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White Tiger


The Elusive White Tiger's in Bandhavgarh

The forests of Bandhavgarh are the white tiger jungles of the yesteryears. However, no white tigers have been reported from the wild in the last 50 years, and it is believed that less than a dozen have been seen in India in about a hundred years. And yet when white tigers were sighted, it was right here in Bandhavgarh.

Documents in the Rewa Palace record as many as 8 occasions on which white tigers had been sighted in and around Bandhavgarh during the first half of the 20th century. In 1951, Maharaja Martand Singh of Rewa captured an orphaned white tiger cub from the Bagri forest in Bandhavgarh (see Rewa & Land under Madhya Pradesh). The Maharaja domesticated this male white tiger and named him Mohan. The Maharaja was also able to successfully breed white tigers in Rewa and export the cubs to distant countries. As a result, all white tigers in captivity today are Mohanís descendants. The species has thrived in captivity, with a number of specimens related to Mohan finding homes in zoos and circuses all over the world. Mohan was the last white tiger in the wild, and no white tiger has been reported ever since.

Before scientists undertook research projects on the white tiger, it was widely believed that the animals were albinos. However, it was discovered that the white tiger did not have pink eyes as albinos do. Instead, these tigers had black stripes and blue eyes, a result of genetic aberration that occurs due to mutant recessive genes in both parents.

The Maharajas of Rewa had maintained Bandhavgarh for a very long time as their shikargarh, or private game preserves. This worked in favour, as well as against the interest of the wildlife in the area. While the forests were well protected and hunting rights remained in the hands of a selected few, the white tiger was still not safe from human agression. Maharaja Venkat Raman Singh shot 111 tigers by 1914, a figure that was slightly above the auspicious number of 109 tigers that the Maharajas had intended to shoot. The figure of 109 might have been considered a good omen for kings, but for tigers it only heralded death and extinction. Had Project Tiger not been launched in 1972 with the aim of protecting the tiger and its habitat, the tiger may well have become a thing of the past. The killing of tigers in Bandhavgarh stopped in 1968 when the area was declared a National Park.

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