Pradeep Pattanayak

The population of melanistic tigers in Odisha’s Similipal has increased from 10 in 2022 to 13. However, the increase of melanistic tigers is viewed as a threat to the presence of usual tigers. 

Ten years ago, the population of melanistic tigers accounted for only 15 percent of the total usual Royal Bengal Tigers. This percentage has now increased to 40 percent. This increase has been attributed to inbreeding. 

According to wildlife experts, if the growth rate of melanistic tigers persists, the day is not far when there will be only melanistic tigers. This is a disconcerting scenario as these melanistic tigers have lower immunity power and face a greater risk of extinction. 
“In the case of large cats, the basic principle is they should be translocated to a different territory where they would meet with the different animals of their variety. It will help maintain genetic continuity. Or else, the tiger of smaller population will vanish,” observed Dr Anup Nayak, former NTCA head. 

The Forest department is also serious about the increasing population of melanistic tigers in Similipal. 

The department is considering seeking help from the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to bring tigresses from other locations to Similipal.  

Also Read: Caught on Cam: Rare melanistic tiger enjoying its kill in Odisha’s Similipal Reserve Forest

“The population of melanistic tigers in Similipal has definitely increased due to their inbreeding which is not a cause of any danger. But, to increase the genetic diversity there, we have written to the NTCA to bring tigresses from different locations and introduce them there. It will be done after a proper study,” said Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife), Susanta Nanda.
As per the recent All Odisha Tiger Estimation (AOTE) report 2023-24, of the 13 melanistic tigers in Similipal, seven are females and six are males. 
Including the melanistic tigers, the total number of tigers in Odisha is 30 and there are eight cubs as well.

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