A photographer named Nilanjan Ray is believed to have spotted a rare ‘white tiger’ with a pale skin colour for the first time in the Nilgiris. The discovery has aroused interest among conservationists and forest officials. It is yet to be ascertained whether the white tiger is a true genetic mutant.
The tiger which was spotted in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve does not seem to be albino and was found to be whitish with golden brown patches. As per the scientists, genetic mutation among tigers changes an amino acid responsible for the normal colour being formed, resulting in “natural polymorphism”. According to the scientists, white tigers lack pheomelanin, which is responsible for the red-yellow hue in the skin coat.
In India, white tigers are predominantly found in Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. In 2016, world’s first White Tiger Safari was inaugurated at Mukundpur in Satna district of Madhya Pradesh.
The first white tiger in Madhya Pradesh’s was spotted in Vindhya region in 1915. However, the rare breed of the big cat spotted for the first time died in 1920. In 1951, a white tiger cub named Mohan was captured by Rewa Maharaja Martand Singh. Later the tiger cub became the progenitor of all known white tigers in the world after the Maharaja arranged for its breeding.
White tigers in India are nothing but a pigmentation variant of the Bengal tiger. They have been reported in the wild from time to time in the Indian states of Assam, West Bengal, Bihar. These tigers have white fur because of the lack of the pigment pheomelanin, which is found in Bengal tigers with orange colour fur.