Odisha to reintroduce tigers in Debrigarh, supplement STR

An official of STR said initially, they had planned to bring male tigers from outside for the supplementation programme in Similipal.
The tiger sighted 200 metres away from the Debrigarh nature camp representative Image.
The tiger sighted 200 metres away from the Debrigarh nature camp representative Image.File Photo

BHUBANESWAR: In a bid to revive the endangered big cat population in the state, the Odisha government has decided to go for the reintroduction of tigers in Debrigarh Wildlife Sanctuary and supplementation of the striped predators in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) from Central India landscape within next four months.

Sources in the wildlife wing of the Forest department said Odisha will receive five tigers, three for Debrigarh and two for Similipal, as part of the big cat relocation project that will be taken up for the second time in the state. Tigers from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra will be brought for this purpose.

A senior forest official said the department received permission from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to bring the big cats to Debrigarh in January and Similipal in May. Accordingly, the Hirakud Wildlife Division has been asked to introduce three tigers - one male and two females - to Debrigarh sanctuary from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra in next two months. The timeline for execution of the project is August 31.

A series of meticulously-planned conservation methods that improved the prey base in Debrigarh sanctuary significantly, has equipped the Hirakud Wildlife Division to reintroduce tigers to the landscape. A dispersing male tiger from Udanti Sitanadi tiger reserve in Chhattisgarh was also spotted in the sanctuary multiple times last year.

Similarly, the Forest department has planned to supplement STR with two more female tigers from Central India, preferably Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra, to improve genetic diversity of the big cats in the protected area.

Though Similipal has a unique population of melanistic tigers, in-breeding and a closed population with almost no migratory flow in or out have emerged as a looming threat for the striped predators in the STR that has no nearby breeding source population.

Keeping this in view, the department had sought permission from the NTCA to introduce big cats from other landscapes to improve genetic diversity of this isolated tiger population.

An official of STR said initially, they had planned to bring male tigers from outside for the supplementation programme in Similipal. However, in view of the risk the males could pose to cubs, they decided to go for relocation of female tigers from the Central India landscape.

Currently Similipal has around 27 tigers and 12 cubs. The timeline for implementation of tiger supplementation programme in the protected area is October 31.

Apart from tiger reintroduction, sources said the wildlife wing of the Forest department has initiated measures for relocation of black buck, spotted deer, barking deer, sambar, mugger, saltwater crocodile and gaur from Nandankanan Zoo and other parks to forests in different divisions.

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