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Introduction        
 

Similipal is situated the biotic province, Chhotanagpur Plateau in the heart of the erstwhile Mayurbhanj State and derives its name from the magnificent and enchanting Simul (Silk Cotton Tree). The hill range has been aptly described as "Salmali Saila (the hill of Simul)" in the poem 'Usha' written by the famous Oriya poet Laureate Radhanath Ray.

The hills with numerous peaks and valleys in between, rise steeply from the plains of Udala in the south and Baripada in the south-east and extend up to Jashipur in the north-west, Bisnoi in the north and Thakurmunda to the west. There are several streams flowing in all directions and ultimately draining into the Bay of Bengal. Major perennial streams are the Budhabalanga, Palpala, East Deo, Nekedanacha (Salandi), West Deo, Khairi, Bhandan and Khadkei.

The riparian zones, perennial streams and meadows form key areas. The Bhadragoda valley, Tarinvilla area, Patbil and numerous small swamps and marshes form the riparian zone. Prominent meadows are Devasthali, Bachhurichara, Sapaghar, Matughar, Tarinivilla, Tiktali, Chahala and upper Barakamuda.

Similipal is Representative ecosystem under Mahanadian Biogeographic Region. Floral and faunal composition have some similarities with elements from Western Ghats and Northeast India.


Conservation History       
 
Similipal Tiger Reserve was created in 1973. "Mugger Crocodile Scheme" was started in 1979 at Ramatirtha, Jashipur under the National Programme of 'Crocodile Breeding and Management Project".

The Government of Orissa declared Similipal Sanctuary with an area of about 2200 sq. km. in 1979. Government of Orissa proposed 303 sq. km. area of the Similipal Sanctuary as National Park in 1980. The area of the proposed National Park was increased to 845 sq. km. in 1986.

Government of India in 1994 declared the creation of Similipal Biosphere Reserve. In 1995, for the purpose of implementation of the Eco-development Scheme in the periphery of Similipal Tiger Reserve, two forest divisions, namely Baripada and Karanjia were transferred from Angual Forest Circle to the Reserve.



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Census        
 
Species
1997
 
  Tiger
  98
  Leopard
  115
  Elephant
  449
  Spotted deer
  2500-3500
  Barking deer
  4000-4500
  Mouse deer
  1500-1800
  Sambar
  7000-9000
  Gaur
  850-950
  Wild boar
  10000-10500
  Langur
  250 troupes
  Wild Boar
  2900
  Rhesus macaque
  75 troupes


Offence cases

Year
Cases
Persons involved
 
  1995-96
  4785
  3996
  1996-97
  8157
  6419
  1997-98
  8831
  6884
  1998-99
  7478
  6151

 

Archeology      



Within Similipal no feature can be claimed as of archeological significance, although names like Ganapati, Devasthali, Nawana, Garh Similipal etc., indicate the historical significance of the places. The Kichkeswari temple outside Similipal is linked to archaeological richness of the district.

 

Forest Types       
 
Northern Tropical Semi evergreen Forests ,Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests ,Dry Deciduous Hill Forests ,High level Sal Forest ,Grassland and Savannah .
 

Major Flora

There are 1076 species of plants of which 92 are orchids having similarities to the Northern and Southern Indian orchids. Seven percent of the Indian species of flowering plants and eight percent of orchids of India are found in Similipal. Northern Tropical Semi evergreen Forests extend over an area of about 80 km. Northern Tropical Moist Deciduous Forests extend over an area of about 1540 sq. km. It is found all over Similipal except the moist valleys on the Southern and Eastern aspects of the hills. Similipal is rich in Orchidaceous flora 92 species of orchids has been identified.


