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Simlipal National Park

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Orchids, sal trees, tumbling streams and rugged hills dotted with silent elephant giveaways – droppings, footprints, torn vegetation, and constant trumpeting –characterise this diverse wilderness. Simlipal, the ‘queen’ of Orissa’s forests, derives its name from the enchanting simul tree, whose blazing red flowers burst through the verdant jungles. Simlipal was once famous as the home of the tigress Khairi, who in the early days of Project Tiger did much to focus the attention of the nation on the species. Influenced by the ecology of both the eastern and western parts of the subcontinent on account of its position, the confluence makes the forest home to exceedingly rare and diverse flora and fauna. This precious biodiversity vault harbours four of the fifteen forest types found on the entire Indian subcontinent.

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The immense plant diversity in Simlipal has contributed to an abundance of wildlife. The shrubs are diurnal grazing grounds of the sambar, chital, barking deer and mouse deer. You may catch sight of wild boar lazing on the grass during the day. The huge gaur and the Asiatic elephant occupy the dense woodlands, which are also choice habitat for many other species. Along the valleys to the south, the four-horned antelope races the wind while elephants use these valleys only as retiring areas for the night on their long distance daily foraging trips. You may surprise a little porcupine in the open woodlands, or encounter a rufus-tailed hare that also prefers the less thickly vegetated areas. The stripe-tailed mongoose and pangolin frequent jungle paths. The Indian pangolin is dispersed in pockets all over the hills. The Indian giant squirrel is ubiquitous in the vast forests while the common giant flying squirrel restricts itself to some areas. The clawless otter can be seen in its river home.Reptiles of Simlipal include the python, cobra, crocodiles, king cobra, rat snake, common krait and Russel's viper.

The tiger and panther roam these jungles. Healthy ecological conditions resulted in an increase in tiger populations in the mid-90s although unremitting devastation of the forest by the timber mafia has resulted in a great loss of this pristine habitat. Wild dogs occur in small groups, and you may also see the hyena, jackal, jungle cat and ratels scavenging for food. The sloth bear is shy, although you may suddenly come upon one running away.  

Both rhesus macaques and langur are found although tribals heavily poach them for meat. The rare Asiatic wolf too has an established home here. A special type of scaled fish 'trout', locally called Khajara, is restricted to the rivers Deo, Khairi and Bhandan. Mahaseer, also a kind of trout, although rare is also found in Simlipal.

This is a haven for the 281 recorded avian species in the area including migrants that breed in the Himalayas.

Hornbills and Hill Mynahs are seen (although both are in decline due to the bird trade). The grackle is a notable resident for it is restricted to only certain areas in India. It is a fruit-eating bird and its calls and whistles seem to mimic human speech, which is the reason it is trapped for sale in city markets. Simlipal supports the varied avifauna of the peninsular as well as the Himalayan region. In these forests, you can see the Peafowl, Red Jungle Fowl, Painted Spurfowl, the Black Partridge, Grey partridge and quails of various types. The Trogon is found in the forests while the Crested Serpent Eagle hunts near water.

Simlipal is located on a smaller northern plateau within the Chhotanagpur plateau. It lies in the Mayurbhanj district of Orissa, adjoining Bihar and West Bengal.The hills rising from the Baripada and Udala plains extend to Jashipur in the North, Bisoi in the East and as far as Thakurmunda in the West, covering a total area of 2,750 sq. km.

The peaks are densely wooded dipping into innumerable valleys with perennial streams. Khairiburu, in South Similipal, is 1,178 m. high while Meghasani stands at 1,165 m. In the central region at Dhudurchampa, the elevation is about 1,000 m., while it is slightly less in the North at Chahala at 774.5 m.The vast forest has countless meandering brooks and no less than ten rivers. Their tributaries supply downstream areas with water after gushing through the hills and valleys of Simlipal.

The streams all drain eastward and ultimately pour into major river systems like the Budhablang, Baitarani and Subarnarekha. The Khairi, Bhandan, Birol, West-Deo, Salandi, Khadkai and its tributaries are some of the rivers and streams that join the Subarnarekha.The water-holding capacity of the area is greatly enhanced on account of its unique geological formation comprising three concentric rings of metamorphic rocks.

Heavy clay also occurs in some areas in the flat basin although reddish, sandy loam is the major soil type with pockets of laterite on the plateau.


Simlipal supports upwards of 2,000 plant species including 93 documented species of orchids. The epiphytic blooms, most of which are large and showy, lend stunning colour to the forest.

The predominant tree is sal, of which there are several species. It grows well on the red, sandy soil, with adequate regeneration. There are also numerous grassy pockets and meadows.The 3,000 species of plants include ferns, orchids and mosses that thrive under the high humidity.

Other trees such as Cyperus, Acacia, Dendrobium, Ficus, Indigofera and Leea are some of the genera with the largest variety. Silk cotton, Arjun, Asan, Champa, Eugenia, Diospyros, Madhuca, Bija are some of the tree species of economic importance. Besides this there are also about 200 species of medicinal plants species of which Achyranthes, Andrographis, Cassia, Emblica, Solanum and Vitex are some of the more common ones. Plants yielding resins, alkaloids, lac, myrobalan and arrowroot are also tapped in the forests.

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Simlipal was established as a National Park in 1956 and became a Project Tiger reserve in 1973. The healthy ecological conditions resulted in an increase in tiger populations in the mid-nineties although unremitting devastation of the forest by the timber mafia has resulted in a great loss of this pristine habitat.

In the Mayurbhanj district, a tribal hunt called Akhand Shikhar is historically observed. This is a custom of mass-hunting where hundreds of hunters converge from three directions of the forests forcing the animals to the fourth direction where hidden traps have been carefully placed. This may even go on for three months! The trapped animals are sold to traders at high prices. The age-old practice of worshipping the sal tree, Jharia Pula is no longer observed as tribals find work with the timber mafia.

The villagers who live around the park believe that the presence of elephants signifies the blessings of Goddess Laxmi.


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