Assam: ‘Kazi 106F’, these days is viral, more so in tweets then for its majestic roar in the COVID-19 lockdown times. Described as the country’s only Golden Tiger, Kazi 106F emerged as the social media sensation right from the moment its picture tweeted by IFS officer Parveen Kaswan went viral. “Do you know in #India we have a Golden #Tiger also. The only documentation of such big cat in 21st century on the planet,” Kaswan tweeted while posting the viral picture.
Pictures of this only ‘Tabby tiger’ or ‘Strawberry tiger’, were clicked by wildlife photographer Mayuresh Hendre in the world heritage Kaziranga National Park of Assam. Back amid the tall elephant grass of the famed national park, the Golden Tiger is popularly known as ‘Kazi 106 F’ and, according to Rabindra Sharma, Research Officer, the National Park has got four of them, all pictorially documented. A more concerned Sharma said that “the finding of this unique individual is not a cause for celebration, but an indication for us to start pondering about better connectivity among the fragmented populations of tigers to prevent one of the serious problems of population decline, that is inbreeding.”
Kazi 106 F, the tigress with lighter yellowish skin with lighter black stripes and more whitish expressions in the abdominal and in the facial region was photo-captured in the year 2014 for the first time in Kaziranga during all India tiger monitoring exercise. She was also camera trapped in the year 2015. In the year 2016 she was camera-trapped with one more tiger. She was again camera-trapped in the recent camera trapping of 2017. By this time she had crossed minimum age of 4-5 years.
Speaking to New18, Sharma said that Tigers found in Kaziranga habitat are different from the rest of the world as in territorial behavioural pattern and this makes a detailed study on them even more interesting and challenging. He explained that “The skin of tigers is orange-yellow with black stripes and whitish abdominal region.
The yellowish background is controlled by a set of ‘agouti genes’ and their alleles and the black colour stripes are controlled by ‘tabby genes’ and their alleles. Suppression of any of these genes may lead to colour variation in tiger.
Agouti genes interacts with the pigment cells to produce yellow to red or brown to black expression. This interaction is responsible for making distinct light and dark bands in the hairs of animals such as the agouti here same is happening in our tigress - Kazi 106 F.”
Colour aberrations are not very common occurrences and are recorded only in few incidents in the wild. We have seen white tigers in the zoos. Few years back, during 2008 camera trapping, the presence of black tigers was revealed in the jungles of Similipal Tiger Reserve.
Various forms of colorations have been recorded in tigers in the zoos or in few wild cases. It may be stripe-less white, with reduced stripes, lighter yellowish, darker whitish, normal light yellowish, normal, normal deep yellowish, rufous, brownish with dark stripes, brownish without dark stripes, blue-melanistic, or black melanistic.
Rabindra Sharma, reasoned that the biological cause of colour aberration may be due to excessive inbreeding caused by habitat destruction and loss of connectivity. The recessive genes are showing up due to inbreeding within fragmented population. “I think the inbreeding is by choice and not driven by compulsion as there are 15 female and 13 male in the group of Kazi 106F. There is much to learn for the territorial pattern of the tigers of Kaziranga,” the researcher added.
In a recently conducted tiger census by photo trapping method, Kaziranga National Park recorded 121 Tigers. The park holds the proud distinction of being home to country highest density of tigers. The state of Assam has four tiger reserves to its credit, the Kaziranga National Park, The Manas National Park, Orang Natioanl Park and Nameri National park. The state had just 70 tigers in 2006, and has thus recorded over 250% growth.
The research team of Kaziranga is of the opinion that the golden tiger is an adult now and must have given birth. It shall be interesting to know whether the cub carry the “Same golden hue”.