness about their conservation needs,” said PCCF (wildlife) and chief wildlife warden Susanta Nanda.
STR is the only home for melanistic tigers in wild in the world. The Centre had informed Rajya Sabha in December last year that the country has 10 melanistic tigers (in the wild) all of which are exclusively found in Odisha’s Similipal.