Thursday, 13 July 2017

Exceptionally rare 'pale tiger' photographed in the wild

Animal spotted by photographer in jungles of southern India may be the fairest known tiger living outside captivity

Michael Safi in Delhi
Thursday 6 July 2017 14.44 BST Last modified on Thursday 6 July 2017 22.00 BST

A rare “pale tiger”, whose fur conservationists say could be the fairest of any in the wild, has been photographed in southern India.

“It is the palest tiger I have ever seen on the record or heard about in literature,” said Belinda Wright, the founder of the Wildlife Protection Society of India.

The animal was spotted last week by wildlife photographer Nilanjan Ray while driving in Nilgiri biosphere reserve in Tamil Nadu state.

Pale tigers, distinct from white tigers, are thought to have a genetic mutation that results in what biologists call colour morphism. It occurs in environments with large, random mating pools that allow for the varied exchange of genes.

Parvish Pandya, a doctor of zoology, said the birth of a tiger with pale fur was “quite a genetic chance”. He ruled out the possibility the tiger was albino, citing the lack of pinkish hue around its eyes.

Wright, who has spent decades in India tracking tigers, said she recalled only ever seeing one before, in the Ranthambore national park in Rajasthan in the 1980s. “But it wasn’t nearly as pale as this one,” she said.

The last white tiger in the wild was shot in 1958, and though some still live in public and private zoos, many suffer severe health problems due to a lack of genetic mixing.

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