Bhubaneswar: In a heartwarming revelation from Similipal National Park in Odisha, a captivating video of a rare black tiger family has taken the internet by storm. The footage, a mere 17 seconds long, was shared by Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Sushanta Nanda on the social media platform ‘X,’ quickly going viral within minutes.
The video showcases not just one, but four adult ‘black tigers’ – a pseudo-melanistic species known for its distinct broad black stripes, a result of genetic factors. At times, these stripes are so profound that the tigers appear completely black.
Nature never fails to surprise us. This is one of the rarest of the rare…— Susanta Nanda (@susantananda3) January 7, 2024
A complete Pseudo melanistic tiger family from the forests of Odisha😌 pic.twitter.com/SQx6dQo3sD
In a poetic caption accompanying the video, IFS officer Sushanta Nanda expressed, “Nature never fails to surprise us. This is a very rare species in our garden. A complete ‘pseudo-melanistic’ tiger family from the forests of Odisha.” The enchanting clip, seemingly recorded during the night, provides a rare glimpse into the lives of these elusive creatures.
The rarity of this moment is underscored by the fact that only 10 tigers of this unique species are left in India. Similipal National Park, nestled in the heart of Odisha, is the last bastion for these black tigers. The government has acknowledged the critical situation and is actively engaged in conservation efforts to ensure the survival of this endangered species.
Similipal National Park is home to both ordinary and ‘pseudo-melanistic’ tigers, making it a sought-after destination for wildlife enthusiasts. However, sightings of the elusive black tigers are a rare occurrence, often leaving visitors disappointed. As of the latest data disclosed in December, there are only 10 black tigers remaining in India, all residing in Similipal National Park.
The name ‘Black Tiger’ stems from the distinctive deep black stripes adorning their bodies. Researchers attribute this unique appearance to genetic factors, specifically a change in the sequence position of the TaqP gene from C (cytosine) to T (thymine). This genetic anomaly is considered extremely rare, akin to a distinctive and fascinating disease in the animal kingdom.
How Did Similipal’s Black Tigers Elude Discovery for so Long?”
The mystique surrounding the black tigers of Similipal reserve is no longer confined to the realms of myth, thanks to recent revelations that have unraveled decades of speculation. For years, the dark interiors of the Similipal forest in Odisha have whispered tales of these elusive creatures, dismissed by many as mere illusions or cases of mistaken identity.
The saga began in the winter of 1975 when forest officials and two awe-struck foreign tourists claimed to witness two adult black tigers luxuriating in the bright sunlight on a road leading to the Matughar meadow. In 1991, a family of pseudo-melanistic tigers, adorned with partial black coats, made a fleeting appearance in the upper Barakhamba range. The same year, a black cub was reportedly spotted alongside two adults and a conventionally colored cub at Devasthali. Yet, these sightings lacked the substantiating proof needed to validate their existence and were brushed aside as unverified anecdotes.
The term ‘melanistic’ denotes creatures with unusually dark skin or hair due to an elevated level of melanin pigment. The quest to demystify the existence of black tigers gained traction in 1992 when a confiscated pelt from a hunter and smuggler in Tis Hazari, New Delhi, revealed a distinct melanistic tiger. The pelt, displayed at the National Museum of Natural History, showcased a black head and back with shadow striping on a black background. A significant breakthrough occurred in July 1993 when a young boy, acting in self-defense, shot a female black tiger with an arrow near the village of Podagad, west of the Similipal Tiger Reserve.
Fast forward to December 21, when Union Minister of State for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change, Ashwini Kumar Choubey, disclosed in Rajya Sabha that ‘melanistic tigers’ have indeed been documented in Similipal. According to Choubey, the reserve is home to 16 tigers, with 10 displaying melanistic traits. Recent sources, however, have unveiled even more astonishing numbers, revealing a total of 28 tigers in the Similipal reserve. Among them, 16 are adults, including seven pseudo-melanistic tigers. Adding to the intrigue, there are twelve cubs, with four exhibiting pseudo-melanistic characteristics.
This groundbreaking revelation marks the first-ever documentation of melanistic tigers living in the wild in India, shattering the long-held notion that black tigers in Similipal were nothing more than a mythical enigma. The forest’s secret has finally been unveiled, and the once-elusive black tigers have stepped out of the shadows into the spotlight of reality.