Main Species

Shorea robusta, Terminalia sp., Pterocarpus marsupium, Anogeissus latifolia, Scheleichera oleosa, Adina cordifolia, Toona ciliata (rare), Michelia champaca, Mangifera indica, Bombax ceiba, Careya arborea, Dillenia pentagyna, Gmelina arborea, Garuga pinnata, almnea coromandelica, Syzygium cumini, Sterculia urens, Boswellia serrata, Dalbergia latifolia, Cleistanthus collinus, Gardenia gummifera, G. latifolia, G. turgide, Erythrina suberosa, Cochlospermum gossypium, Helicteres isora, Nyctanthes arbotristis. Orchids commonly seen belong to the genera Acampe, Bulbophylum, Cymbidium, Liapris and Vanda. Common grasses are Imperata cylidrica, Themeda gigiantia and Saccharum spontaneum

 

Major Fauna

There are 42 species of major mammals 242 species of birds and 30 species of reptiles recorded so far in the Reserve. Tiger, Panther, Elephant, Gaur, and four horned antelope etc. are found in different levels of abundance. Ratel, Pangolin, Giant squirrel, sambar and Cheetal are among the other few worth mentioning. Out of the Indian checklist have 7% reptiles, 20% birds and 11% mammals.

Main Species

 

Tiger (Panthera tigris) including melanistic forms, Leopard (Panthera pardus), Elephant (Elephas maximus), Sambar (cervus unicolor), Barking deer (Muntiacus munjak), Bison (Bos gaurus), Jungle cat (Felis chaus), Wild boar (Sus scrofa), Giant Squirrel (Ratufa indica) and Common langur (Presbytis entellus)

Management     
 
Practices, Achievements and Shortfalls

The Reserve is managed as per the guidelines issued under the various central schemes, e.g. Project Tiger, Crocodile Project, Project Elephant, Man and the Biosphere Programme and the Eco-development Project. Broadly focus is on protection, habitat management and research.

Stringent protection measures by the management during monsoon by deployment of circle mobile staff at vulnerable spots has controlled the incidence of Elephant poaching.

Research

The founder-Field Director late Saroj Raj Choudhury, during the period 1973-1982 carried out extensive pioneering research such as study of biology of a pet tigress-Khairi and round-the-clock in-vivo study of sambar and chital to determine time taken for passage of food from ingestion to elimination and the time taken for obliteration of pellet groups.

Since1987, after the posting of a Research Officer in the Reserve, the major trends of research have been on the following aspects.
  1. Base-line data on animal inventory and plant inventory.
  2. Monitoring research on (a) meteorological data (b) trends of Tiger and Leopard population (c) trends of mugger crocodile population (d) sighting trends of Elephants (e) Tiger habitat occupancy (f) pattern of animal use in vegetation plots and (g) pattern of animal use for fixation of dose of salt in salt-licks.
  3. Long term studies to improve census techniques for large cats (tiger and leopard) and Elephants.
  4. Biological studies on the Giant Squirrel and Black-headed Munia and arrival pattern of the fruit bat.



Special Projects       


Mugger Crocodile Management

In line with the national project on crocodilian conservation, a scheme at Ramtirtah near Jashipur was started in 1979. The objectives were to rebuild viable population of mugger in Similipal and conduct management-oriented research. The project operates on the principle of 'grow and release technique'. By 1979 muggers were virtually extinct in Similipal. So far 650 mugger juveniles have been released in the streams of Similipal and sighting of muggers has increased.



Village Forest Protection Committees
 
There are 152 and 231 VFPCs in Baripada and Karanjia Divisions respectively. There also exist 144 and 19 Vana Samrakshna Samiti (VSS) in Baripada and Karanjia divisions respectively.

Education and Awareness

Nature Camps are organised every year involving school children. They realise the utility of forest and wildlife and need for their protection and conservation. Meetings and awareness camps are also organised in the peripheral villages frequently.


Protection Squads / Patrolling

 

Anti-poaching camps are manned by 2-3 knowledgeable labourers and supervised by concerned beat guard/Forester/Range officer.

 

Constraints      


Human population
 
People in the Reserve area are largely tribal. Due to low level of skills, lower educational levels, socio-culture traits, they are mainly dependent on local resources. They collect and sale of minor forest produces. Remoteness of the areas and insufficient infrastructure makes it difficult to enforce the existing law. There was nearly forty per cent rise in human population between 1971-1991.
There are four villages inside the core. The human population in core has increased from 394 to 576 from 1981 to 1991 censuses.
There are 61 villages in the buffer. The human population of these villages has increased from 8249 to 9697 from 1981 to 1991.
 
