Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Jairam Ramesh has urged the Odisha government to take urgent steps to save the population of tigers in the state.

In a letter to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Sunday, Ramesh expressed concern over the decline in the number of tigers in Odisha.

The former Environment and Forests Minister said during his visit to the Wildlife Institute of India at Dehradun, that he was shocked to learn that the tigers are on their way to extinction in Simlipal and Satkosia forests in Odisha.

"One of the very first things when I had done as Minister of Environment and Forests in June 2009 was to constitute a special task force to save the Odisha tiger which is unique because of its special black stripes," said Ramesh.

He said the state government officials were in denial mode at the time and had challenged the population estimates made by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA).

"Nothing seems to have changed — in fact the situation may have got worse with tiger population estimates down to a single digit in the state," said Ramesh.

"It would be a calamity if the tigers of Odisha were to become extinct. Unlike in Panna and Sariska, tigers cannot really be translocated to Simlipal and Satkosia and hence the importance of not only saving but augmenting what is there now," he added.

The Congress leader requested Naveen Patnaik not to see any politics in his communication.

He said the state and the Centre have to make a very urgent and gigantic effort to save the tiger in the state.

"Please take the initiative before it is too late. Time is running out," said Ramesh in the letter.