Soumen Bajpayee, a West Bengal-based birder and amateur photographer, was lucky enough to spot Odisha’s ultra rare black melanistic tiger at the Nandankanan Sanctuary in February 2019. The native of Panskura came into limelight as his old photos went viral on the internet.

“Melanistic Tigers have genetic changes which make them look different from normal Tigers. Melanistic Tigers can be found both in the Wild and captivity, but, it’s rare,” Bajpayee had captioned the pictures of the rare animal on Instagram in February.

The melanistic tiger is on the verge of extinction and can be identified by the black stripes on its back. The strips are much more prominent than the ones on the Royal Bengal Tiger’s back. Only a handful of black tigers exist today and all found in Odisha.

Last year, Bajpayee was watching birds at the Nandankanan Sanctuary when he spotted a melanistic tiger.

“While I was watching various birds and monkeys in the trees, I suddenly saw something which looked like a tiger but not like the usual tiger. Back then I didn’t have any idea about melanistic tigers. It suddenly appeared from the woods, stayed for few seconds and walked back into the trees,” Bajpayee told NDTV.

The 27-year-old managed to click a few pictures of the ultra rare animal, using his digital camera, before it eloped into the woods.

“In 1993, the presence of melanistic tigers was reported for the first time in Simlipal Tiger Reserve in Odisha, and then again in 2007. After that, a few years later in Nandankan Sanctuary, one tigress gave birth to four cubs. Out of them, two were melanistic,” he said.