This amateur photographer could not believe his eyes. He came face to face with a black tiger in the Odisha district of India.
An ultra-rare specimen
Soumen Bajpayee will long remember his visit to the Nandankan reserve. He will be able to recall all his encounters thanks to the photos he took, and he had only recently taken up photography!
He managed to photograph a black, or melanistic tiger, by the greatest of coincidences, as he told The Sun:
I was surprised and felt fortunate to have seen the tiger. [At the time] I didn't have any idea about melanistic tigers. Then suddenly it appeared from the woods, stayed for few seconds and walked back behind the trees.
Even though he only saw it for a few seconds, Soumen is extremely grateful. He had come to take pictures of monkeys and tigers, but it was highly unlikely that he would come across this kind of tiger. The two black tigers in the Nandankan reserve had previously only been caught with camera traps.
How does this colour occur?
This black tiger is a so-called melanistic tiger. According to scientists, there are only 6 specimens in the world. This colour comes from a genetic particularity called melanism, just like the black panther.
But unlike the latter, the black tiger still has an orange and tabby coat under its dark stripes. The melanistic tiger is also smaller than its brethren. According to scientists, this genetic variation is due to inbreeding.
In order for the melanistic tiger to survive, the 6 known specimens would have to mate with one another. Soumen Bajpayee is delighted with this idea and intends to return to photographing tigers very soon.