Environment

The ‘white’ brothers of Nilgiris

Royal duo: The two ‘white’ tiger cubs spotted in Nilgiris.  

The rare, pale-skinned ‘white’ tiger was spotted for the first time in the Nilgiris earlier this year by a wildlife photographer. It now turns out that this animal is not the only one of its kind. It has a family, and its brother is also ‘white’, though its mother and sister have normal coats.

The family of four was sighted spending some quality time together in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve by M. Santhanaraman, additional government pleader for Forest departm-ent at the Madras High Court and Dr. C.P. Rajkumar, a member of the Tamil Nadu State Wildlife Board.

“Of the four, two are white tigers. We have observed that in this group, one is the mother and three are cubs that have grown up to be as big as the mother. One cub is a female with a regular coat, while the two white cubs are males,” said Mr. Santhanaraman.

“The presence of one white tiger had been reported earlier by a wildlife photographer. Now we have sighted two white tigers, and they are part of the same litter,” he said, adding that such ‘white’ tigers in the wild are a rare phenomenon. Neither of these animals are 100% white. They are pale, with coats much lighter than the usual orangey yellow.

“It may be due to genetic aberration,”said H. Basavaraju, Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and the head of the forest force in Tamil Nadu. “The two tigers are pale probably because of inbreeding. The recessive genes may not have been fully expressed. That is the reason these tigers are not fully white but pale,” said a wildlife official.

“It might be only a matter of time before the two white cubs part from their mother. They are as big as their mother already. Once they attain adulthood, they could easily become the biggest tigers in the landscape,” said Dr. Rajkumar.

It is believed by wildlife experts that the tigers’ coats are pale due to reduced levels of the pigment melanin in a phenomenon called ‘leucism’.

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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 8:15:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/the-white-brothers-of-nilgiris/article20005567.ece

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