Simlipal National Park is known for the tiger, elephant and hill mynah. It holds the highest tiger population in the state of Odisha. 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.
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 Odisha declared Simlipal as a wildlife sanctuary in 1979 with an area of 2750 sq. km. Later in 1980, Government of Odisha 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 Simlipal 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.