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Wildfires have engulfed a vast chunk of the Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha. Local media reports say that it has been more than 10 days since the fire broke out in the biosphere reserves located in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district. The State Forest Department has been unable to bring the situation under control.
UNESCO had added this national park to its list of Biosphere Reserves in May 2009.
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Meanwhile, the fire is spreading from one part to another. So far it has gutted eight out of the 21 ranges of the Similipal forest division. Reports say that the fire has spread to Anandapur, Khandachira and Balinal hills under Podadiha Forest Range in the southern part of the reserve. The flames have also engulfed Mituani and Kendumundi forests under Thakurmunda range of the reserve.
“The jungle is burning and we are helpless. Many medicinal plants have been reduced to ashes. Many wildlife species, including endangered and scarce ones, have perished in the wildfire,” a local told Odisha TV.
The UNESCO page says that the reserve lies within two biogeographical regions: the Mahanadian east coastal region of the Oriental realm and the Chhotanagpur biotic province of the Deccan peninsular zone.
The biosphere reserve has the largest zone of Sal in all of India. In addition, the tropical monsoon climate provides ideal circumstances for the development of a distinctive biodiversity, highlighted by 1,076 species of vascular plants. Among them are 93 species of orchids, 300 species of medicinal plants and 52 species of endangered flora. Two endemic Orchid species are Eria meghasaniensis and Tainia hookeriana. Other noteworthy flora species include Callicarpa arborea (a species of beautyberry), Bombax ceiba (Cotton tree) and Madhuca longifolia (Mahua).
Altogether, the biosphere reserve is home to 42 mammal species, 264 bird species, 39 reptile species and 12 amphibian species. Moreover, approximately 52 fauna species are endangered. Paradoxus jorandensis is an example of a valuable and endemic fauna species within the area. In addition, Panthera tigris tigris (Royal Bengal Tiger) and Elephas maximus (Asiatic Elephant) have both been observed within the Similipal Biosphere Reserve.
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