Bhubaneswar: The irony is hard to miss! Similipal Wildlife Sanctuary in Odisha’s Mayurbhan district is burning while the world is celebrating Wildlife Day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chief Minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik tweeted on Wednesday celebrating the rich flora and fauna and the need to share a harmonious relationship with them.
The disturbing fact, however, is that Odisha has witnessed 7,188 forest fires, the highest in the country, since the beginning of the forest fire season in November.
Meanwhile, the concern, which was set in motion by Mayurbhanj princess Akshita M Bhanj Deo through her messages, over the devasting fire that has engulfed Similipal is growing louder.
On March 1, she tweeted about no media covering the fires in Asia’s largest biosphere. This post was retweeted by two Union Ministers from Odisha Dharmendra Pradhan and Pratap Sarangi, seeking the attention of Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar.
Mayurbhanj had devastating forest fires this past week, a week ago close to 50kg of ivory was found, a few months ago local youth reported on sand/timber mafias in Simlipal. Apart from a few state media, NO national media is covering Asia’s 2nd largest biosphere burning #simlipal
— Akshita M. Bhanj Deo (@TheGreatAshB) March 1, 2021
In a video message on March 2, Akshita raised doubts about the fate of black melanistic tigers only found in the sanctuary. “In a few hours, we will get to know if the last black melanistic tiger is alive or not. These fires are absolutely devastating for wildlife and the indigenous community of Similipal,” she said.
She also talks about rampant poaching and illegal mining and human activities in the sanctuary in the past few years.
In November 2020, amateur photographer Soumen Bajpayee had spotted a rare black tiger at Simlipal Tiger Reserve following which the photographs clicked by him went viral.
“Back then I didn’t have any idea about melanistic tigers. Then suddenly it appeared from the woods, stayed for a few seconds and walked back behind the trees. Initially, I didn’t even recognise what happened as I saw a completely different tiger,” Soumen was quoted as saying by Metro.