It was once-in-a-lifetime sight for the amateur photographer Soumen Bajpayee who came across an extremely elusive creature in the jungles of Odisha in India. While watching birds at the Nandankanan Sanctuary, Soumen has managed to capture on camera a very rare melanistic tiger.
This tiger breed which can only be found in the forests of Odisha is on the brink if extinction with less than 10 individuals left. In contrast with the more common Bengal Tiger, this one has black stripes due to a rare condition called melanism. From here its name, the melanistic tiger. Unlikely the albinism, who’s a lack of skin pigmentation, the melanism occurs because of the skin’s black pigmentation.
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The melanistic tigers are highly elusive and they had rarely been spotted by human eye. First time a black tiger has been spotted in India in 2007. When initially seen it, Soumen did not even realized it’s actually a tiger. “I was watching various birds in the trees, when I suddenly saw something which looked like a tiger but not like the usual tiger,” he told NDTV. “Back then I didn’t have any idea about melanistic tigers. It suddenly it appeared from the woods, stayed for few seconds and walked back into the trees.”
Over 70% of the world’s tiger population currently lives in India.