In a groundbreaking conservation initiative, the Odisha Government has announced plans to establish the world’s first melanistic tiger safari near Baripada, the district headquarters town of Mayurbhanj. The safari, spanning 200 hectares along National Highway-18, will showcase the rare and majestic melanistic tigers found exclusively in the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR).
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik took to social media to share the exciting news, stating, “Glad to announce that Odisha is setting up 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.”
The selected site, situated approximately 15 km from the Similipal Tiger Reserve, mirrors the same landscape and has been chosen strategically to elevate wildlife tourism in the region. The STR is renowned as the sole habitat for melanistic tigers in the wild, a fact emphasized by Susanta Nanda, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife).
According to Nanda, the safari will encompass a display area of 100 hectares, complemented by facilities such as veterinary care units, a rescue centre, staff infrastructure, and visitor amenities. The surplus tigers from the Nandankanan Zoo and those rescued or orphaned, deemed unfit for the wild but suitable for public display, will find a home in the safari’s open enclosures.
The State Forest and Environment Department highlighted the pioneering nature of this attraction, emphasizing its role in showcasing Odisha’s commitment to biodiversity preservation. The initiative aims to provide conservationists, researchers, enthusiasts, and the general public with an up-close encounter with the rare beauty of melanistic tigers, simultaneously raising awareness about their conservation needs.
Moreover, the proximity of the safari to the National Highway and Baripada town is expected to draw significant footfall, adding to its appeal as an attraction for visitors to the Similipal Tiger Reserve. The proposal has received in-principle approval from the Technical Committee of the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), and a committee will conduct a feasibility study before final approval. Other necessary clearances, including approval from the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), will follow.
With an estimated 20 tigers in the state as per the 2022 All India Tiger Estimation report, the establishment of the melanistic tiger safari further positions Odisha as a leader in wildlife conservation and responsible tourism. The initiative reflects a harmonious balance between environmental preservation and creating opportunities for the public to appreciate and contribute to the conservation of these magnificent creatures.