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Incredible Encounter: Rare ‘Pale Tiger’ Spotted in the Wild

Rare 'Pale Tiger' Spotted in the Wild
Rare 'Pale Tiger' Spotted in the Wild. Image by Nilanjan Ray.

An animal spotted by a photographer in the jungles of southern India may be the fairest known tiger living outside of captivity.

Rare Pale Tiger Photographed

Rare 'Pale Tiger' Spotted in the Wild.
Rare ‘Pale Tiger’ Spotted in the Wild. Image by Nilanjan Ray.

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

Expert Observation

Rare 'Pale Tiger' Spotted in the Wild
Rare ‘Pale Tiger’ Spotted in the Wild. Image by Nilanjan Ray.

“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.

Photographer’s Encounter

amur siberian tiger
The Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica), also known as the Amur tiger, is one of the largest cat species in the world and is characterised by its dense orange fur with black stripes. It is native to the cool forests and mountainous regions of the Russian Far East and north-eastern China. These impressive predators are skilled hunters and feed mainly on large ungulates such as deer and wild boar. Unfortunately, the Siberian tiger is highly endangered and is on the endangered species list. Protection measures and conservation programmes are crucial to ensure the survival of these fascinating animals. Anil Öztas, FALCC-BY-NC-4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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

Distinction from White Tigers

rare golden tiger
Image by Gaurav Ramnarayanan.

Pale tigers, distinct from white tigers, are thought to have a genetic mutation that results in what biologists call colour morphism.

Genetic Mutation Explanation

White tiger Cub
White tiger Cub. Image by Frank Wouters via Wikimedia Commons

Colour morphism occurs in environments with large, random mating pools that allow for the varied exchange of genes.

Expert’s Genetic Insight

rare golden tiger
The big cat is one of four “golden” tigers in Kaziranga, according to the park’s official social media. Gaurav Ramnarayanan

Parvish Pandya, a doctor of zoology, said the birth of a tiger with pale fur was “quite a genetic chance”.

Albino Tiger Clarification

Biggest Tiger Ever. Image via Depositphotos

He ruled out the possibility the tiger was albino, citing the lack of pinkish hue around its eyes.

Historical Comparison

Tiger. Image via Depositphotos.

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.

Unique Paleness

Indian tiger female. Image via Depositphotos.

“But it wasn’t nearly as pale as this one,” she said.

Last Wild White Tiger

Tiger hidden in lake grass
Tiger hidden in lake grass. Image via Depositphotos.

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

Genetic Mixing Issues

Tiger. Image via Depositphotos.

Wright said the absence of white tiger genes in the wild meant the pale tiger in Tamil Nadu could be the fairest known tiger living outside captivity.

Comparison to Lighter-Coloured Tigers

rare golden tiger
Image: Gaurav Ramnarayanan

“You occasionally see lighter-coloured tigers, but they’re nothing compared to this one,” she said.

Pale Tigers in Captivity

Tiger. Image via Depositphotos.

“There are also some pale tigers in captivity, particularly in the US, but these are ‘cocktail’ tigers that are bred that way, with genes from white tigers.”

Photographer’s Detailed Account

Tiger. Image via Depositphotos.

Ray said he was driving through the national park when he encountered an ordinarily coloured tiger on the road around 200 feet away. The animal quickly fled.

Let’s dive into the physical characteristics of the tiger…

What is the Average Size of a Tiger?

male Siberian tiger. Image via Depositphotos.

Tigers typically measure between 8 to 10 feet in length from head to tail and can weigh between 220 to 660 pounds, depending on the subspecies.

How Many Subspecies of Tigers Exist?

Tiger from Asia. Image via Depositphotos.

There are currently six living subspecies of tigers: Bengal, Indochinese, Malayan, Siberian, South China, and Sumatran. Each subspecies varies in size, habitat, and physical characteristics.

What is the Fur Pattern of Tigers?

rare golden tiger
Image: Gaurav Ramnarayanan

Tigers have a distinctive orange coat with black stripes, which provides camouflage in their natural habitat. The pattern of stripes is unique to each tiger, much like human fingerprints.

How Sharp are a Tiger’s Claws and Teeth?

Tiger. Image via Depositphotos.

Tigers have retractable claws that can grow up to 4 inches long, and their canines can reach up to 3 inches in length. These adaptations are crucial for hunting and capturing prey.

How Good is a Tiger’s Vision and Hearing?

rare golden tiger
Wildlife photographer and safari guide Gaurav Ramnarayanan spotted this rare “golden” tiger in Kaziranga National Park, in India. Gaurav Ramnarayanan

Tigers have excellent night vision, which is six times better than that of humans. Their hearing is also acute, allowing them to detect prey and other sounds from a significant distance.

Bottom Line

Cute White Tiger Cubs in Front of the Camera
Cute White Tiger Cubs in Front of the Camera. Image by abd1997 via Wikimedia Commons

Overall, the discovery of this unique pale tiger in the Nilgiri biosphere reserve reminds us of the amazing diversity of wildlife in India. Additionally, the sighting offers valuable insights into the genetic variations within tiger populations.

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