A total of 10 'black' tigers found in India, all in Odisha's Simlipal: Centre

As per the 2022 cycle of the pan-India tiger estimation exercise, Simlipal has 16 tigers, of which 10 exhibit melanism, says Ashwini Kumar Choubey

File image of black tigers in Odisha's Nandankanan National Park (source: Reddit)
File image of black tigers in Odisha's Nandankanan National Park (source: Reddit)
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PTI

There are a total of 10 "black tigers" in India, all exclusively found in Odisha's Similipal, the government informed Parliament on Thursday.

Union minister of state for environment Ashiwini Kumar Choubey told the Rajya Sabha that "melanistic tigers" have been documented only in the Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha.

As per the 2022 cycle of the pan-India tiger estimation exercise, the Similipal Tiger Reserve has 16 tigers, out of which 10 exhibit melanism, he said.

The minister said the Similipal Tiger Reserve has been identified as a distinct conservation cluster due to its genetic composition.

Over the last five years, the Similipal Tiger Reserve has received a financial support of Rs 32.75 crore for wildlife conservation, habitat management, human resource, and infrastructure development under the centrally sponsored scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH).

A study led by ecologist Uma Ramakrishnan and her student Vinay Sagar from the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore, in 2021, revealed that the coat colouration and patterning causing the wild cats to appear dark stem from a single mutation in the transmembrane aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) gene.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in September 2021, their study noted that tigers in the Similipal Tiger Reserve form an isolated population in eastern India, with very limited gene flow between them and other tiger populations.

The researchers said such isolated and inbred populations are highly susceptible to extinction, even over short periods, which poses crucial implications for tiger conservation efforts.

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