India’s tryst with the rare wild cats


India has at all times been fascinated with the white tiger. In 1951, Maharaja Martand Singh got here across a rare cub in Rewa, a city in Madhya Pradesh. He captured it and named it Mohan

With three latest entrants, Delhi zoo now houses 11 tigers, out of which 4 are white. Twitter/@NzpDelhi

After seven years, Delhi’s National Zoological Park welcomed three white tiger cubs on 24 August.

Born to Sita, a seven-year-old white tigress, and Vijay, also a white tiger, the three cubs are healthy and being monitored in a separate enclosure, the zoo officials told Indian Express.

With the brand new entrants, Delhi zoo now houses 11 tigers, of which 4 are white.

The National Zoological Park, which participates within the conservation breeding of tigers, said “the birth of the cubs is a giant step on this direction”, as per Indian Express.

What’s the history of white tigers in India? What’s the explanation behind their white coats? Why is World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warning against inbreeding?

Here’s a more in-depth have a look at these big wild cats:

History of white tigers in India

The primary-known existence of the white tiger in India dates back to 1951 when Maharaja Martand Singh got here across a white tiger cub in Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa.

As per Outlook Traveller, Martand Singh, Rewa’s last king, captured the cub when he was hunting within the jungles of Bandhavgarh.

The male white cub named Mohan was brought up within the royal palace in Govindgarh.

Maharaja Martand Singh bred white tigers and exported cubs to other countries after he captured Mohan, as per Condé Nast Traveller report.

Mohan is taken into account to be the ancestor of all white tigers in captivity today.

The breeding was carried out by mating the male species with specific tigresses carrying the white gene, and producing many white-coated offsprings which at the moment are present in many zoos in India and abroad, as per Outlook Traveller.

In line with the Rewa palace records, around eight white tigers were spotted in the primary half of the twentieth Century.

Reason behind the white coat

The white fur of the tiger may be attributed to a rare genetic mutation called leucism. As per WWF, this recessive gene trait is what gives the white hue to the tiger’s fur. The eyes of the white tigers are mostly blue, but can be green or amber.

Delhi zoo gets 3 white tiger cubs Indias tryst with the rare wild cats

The white fur of the tiger may be attributed to a rare genetic mutation. PTI (Representational Image)

A white tiger may be bred through the use of two tigers with recessive genes. If two golden tigers with the recessive gene are bred, then they will produce white offspring.

Bengal tigers and white tigers

White tigers should not a separate subspecies.

As per WWF, there may be one species and two recognised subspecies of tiger – the continental (Panthera tigris tigris) and the Sunda (Panthera tigris sondaica).

Delhi zoo gets 3 white tiger cubs Indias tryst with the rare wild cats

White tigers are fast runners and good swimmers like their Bengal counterparts. PTI File Photo

White tigers come from Bengal tigers, who’ve familiar orange coat and dark stripes. Weighing anywhere around 180-220 kg, white tigers are fast runners and good swimmers like their Bengal counterparts, as per Condé Nast Traveller.

How tiger cubs were born in Delhi zoo?

Sita was mated with Vijay, who was shifted from Lucknow zoo nearly six years ago, as a part of the conservation breeding efforts of the National Zoological Park.

“The chosen zoos that take part in the conservation breeding programme exchange animals amongst themselves for breeding purposes. The animal exchange ensures that there isn’t any inbreeding. The breeding programme can be underway on the Delhi zoo for other species including rhinos,” Dharamdeo Rai, director of Delhi zoo told Indian Express.

Speaking on the seven-year gap of the birth of the three cubs, Rai said that for breeding “suitable pairs and the female and male need to simply accept one another”. He said that the Delhi zoo has ample population of male to female tigers they usually are hopeful of getting at the least eight to 10 tiger cubs inside a 12 months.

In 2021, the Delhi zoo acquired two tigers from Nagpur’s Gorewada zoo for breeding purposes, Rai told Indian Express.

As per the 2018 census, India has a tiger population of two,967.

WWF warns against inbreeding

The WWF has warned against inbreeding.

Such animals suffer from various health problems like spinal deformities, defective organs, and immune deficiencies, the organisation has warned.

The international conservation organisation furthter identified that adult tigers kept in captivity are expensive to look after, and thus many captive facilities kill them and sell their parts — thus contributing to illegal tiger trade.

“The truth of the situation is that white tigers aren’t an endangered species,” the WWF said.

“Their white coat is just the results of a genetic anomaly which doesn’t require conservation. And so long as captive facilities proceed to produce tigers, their parts and products into the illegal trade which fuels the demand for tiger products, wild tigers will at all times be in danger.”

With inputs from agencies

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