The white tigers- Sireesh and Kumari and their extended family with seven cubs is a sight to behold at the zoo

She and her little ones are the pride of the place. The four cubs in a playful mood with their mother is a sight to behold, remarked the Governor of Andhra Pradesh E.S.L. Narasimhan during his recent visit to the city zoo.

Well folks, the inference is about Kumari, the white tiger at Indira Gandhi Zoological Park, and her four cubs. The zoo can be credited for breeding a significant number of white tigers in captivity in the last four years. “Today, the population has increased from just one to nine,” says the Curator of the zoo G. Ramalingam.

The loner

White tigers have become the pride of the zoo and probably this could be one among the few zoos after Nandankanan in Bhubaneswar to boast of a sizeable number of white tigers.

The first white tiger Sireesh was brought from Hyderabad in 2003. To give the loner a company, Kumari was transferred to the zoo again from Hyderabad in 2006.

Tigers become adult at around three years of age, and after both Kumari and Sireesh attained the required age and the breeding symptoms were noticed, that they were brought closer.

“Initially, they were kept in different enclosures. It was only that after Kumari reached the heat period - they were brought closer. Tigers do not accept each other at the very instance. To build up the acquaintance, they were first kept in the adjoining cages. In 2009, Kumari gave the first litters. She gave birth to three cute cubs (one male and two females). And today, those three have become full grown two-year old cats,” informs the curator.

Giving names to the newborns or new entrants has been the tradition of the zoo. The male cub was named as Giri and the females were named as Veena and Vani. They respond to their keeper T. Appanna by the names. Kumari again littered in April this year, and this time it was five. While one died within days, the other four survived and are growing stronger and naughtier with every passing day. And these were the cubs that Governor Narasimhan was referring to. “They haven't been christened yet and we are planning to do it in the month of August,” says Mr. Ramalingam.

Why white

White tigers are said to be larger, more intelligent, smarter, majestic and are considered to be show stunners when compared to their yellow brethrens. In fact they are in tune with Aravind Adiga's protagonist Balram Halwai's in his book The White Tiger.

The curator informs that the first white tiger was noticed by the Maharaja of Rewa Martand Singh in the Govindgarh jungle at Rewa, Madhya Pradesh. He captured the white tiger and with the help from veterinary experts, he succeeded in creating a second generation of white tigers by breeding it with another yellow tiger. Thereafter, white tigers are born and bred in captivity, with Nandankanan showing the way. At present, there are about 92 white tigers in captivity across India.

Mr. Ramalingam says that white tigers are born due to genetic mutation. “It is not exactly a case of melanin pigmentation, but they are born by the presence of a recessive gene. The modern white tiger population includes both pure Royal Bengal and hybrid Bengal–Siberians, however, it is unclear whether the recessive white gene came only from the Royal Bengal, or if it also originated from the Siberian ancestors,” he says.

Majestic

Tigers are majestic creatures and they tend to prefer a solitary lifestyle, unlike other animals that prefer to live in herds or groups. It is said that in the wilderness every tiger tend to rule over at least 20 sq km. “They clearly demarcate their area by their pug marks or droppings or urine and will not allow another tiger to enter that area,” says Mr. Ramalingam.

The next time you are at the zoo, do make it a point to visit- Sireesh and Kumari and their cubs, a pretty large family of nine members.

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