Simplipal tiger reserve came under the umbrella of Project Tiger in 1973 and encompasses an area of 2,750 sq. kms. out of which the core area is 845.70 sq. kms. The total core is still pending final notification as a National Park. In 1972 there were said to be 17 tigers but the 1992 census estimates 95 tigers. Over 22 species of mammals, 220 species of birds and several varieties of reptiles share this forest with the tiger. Many hundreds of botanical species create a special bio-diversity for this natural system.
A series of acute biotic pressures exert themselves on this natural resource. Illicit grazing of cattle, wood cutting for poles, agricultural implements, construction, forest fires for the easy collection of Sal seeds, mahua seeds etc, encroachment of land for agriculture in protected forests etc are activities that are organised. The timber and wood is sold in nearby towns. Lethal weapons are used.
Mass hunting of wild animals or Akhand Shikar takes place yearly where 500-600 people armed with poisonous arrows and bows organise these hunts every year and a minimum of 400-500 animals are killed at a conservative estimate. The strength of the field staff is insufficient to prevent these offences. The present staff is the same as it was in 1973 even though the core area has increase nearly 3 times. For the effective management of this reserve it is vital to increase the staff. Though a decision was taken in 1987 to bring the entire area under the unitary control of the Field Director this process has not occurred and the buffer zone of the Park is under the control of the Divisional Forest Officer of another area. Such dual control makes the management of the area very difficult especially since the area faces strong biotic pressures. There are nearly 850 villages around a 500 km. periphery with a vast population. This excludes the villages inside the Park.
There has been a plan for the last decades to relocate the villages from inside the Park so as to reduce the pressures. Though many formalities for this resettlement have been completed it is at the moment pending. A site specific formulation of an eco-development project is being planned so that through the next five years some of the problems concerning the people and the Park are resolved.
The Simplipal tiger reserve has been very strong and impressive in the field of research. During 1973-1982 the Founder-Dield Director the late Saroj Raj Chawdhury made studies on round the clock in-vivo studies of Sambar and Chital, time taken for food ingestion and elimination, rate of obliteration of pellet groups and the biology of the pet tigress Kheri. Since 1987 after the appointment of a research officer the research undertaken includes base-line data collection on meteorology, animal and plant inventory, monitoring research covering, improvement in the techniques for large-cat census, annual trends of tiger population and leopard populations, sighting trends of elephants at salt licks, population estimates of large herbivorous, tourism trends and development of management strategies, restoration research covering and mugger crocodile restocking including all aspects of captive management.
Simplipal tiger reserve faces serious biotic pressures that if not controlled will have severe repercussions. The mass hunting of animals, illicit felling of wood and grazing must be quickly checked so that some of the important research being done here has a chance to effect the future course of this area.
S. Deb Roy Member, Steering Committee of Project Tiger states. "The ideal fruits of the conception of Project Tiger remains yet to be achieved in the magnificent reserve. The wild animal population level still remain, seemingly, rather low, mainly due to heavy biotic interference. A hard task lies ahead to achieve the actual potential of this area for which a very strong political and social support is unavoidable."