One amateur photographer in India saw the wildlife sighting of a lifetime — an extremely rare black tiger in the forests of Odisha.
One Soumen Bajpayee snapped the shots of the creature during a visit to the Nandakanan Sanctuary in 2019 and posted it to his Instagram. Inexplicably, the photos have gone viral only recently.
Bajpayee told NDTV that he was bird watching in the sanctuary when the tiger appeared. He said that he initially did not realise he was looking at the predator.
"While I was watching various birds and monkeys in the trees, I suddenly saw something which looked like a tiger but not like the usual tiger," he said.
Before the tiger slunk away into the trees, Bajpayee managed to quickly snap some shots with his digital camera.
Here's what the magnificent creature looks like.
As compared to the typical orange-and-black fur most people might expect of tigers, the black tiger has thicker and more prominent black stripes.
Colour is a result of a gene mutation
Black tigers are also known as pseudo-melanistic tigers. These tigers are not a distinct species, but a rare colour variant.
The unique pattern of their fur is a result of a gene mutation, causing an increased development of dark pigment in the fur.
This gene mutation is believed to be due to inbreeding.
The rarity of the tigers in the sanctuary — and the world in general — is a testament to how lucky Bajpayee was.
More than 75 per cent of the world's tigers reside in India — around 3,000 as of 2019.
Black tigers are only found in Odisha state and nowhere else on earth, according to the Wildlife Institute of India, reported Times of India. Majority of them are found in the Simlipal National Park in the state.
A scientist at the institute, Dr Bivash Pandash, told Times of India that he believed there to only be seven to eight black tigers left.
He also emphasised the importance of conserving these tigers as they are "unique in the world for their genetic constitution".
Top photo by Soumen Bajpayee via PatrynWorldLatestNew / YouTube