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Rare golden tiger surfaces at Kaziranga after 3 years

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Guwahati,Jan 25: The rarest of the Bengal tiger morphs – the golden morph – has surfaced again at Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve (KNPTR) after a gap of almost three years, bringing cheer to visitors and scientists alike.

“The adult male golden tiger was recently spotted at a distance by Gautam Ramnarayanan, who was visiting the park and was ably guided by a local tour guide Buddheshwar Konwar,” park authorities informed.

The picture of the rare golden tiger at KNPTR was also shared by Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on microblogging platform, X. “Majestic Beauty! A rare golden tiger was recently spotted in Kaziranga National Park,” the chief minister stated.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kaziranga National Park bears testimony to stringent protection measures and conservation efforts, playing a key role in protecting vital species, including the Indian one-horned rhinoceros and the Royal Bengal Tiger.

In a statement issued on Thursday, park authorities stated that diverse forms of pigmentation phenotypes are known in many species of birds, butterflies, wild ungulates, domesticated animals and also in humans.

“Phenotypic variations are driven by evolutionary forces such as selection and random genetic drift. Tigers have a unique striping pattern that is known to exist in several coat colour variants. The most famous being the pseudo-melanistic (or darker) morph that is found in the wild at Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha,” the statement said.

The white tiger pelage is a recessive trait and such individuals are now only confined to zoos.

“The golden phenotype (as demonstrated by the Kaziranga Tiger) is also a rare recessive trait and is currently being investigated through non-invasive scat sampling and DNA mapping by scientists Uma Ramakrishnan and her team at National Centre for Biological Sciences,” it said.

“As both pseudo-melanistic and golden phenotypes are expressed as recessive traits, their occurrence in natural population suggests an even large number of heterozygotes in the population, which can only be detected through genetic analyses (as the heterozygotes look the same as a normal tiger),” the KNPTR authorities said.

“However, if such heterozygotes are present in numbers less than expected from theoretical values, it might suggest a lack of genetic connectivity. In such a case, it might be critical to maintain habitat connectivity to sustain the natural variation and reduce the threat of extinction,” the authorities said.

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