Livestock population
 
The livestock population fluctuates seasonally during a year with lowest number of goats and sheep during monsoon as villagers sell some of animals for subsistence. The cows and buffaloes are less productive in respect of milk. Their utility is more for dung to manure fields and as draught animals. There exists a competition between domestic livestock and wild ungulates in the grasslands in the vicinity of villages.
A survey in August 97 in the four villages in the Core revealed the following livestock population statistics.
 
Sl.No.
Name of the villages*
Cows
Buffaloes
Goats
Sheep

1

Kabatghai (17)
097
18
138
-

2

Jamunagarh (08)
084
01
136
23

3

Jenabil (31)
197
-
188
01

4

Bakua (19)
051
-
078
-
*The figures in bracket indicate the number of households to whom the cattle belongs
As per a survey conducted during 1995, livestock population in buffer was found to be 7866. The population is steadily increasing.
 
Encroachment
 
After inclusion of Similipal in the Project Tiger network, encroachment has decreased considerably. But clandestine encroachment in the enclaved villages surrounded by forest still goes on. In the transition zone between forests and villages, girdled trees manifest this fact.
 

Grazing

 

Grazing is prohibited in the core area. But incidence of grazing is noticed around the four villages in the core area as well as the other villages located just adjacent to the core area. In the buffer, the grazing do takes place.

 

Fire

Fires are common and frequent. Fires are generally confined to ground only. The causes of fire are purely biotic, mainly by MFP collectors, hunters, poachers and callous tourists. Fire season commences in mid-February and continues up to mid-June normally. However, sporadic rains, pre-monsoon showers and summer storms curtail the intensity of fires.

Early control burning of the meadows help a lot in reducing fire hazard, core lines also serve as fire lines. Beside 29 anti-poaching camps are established during last three years which also serve as anti-fire squad.

Year
Area Affected
 
1994-95
221.011 sq. km.
1995-96
170.494 sq. km.
1996-97
103.978 sq. km.


Poaching of fauna and flora

 

Sporadic cases of organised poaching of elephants are reported. For hare and jungle fowl, snares are used sometimes. The pressure of poaching is more prominent on the south -east fringe of the Reserve, specifically from the foothill villages Balma, Dengam etc.

Khadia, a primitive tribe inside the Reserve subsists on collection of non-timber forest products. Honey, resins, arrow-root and wild mushrooms are collected by them illegally. Bark of puja tree (Litsea monopetala) is collected by the professional smugglers. Collection of mahua flowers and seeds, sal seeds also cause disturbance to the area. Forests are deliberately burnt to clean the floor to collect these items. However, in the core area the intensity of disturbance is comparatively less than the buffer areas.

In the core area illicit felling of trees is mainly confined to two economic species namely Dalbergia latifilia and Pterocarpus marsupium and their intensity is not high except in the north-eastern fringe areas, in and around Pithabata.

Poaching of Fauna and Natural Death

Animal
1992-93 1993-94 1994-95 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98
Elephant 3   2 1 5 1
Sambar 5 4 1 2   1
Wildboar 1 1     1 1
Muntjac 2 1 1 1   1
Mouse D.     1      
 
Criminals and Extremists
 
The use of buffer area of the Reserve as a sanctuary by extremists since 1998 is suspected.
 

Diseases

 

The trees like Madhuca latifolia, Buchanania lanzar and Terminalia tomentosa are occasionally infested by Dendrophthoe falcata. During May-July a green caterpillar defoliates the sal tree. However, the damage caused is not so serious and alarming. Grasshoppers occur in huge swarms during rainy season but their damage is not so acute. A healthy population of birds may be the reason for low insect damage. A detailed entomological and pathological investigation is quite essential to ascertain the real status of these two groups of organisms.

Others

Relocation and Rehabilitation of villages from core

Prosopis juliflora had been a favourite species in the past in Rajasthan in afforestation activities. This was more so because of dire shortage of fuel wood for the consumption in villages and cities. The Prosopis juliflora plantations raised around the Reserve in the past has started posing serious problem to the eco-systems of Sawai Mansingh Sanctuary and Keladevi Sanctuary. It is encroaching upon the natural flora. The spread of Prosopis juliflora is being facilitated by goat and sheep. An estimated 100 sq. km. of the Reserve is infested with P. Juliflora. The Prosopis juliflora unfortunately was not tended in the past. It has gained bushy growth devoid of thick stem, therefore, it has not helped in reducing the pressure on forest where the demand is for good fuel wood or small timber for agricultural implements. The area covered by Prosopis juliflora is likely to double in the next 10 years.

