White tiger is part of many Asian traditions

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NOTE: White tigers are not an endangered species, but a coloration resulting from double-recessive genes.

The white tiger is revered in some countries as divine! Shyamalika N traces the story of this rare and beautiful creature down history.

Imagine going out for a walk and stumbling across one of the rarest species of animals! Well it was a similar scenario when the first white tiger was found in the forests of Bandhavgarh, in Madhya Pradesh.

In 1951 Maharaja Shri Martand Singh, along with his hunting party, found a tigress with four cubs, out of which one was white! This Maharaja and his men were captivated by this white cub and took it back with them. It was housed in the Maharaja’s palace and was named Mohan meaning ‘enchanter’.

One of Mohan’s cubs, Mohini, was also white and later produced the American line of white tigers. Mohan died in 1969, when he was almost twenty-years-old. Mohan is the only known white tiger to be caught in the wild.

Most of the white tigers present today are somehow traced back to being Mohan’s descendents. In 1980 however, in Orissa’s Nandankanan zoo, three white tiger cubs were born. They were in no way related to Mohan. This lineage resulted in several white tigers in Nandankanan Zoo and in Sri Lanka.

White tigers have been recorded outside of the Indian state of Rewa and as far as China and Korea. Places like Nepal, Myanmar, Malaysia, Sumatra, and Java also have a few white tigers which were bred in their zoos. Historically, white tigers have been reported in northern China, in the geographic range of the Siberian tiger.

Tigers of old…

White tigers form part of tradition in some regions. In China, the white tiger was worshiped as the god of the West.

The white tiger is represented on the South Korean flag in the Yin and Yang emblem. According to Indian superstition, the slayer of a white tiger would die within a year and the white tiger was regarded as the incarnation of a Hindu god.

Sumatran and Javan royalty claimed descent from white tigers, and white tigers were regarded as the reincarnations of royalty.

Sadly, these beautiful creatures are an endangered species. White tigers were routinely shot between 1892 and 1922 in places such as Orissa, Upper Assam and Pune.The slaughter of hundreds of orange tigers evidently killed the carriers of the gene which makes a few tigers white.

Tiger trail…

1. In 1922 two pure white adult tigers were found to have pink eyes!

2. White tigers have been drawn in paintings dating back to the Mughal king Akbar’s period.

3. During the same period white tigers were also painted with reddish-black stripes!

4. Stripeless white tigers were found and are known as Snow white tigers.

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