I had a very rare sighting of a special tiger in Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve. I had gone out for a drive with a forest guide on a wet and cold afternoon. Then the rain stopped for a few minutes, and it looked as if the sun was about to come out. We were driving on a lonely forest road, when after a turn, we saw a tiger walking on the road, more than 200 feet away. After a few seconds it ran up the hillside and vanished. We waited for a few minutes to see if the tiger would come back, but it didn’t. As we were slowly driving past that stretch, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was this very pale (whitish) tiger, sitting on the hillside, half concealed by undergrowth, and looking at us. It looked like a semi-adult. Photographing this unique tiger wasn’t easy, since I would get a clear shot at its face for 2-3 seconds only after waiting for many minutes. And it would move from dark shadow to sunlight – always behind bushes – and then hide for minutes. And then another tiger – normal, orange one – appeared, much closer to us. This one was aggressive (snarls and mock charges make for a thrilling encounter). They played hide and seek with us for a few more minutes, before vanishing. While all this was happening, a tiny part of my brain was telling me that I had encountered something special, but I was totally focused on trying to get a few shots, and it was later that the implications sunk in.
The tiger was extremely pale one, whitish (but not pure white) in colour, with a golden/brown tinge.
I had posted a photo on a couple of Facebook groups. The photo went viral, and created a big controversy.
Have sent RAW and JPEG photos to experts: 1. Bittu Sahgal, founding editor of Sanctuary Asia 2. Belinda Wright, renowned conservationist, tiger expert, Emmy Award winner and ex National Geographic wildlife filmmaker. Will wait for their validation and expert opinion regarding type of tiger.