Guwahati: An adult golden tigress that was recently spotted in Assam's Kaziranga National Park, made news headlines because of its colour.Experts and scientists have now come up with an explanation of the rare golden colour of the tigress. Golden colour is "primarily a singular case of colour aberration caused by a unique gene", experts said on Tuesday.
The only such big cat in the Kaziranga National Park, first spotted in 2014 during an all India tiger monitoring exercise, has "lighter yellowish skin tone, narrower black stripes, whiter abdominal and facial regions when compared to a normal Royal Bengal Tiger", Dr Firoz Ahmed, the head of Tiger Research and Conservation Division at NGO Aaryanak, told PTI.
A photograph of the tigress, also known as 'tabby tiger' or 'strawberry tiger' was posted by forest officer Parveen Kaswan on social media. The photos went viral and generated tremendous curiosity among people.
"This individual tigress, in particular, has black stripes which are narrow and less intense in colour, making it appear unique. The expression of colour in animals is controlled by genes and it is natural that hidden genes find expression at times, giving them unique appearance," he said.
However, the rare golden colour's impact on the behaviour of the tigress is unknown, but it has grown into an adult and is living naturally in Kaziranga, Ahmed added.
Wildlife experts Rabindra Sharma and Kamal Azad have pointed out that colour aberrations are not very common, and only a few are recorded in the wild.
"The biological reason of colour aberration may be due to excessive inbreeding caused by habitat destruction and loss of connectivity," PTI quoted one of the experts.
The recessive genes are showing up due to inbreeding within fragmented population, Sharma, also a research officer in Kaziranga National Park, said.
The finding is not a cause for celebration, but an indication for us to start pondering about better connectivity among the fragmented population of tigers to prevent inbreeding -- one of the serious problems caused due to population decline, the experts said.
The tigress was captured multiple times since 2014. In 2016, she was photographed with another tiger. But it could not be concluded whether the other tiger was her cub or mate due to low quality of the image.
It will be very interesting to find out whether her offsprings will carry her "faulty gene", the two experts added.