Problem due to tenant operation

Of late a new problem on account tenant timber operation inside the Tiger Reserve is posing a socio-economic as well as environmental threat. There are 59 villages located inside the tiger reserve and in each village there are recorded holdings with good tree growth. Most of the tree owners are SC/ST who are quite innocent and ignorant of law. Taking advantage of their ignorance the unscrupulous timber contractors in connivance with some Government officials are purchasing their trees without proper payment to them. The provisions of the Orissa Protection of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Interest in trees) Act 1981 and the Orissa Timber and Other Forest Produce Transit (Amendment) Rule 1994 are being misused very often. If such a situation is allowed to continue, following hazards will devastate the Reserve.
(i) Illicit felling under the cover of tenant timber operation will increase.

(ii) Timber loaded trucks in the Reserve would extensively damage the roads, which are not capable of carrying loaded trucks at present. This will also disturb the environment and obstruct animals' movement.

(iii) Poachers and smugglers will infiltrate into the park through the operating contractors.


Control of the Buffer

 

The Tiger Reserve is headed by a Field Director. The buffer area is under the administrative control of the DFO, Baripada and the DFO, Karanjia. Both these DFOs are under the administrative control of the Field Director who is also the territorial conservator for these two divisions

Conflicts      
 

Man-Animal

 

Akhand Shikar : Tribal people in and around Similipal indulge in 'Akhand Shikar' (mass hunting) as a ritual. Earlier practiced during mid-April, now this occurs through out the year barring monsoon. This change of strategy is an after thought, since strong anti-hunting measures used to be undertaken by the management during April. Another significant deviation is carrying the hunted animals to villages. Previously they simply killed, burnt and ate inside the forest. But at present consumerism and commercialism prompt them to sell the killed animals in the markets of foothill.
Year No. of attempts made No. of persons involved No. of persons arrested Animal Killed Arms & weapons seized
1996-97 9 2000-2500 6 Sambar-6
Wild boar-4
Barking deer-2
Civet Cat-1
Country made gun-1Lead ball-8Gun powder-50 gm.Bows-35 nos.Arrows-204 nos.Barlah-5 nos.Khukri- 6 nos.
1997-98 20 2000-2500 2 Sambar-6
Barkingdeer-4
Bison-1
Country made gun-5Bows-4 nos.Arrows-11 nos.
1998-99 5 500-600 3 Sambar-1G. Squirrel-1 Country made gun-1


Crop raiding by the wild animals prompts killing by poisoning and with arms.


Man-Forest

 

Pressure for fire wood and small timber and pressure from timber mafia exists.

Action Points     


a) There should be a residential colony on the fringe of the Reserve in the nearby developed town for all forest guards and foresters. This colony should be well developed and have school, hospital etc.

b) Forest Guards, Foresters, Range Officers and Daily-wage laborers staying inside the Reserve should be provided subsidised ration.

c) For easy mobility each Range should be provided with a jeep and each section head quarter should be provided with a motorcycle and VHF network.

d
) There should be a provision of 'Project Allowance' or 'Tiger Allowance', which should be sufficient to compensate for the adverse conditions, in which staff is working. This should not be less than 40 per cent of basic pay.

e) The forest staff have been provided with the arms, but power to open fire is still not vested with them. The power to use fire arms for protection should be vested with management. In addition Field Director, Deputy Field Director, Assistent Conservator of Forests and Division Forest Officers should be declared as 'Magistrate'.

f) Three well equipped 'strike forces' should be provided for effective patrolling.

g) The present system of issue of letter of credit (L.C.) should be withdrawn and the flow of fund should be regular, so that activities which are mostly time bound are not hampered.

h) It is desirable that 65 nos. of villages located inside the Reserve, especially 4 villages located inside the core area and 7 villages located adjoining the core area should be relocated outside the Reserve not only to preserve the 'habitat' in its natural form, but also to check the incidence of smuggling of timber and poaching of wild animals.

i) Number of anti-poaching camp should be increased.

 

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