Similipal Tiger Reserve


Similipal, which derives its name from ‘Simul’ (Silk Cotton) tree, is a national park and a Tiger Reserve situated in the northern part of Orissa’s Mayurbhanj district. The tiger reserve is spread over 2750 sq km and has some beautiful waterfalls like Joranda and Barehipani. The park is surrounded by high plateaus and hills, the highest peak being the twin peaks of Khairiburu and Meghashini (1515m above mean sea level). At least twelve rivers cut across the plain area, all of which drain into the Bay of Bengal. The prominent among them are Burhabalanga, Palpala Bandan, Salandi, Kahairi and Deo.

Flora and fauna:
An astounding 1078 species of plants including 94 species of orchids find their home in the park. The vegetation is a mix of different forest types and habitats, with Northern tropical moist deciduous dominating some semi-evergreen patches. Sal is the dominant tree species here. The park also has extensive grasslands that are grazing grounds for many of the herbivores. These forests boast of many plants that have medicinal and aromatic properties. 

The park is known for the tiger, elephant and hill mynah. It holds the highest tiger population in the state of Orissa. 55 species of mammals, 304 species of birds, 60 species of reptiles, 21 species of frogs, 38 species of fish and 164 species of butterflies have been recorded from the Park.
© Pratyush Mohapatra/WWF-India
Similipal is home to some very picturesque waterfalls
© Pratyush Mohapatra/WWF-India
Apart from the tiger, the major mammals are leopard, sambar, barking deer, gaur, jungle cat, wild boar, four-horned antelope, giant squirrel and common langur. Grey hornbill, Indian pied hornbill and Malabar pied hornbill are also found here. The park also has a sizeable population of reptiles, which includes the longest venomous snake, the King cobra and the Tricarinate hill turtle. The Mugger Management Programme at Ramatirtha has helped the mugger crocodile to flourish on the banks of the Khairi and Deo Rivers. 

History and current status:
The Tiger Reserve originated as a hunting ground for the surrounding royalty. It was formally designated a tiger reserve under Project Tiger in May 1973. The Government of Orissa declared Similipal as a wildlife sanctuary in 1979 with an area of 2750 sq. km. Later in 1980, Government of Orissa proposed 303 sq. km of the sanctuary as National Park. Further in 1986, the area of the National Park was increased to 845.70 sq. km. The Government of India declared it as a biosphere reserve in 1994. UNESCO added this National Park to its list of Biosphere Reserves in May 2009. This tiger reserve also comes under Mayurbhanj Elephant Reserve that includes the adjacent Hadgarh and Kuldiha Wildlife Sanctuaries.

Apart from its biodiversity, the region around Similipal forests is home to a variety of tribes. Prominent among these are Kolha, Santhala, Bhumija, Bhatudi, Gondas, Khadia, Mankadia and Sahara. Most of them are settled agriculturists, supplementing their income by collecting firewood and timber except for the last three who are indigenous hunter-gatherer communities living primarily off the forest, collecting forest produce. While the tribes earlier followed a number of traditional conservation practices like closed seasons, hunting taboos on specific species, maintenance of sacred groves (Jharia) etc., of late, these practices have been on the decline due to the increasing influence of modern civilization, increasing human population and decreasing wildlife availability.
© Pratyush Mohapatra/WWF-India
Similipal is rich in bio-diversity. It is home to 21 species of amphibians
© Pratyush Mohapatra/WWF-India
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