Why in News?                                                                                                        

Melanistic tigers have been recorded only in the Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha. As per the 2022 cycle of the All India Tiger Estimation, 16 individuals were recorded at Similipal Tiger Reserve out of which 10 were melanistic. A Standard Operating Procedure has been issued by the NTCA for active management towards rehabilitation of tigers from source areas at the landscape level. Based on genetic composition, the Similipal Tiger Reserve has been identified as a distinct genetic cluster for conservation. Funding assistance is provided under the ongoing Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Integrated Development of Wildlife Habitats (CSS-IDWH) to the Similipal Tiger Reserve for conservation of tigers, raising awareness on tiger & other wildlife conservation, habitat management protection, eco-development, human resource and infrastructure development, voluntary village relocation, as per sanctioned Annual Plan of Operation of the Tiger Reserve which emanates from a statutory Tiger Conservation Plan. This information was given by Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha today.

What is Black Tiger?

  • Black Tigers are a rare colour variant of the Bengal tiger and are not a distinct species or geographic subspecies.
  • Also known as Melanistic Royal Bengal Tiger.
  • IUCN Status – Endangered.
  • Recorded only in the Similipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha.
  • The broadened or spread black stripes in these tigers is caused by a single mutation in the Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) gene.
  • As the phenomenon is related to mutation and not the high deposition of melanin, it is considered pseudo-melanism.
  • Since this mutation is caused by a recessive gene, it is rare. But the geographical isolation of these tigers in Simlipal Tiger Reserve has led to inbreeding, offering the recessive gene frequent chances to show up.