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Biosphere Reserve is an international designation assigned by UNESCO for representative parts of natural and cultural landscapes extending over large areas of terrestrial or coastal/ marine eco-systems or combination thereof. These are intended to promote conservation of biodiversity and also to promote alternate livelihood for man and preserve cultural values.

The Biosphere Reserves are different from wildlife sanctuary and National Parks in the following aspects:

  1. Its emphasis is on overall biodiversity and landscape rather than some  specific flagship species.
  2. It lays importance on research activities.
  3. It takes into account the overall developmental activities and  resolves conflict between development and conservation.
  4. It ensures increased and broad based participation of the local   people by special attention given on different components of Biosphere  Reserves like landscape, habitats, species and land races.

The Biosphere Reserves are not substitute or alternative to, but re-enforcement of the existing protected areas. The Ministry of Environment and Forests launched the Biosphere Reserve programme in 1986 with these aspects in mind. The specific objectives of this programme are

  1. to conserve the diversity and integrity of plants and animals within the  natural eco-systems.
  2. to safeguard the genetic diversity of species on which their  continuing evolution depends,
  3. to provide areas for multi-faceted research and monitoring,
  4. to provide facilities for research and training, and
  5. to ensure sustainable use of natural resources through most appropriate technology for improvement of economy and living standard of local people.

In order to undertake activities relating to biodiversity conservation and development of sustainable management aspects, BRs are demarcated into three zones, namely core, buffer and transition zones. The core zone is absolutely undisturbed and secures legal protection and management and research activities. In this zone, management and research activities that do not affect natural processes and wildlife are allowed. The core zone is to be kept free from all human pressures external to the system. The buffer zone adjoins the core zone. In this zone, only those activities which protect the core zone are allowed. The activities allowed include limited recreation, tourism, fishing, grazing which are permitted to reduce its effect on core zone. Research and educational activities are to be encouraged. The transition zone is the outer most part of BR. This is a zone of collaboration where conservation knowledge and management skills are applied primarily to foster alternate livelihood and reduce dependence on consumptive use of the forest.

The Similipal Biosphere Reserve has been notified by Government of India on the 22nd June, 1994. It comprises of the entire Similipal sanctuary (core and buffer together), the adjoining Nato and Satkoshia Reserve Forests forming additional buffer and a belt of approximately 10 KM width all around the entire buffer designated as the 'transition zone'. The total area of this BR is 5569 Sq. KMs. The Similipal hill ranges, a densely forested area constitute the core and a part of the buffer zones of the BR, and there are also 65 villages within these two zones including four in the core zone.

Similipal is in the eastern end of the eastern ghats and classified in the Chhotanagpur biotic province of the Mahanadian bio-geographical region. The transition zone of the Reserve has 1200 villages whose total population is about 4.5 lakhs. The tribals constitute about 73% of this population. The forests and the biodiversity resources to a great extent sustain the livelihood of these people. The forest and wildlife in the sanctuary, and the human population and cattle living in close proximity impact on each other. The Management Action Plan for the BR seeks to put emphasis on suitable programmes of eco-development in the transition zone and also to a limited extent in buffer zone, to promote various alternative livelihood options, and thereby to reduce people's pressure on the forests.

Significant features
The Significant Features of Similipal include:
  • Relatively higher annual precipitation of over 200 cm spread over about 135 days.
  • Altitude ranging from 40mts to 1168mts (Khairiburu and Meghasini hills).
  • Numerous water courses and two permanent water falls namely  Barehipani(400 mts) and Joranda (150 mts).
  • Occurrence of frost valleys in central and south Similipal. A degree of resemblance of floral and faunal composition with those of the Western  Ghats and north-east India, while being a representative eco-system within the Mahanadian bio-geographic region.
  • Marked variation of temperature range between the central and  southern regions.
Biodiversity richness

Similipal is the abode of 94 species of orchids and about 3000 species of other plants. These include 2 species of orchids which are endemic, 8 plants which are endangered, 8 species whose status is vulnerable and 34 other rare species of plant. Similipal is also the abode of the black and melanistic tiger which is rare. The identified species of fauna include 12 species of amphibians, 29 species of reptiles, 264 species of birds and 42 species of mammals, all of which collectively highlight the Biodiversity richness of Similipal.

Endemism in Similipal is not fully explored, yet it is expected to be very high particularly in sectors like tree ferns, orchids, medicinal plants and insect fauna. The checklist of flora and fauna has been updated at intervals with new additions. Paradoxurus jorandensis, an endemic civet was located by the Zoological Survey of India in Similipal during 1980s and subsequently recorded from all zones of Similipal. Phillautus similipalensis, a frog located near Chahala in 1975 has been identified from other locations from Similipal.

Eria meghasaniensis and Tyna hookeriena are two endemic orchids of Similipal. The former is found near Megahsini in south Similipal and the latter is seen near Pakaladiha nalla of Jenabil. Another rare orchid, Bulbophyllum panigrahianum, is also seen in Similipal. Oryza officinalis, a specied of paddy known from Kerala was first collected in Odisha from Similipal near Khejuri hills in the late 1980s. The species is rare and sporadic, not used for any purpose locally. Another species of paddy, O. granulata previously recorded from Jeypore in south Odisha has also been recorded in Similipal. The aquatic grass Coix aquatica and several spp. of orchids are some of the other additions.

The elephant population of Similipal is the major surviving concentration of the Central-Indian population. The cat fauna, including the many colour aberrations noticed in tigers and the occurrence of black panthers, are of academic and conservation interest. The cats comprise of Fishing cat, Jungle cat, Leopard cat, and the Leopard. The four-horned antelope or chowsingha is found in certain patches of Similipal. The stream Mahasheer that is characteristic to hilly streams of peninsular India continues to inhabit streams of Similipal, though it is rare. Among the birds, recent additions include Red breasted falconet, Grey-headed fishing eagle, Slender billed scimitar babbler, White eared bulbul, East-Himalayan long-tailed minivet and Common sand piper. Similarly, the Ruddy mangoose (Herpestes smithi) has been an addition after several sightings.

