Rare black tiger nearing extinction caught on camera

A photographer spotted this tiger while he was watching birds and monkeys (Picture: Soumen Bajpayee/Caters News)

An amateur photographer took photos of an extremely rare black tiger, only a handful of which are known to exist in the wild.

Soumen Bajpayee, 27, snapped a melanistic tiger at Simlipal Reserve and Nandankanan Sanctuary in eastern Odisha, India.

The masters student was watching birds and monkeys when he spotted the big cat but did not even realise what he was seeing. 

Black tigers are actually Bengal tigers with what is known as pseudo-melanism, meaning their stripes are so tick and close together, you can barely see their orange fur . 

The cats are slightly smaller than traditional Bengal tigers and have hardly been seen by humans.

Soumen said: ‘Back then I didn’t have any idea about melanistic tigers. Then suddenly it appeared from the woods, stayed for few seconds and walked back behind the trees.

‘Initially I didn’t even recognise what happened as I saw a completely different tiger. I have seen many tigers before both in the wild and in captivity but this was a completely different one.

‘I was extremely grateful to see it myself even though it was for a few seconds.’

There are only a handful of black tigers in the wild (Picture: Soumen Bajpayee/Caters News)
The sanctuary said he was very lucky to have captured the tiger (Picture: Soumen Bajpayee/Caters News)
Most pictures of black tigers are taken with camera traps (Picture: Soumen Bajpayee/Caters News)

The sanctuary said the Soumen, who is studying technology, was lucky to see the black tiger, as pictures of them are usually taken using camera traps.

They added: ‘We hope that these tigers mate with other tigers so that we have a chance to get more melanistic cubs.’

Reports of black tigers in Odisha’s jungles were first made in the 1990s.

Only 3,900 tigers remain in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund and black tigers have significantly lower population numbers.

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