The Vindhya region’s distinction of being the source of all white tigers appears to be a false claim.
In an invitation in November last year to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inaugurate a so-called first-of-its-kind white tiger safari, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan referred to the Vindhya region — including Rewa, Satna, Sidhi, Singrauli and Shahdol districts — as the “janak (generator or source)” of white tigers.
Another dubious claim was that the entire population of white tigers in the world could be traced to Mohan — a white tiger cub captured by a former Rewa ruler, and Radha — a tigress that mothered many white tiger cubs.
A perusal of documents and facts blows holes in these claims.
The Vindhya region in Madhya Pradesh has a special attachment with white tigers since a white tiger cub was first sighted by then Rewa Maharaja Martand Singh in the jungles of Sidhi in 1951. The nine-month-old cub was christened Mohan and kept in an enclosure in the Govindgarh fort.
However, more than 50 separate white tiger sightings and shootings were recorded between 1807 and 1958 in the Indian subcontinent, based on records corroborated by Rowland Ward’s book of 1928 — considered one of the most definitive accounts of wildlife trophies.
In fact, white tigers were also sighted or killed in Assam, Bihar, West Bengal, modern day Chhattisgarh and Mysore. Presence of these unique wild cats was also reported in China and Serbia. Records of these sightings are available online.
The claim that all white tigers alive today are from Mohan or Radha too seems to be factually incorrect. A white tiger born in Nandankanan zoo in Odisha was also bred and its offspring are found in zoos across the country.
“It is true that a white tiger cub was born in 1980 at Nandankanan and has been bred to produce more white tigers,” said wildlife expert HS Pabla, adding that there was no documentation or study to establish a link between the two white tigers mentioned in the letter to one in the Nandankanan zoo.
However, former minister and a member of the erstwhile ruling family of Rewa, Pushpraj Singh, said, “The white tigers in Odisha could also be traced to the same line as Mohan, the white tiger found in Sidhi”.
Nonetheless, the fact that Nandankanan zoo has been operating a white tiger safari since 1991 essentially quashes claims the one inaugurated in Satna district’s Mukundpur on April 3 is the only one in the world.
Forest minister Dr Gauri Shankar Shejwar declined to comment saying he hadn’t read the chief minister’s letter.