Similipal Ecosystem
An assemblage of ecosystems ranging into the Forests, Grasslands and Wetlands, the composite 'Similipal ecosystem' with indicator species like the tiger, elephant, giant squirrel, mugger crocodile and turtles inhabiting in it enrich the 'scientific values' of the area for ecological studies.

primitive tribe
Kharias, a primitive tribe inside the sanctuary subsist on collection of non-timber forest products. Honey, Gum, Arrowroot and Wild Mushrooms are collected by them daily. Besides, people from outside also collect the bark of Paja tree (Litsea monopetala), flowers and seeds of Mahua, and seeds of sal. These are only a few of the many NTFP items gathered in Similipal.

Although Gonds were living in few pockets in dense forest of Similipal, Kharias are supposed to be the originial inhabitant of Similipal hills. The Kharia who represented dravidian family speak Oriya and unaware of any other dialect. Other common tribes are Bhumija, Bathudi, Kolha, Gonda, Santhal and Mankadia. The festivals and the dances of these tribes also form a part of their socio-cultural value. In contrast to Khadias, Kolha, Munda, Mahali, Mankadia, Santal have their own dialects such as Kolarian, Mundari, Santali etc. The tribal population comprise of 73.44 %, the scheduled cast population 5.21 % and other castes 21.35 %.

Scientific value
Because of its bio-geographical situation, geological features, the international recognition as one of the first nine prime areas for tiger conservation and for being one of the first eight Biosphere Reserves of India, the Scientific value of Similipal make it a paradise for Scientists pursuing studies on Biodiversity, and many features are believed to have remained unexplored yet. The discoveries of new paddy species and the identification of over 500 species of medicinal plants are only examples of the 'gene pool reserve' in Similipal and the vast opportunities for biotechnological research and applications in future.

Zones and their Status

The different zones and their status are as follows:
Similipal Biosphere Reserve: (area in sq.km)
A. Core (= Core of STR)     
Sanctuary from 1979, National Park (declared in two                                                                           phases during 1980/1986)
B.  Buffer    
1. Within STR         
Sanctuary from 1979
Outside STR
(a) Nato RF    Reserved Forest
                  (b)Satkoshia RF                       


Reserved Forest
Reserved Forest
Reserved Forest
         Total … … 
C. Transitional Area           
TOTAL (SBR) …       5569
[SBR= Similipal Biosphere Reserve; STR= Similipal Tiger Reserve=the area of Similipal Sanctuary] The length of Periphery of Similipal Sanctuary is about 600 kms. The Tourism route runs through the buffer area but also touches important points in the core of the sanctuary. Its total length is about 170km.


Ecological Vulnerability
There are no pollution-causing industries in Mayurbhanj district that could affect the ecological soundness of Similipal. Thus, the ecological vulnerability is only from the current living styles and dependence of people on Similipal. About 4.5lakhs people constitute the 80,000 families who live within or close to Similipal, and about 50% of them earn a part of or the complete livelihood from Similipal.

Activities of these people also generate threats that cause major obstacles in biodiversity-conservation in Similipal. The specific threats are: the loss of diversity due to collection of small timber and fire-wood; the loss of diversity due to 'Fire', and the loss of diversity due to Shikar (Illegal Hunting of wildlife). "Akhand Shikar" is considered to be one singular custom that results in large-scale killing of wild animals. The solution to this lies in keeping the people in such professions that are attractive and keep the people engaged round the year. Ecodevelopment schemes have been launched in this direction.

The status of implementation of this programme in Similipal BR:
Up to the year 2003-04 Government of India assistance amounting to Rs.207.3194 lakhs has been received and utilised. The utilisation of funds was Rs.50.01 lakhs during 2001-02, Rs.58.06 lakhs during 2002-03 and Rs.32.181 lakhs during 2003-04. 343 numbers of Eco-Development Committees have been organised. There is a local committee chaired by the Director, Biosphere Reserve and comprising of district level officers of various related departments and also two NGOs of Mayurbhanj district, which deliberate from time to time to formulate suitable action programmes.

The major investment has been in construction of 36 numbers of water harvesting structures and improvement of irrigation channels to fields. Digging and renovation of ponds and pisci-culture have been carried out over 16 ponds. Sabai rope making units and sal-leaf plate-making units have been supplied to the villagers. Health camps, anti-malaria campaign, immunisation of people and cattle have been carried out. The facility of revolving fund for micro-credit has been extended to selected community groups. Training in sericulture, sabai rope making, improved agricultural technique, bee keeping, orchid growing and in the job of eco-guide, etc. been imparted to 112 persons.

Future Strategy:
The Biosphere programme will seek to make a sustained impact on the over all scenario of biodiversity conservation, and would therefore have a component of long term programmes and a component of short term interventions.

The long term programmes would comprise of (a) an in depth study of the status of biodiversity resources, eco-systems, and ecological processes in Similipal to establish a bench mark; (b) a critical study of the socio-economic setting in the biosphere area, and exploration of the various alternate livelihood options; and (c) nurturing the process of organising the local communities into eco-development committees and formation of green brigades to build up proper stake-holding of the natural-biological resource.

The short term interventions would consist of measures (a) to build up awareness of the destructive practices which need to be curbed, (b) to explore the potential and the prospects of eco-tourism, (c) to channelise the water flow out of Similipal to agricultural fields, (d) to support suitable micro enterprises and micro credit to self help groups, and (e) to mount a vigorous programme for controlling malaria and cattle disease.

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