BHUBANESWAR: Amidst a mild drizzle on Tuesday morning, a small crowd gathered in front of the enclosure on 30 (A) of Nandankanan Zoo curious to find out what the animal park officials were up to.
Without any fuss, the animal keeper opened a caged passage that connected the enclosure to the off-exhibit fenced zone located just behind.
A large white tigress walked into the enclosure, followed by two cubs, both normal coloured. Soon two more ambled in - one had an exaggerated dark brown stripes on its white coat and the other had black stripes invading its golden hued fur.
It took a while before someone pointed out to the visitors that they were watching the first melanistic tigers in a zoo.
The Nandankanan officials say, no other zoo of the world has melanistic tigers which belong to a rare genetic pool.
The two melanistic cubs - Subhranshu and Krishna - are part of a litter of four given birth by white tigress Sneha which mated with Manish, a normal coloured Royal Bengal Tiger (RBT). The cubs turned one on Tuesday and were brought to the public exhibit arena.
Director of Nandankanan Zoo Dr Sudarshan Panda said, “Melanistic tigers were first reported in Similipal Tiger Reserve after camera traps captured their pictures. No one has seen them physically which means people will get to see these rare ones in Nandankanan.”
The Nandankanan Zoo authorities had an elaborate plan to celebrate the first birthday of the cubs but it was cancelled following former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam’s demise last night.
It came as a surprise for Zoo authorities when Sneha gave birth to the four cubs last year and two of them had different appearance.
In 1980, Nandankanan Zoo grabbed headlines after white tigers were born to normal coloured parents. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) SS Srivastava was also present at the zoo to oversee the smooth transition of the cubs from off-exhibit area to public arena.