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WHITE TIGER

No, this blog is not on Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana of Nepal although there is a famous story of the white tiger bringing the demise of Jung Bahadur during his last shoot in 1877 A.D. This story is about white tigers. White tigers have about them mysticism linked to their rarity. There is some other-worldliness about them that captivates peoples' imagination.They appear frequently in myths and legends. There are also numerous books titled The White Tiger, the recent one being Arvind Adiga's Booker Prize winning novel. An old classic on Nepalese history written by Diamond Shumsher Rana, Seto Bag, was later translated by Greta Rana into English titled Wake of the White Tiger. But in this story I am writing about the white tigers carrying the recessive genes subduing the rich golden pelt and making it alabaster white. They are not albinos. White tigers grow bigger than normal ones.



I begin with a hunt, a Shikar, my father organized for Ralph S. Scott, big game hunter and one of the richest men in America. Back in 1966 when tiger shooting was still allowed in Nepal under license, my father had a Shikar company aptly name "Nepal Shikar Pvt. Ltd.", a special favour King Mahendra granted his retired Army Chief. In retirement he took to organizing tiger hunts for rich hunters from Europe and America both as a business and as a pastime.

Prince Basundhara of Nepal, Ralph Scott, General Kiran, Shanti Rana, Jagdish Shumsher Rana
I was fortunate to be part of this particular hunt as it fell during my winter vacation from school. My excitement knew no bounds as we packed for the shoot in Nawalpur, a veritable paradise for big game hunting at the time. With me were my childhood friends Mohun Lal and Narendra Khadka which made the trip even more fun to me. Camping along the banks of the Narayani the shikar party grouped. There was catering from Boris Lissanevitch, the founder of the hospitality industry of Nepal. Luxurious tents were pitched; a generator was at hand to provide electricity, a Fridge burning kerosene made it possible to serve ice cubes with drinks every evening. In 1966 in a Nepal slowly waking up from its deep, self-induced slumber the camp was an epitome of five-star hospitality.

Mohun, Narendra, Rakshya, Subodh, Sudarshan
Ralph S. Scott was in his sixties already, an accomplished businessman who had done well in life and was addicted to big game hunting in Africa and India. This was his first shoot in Nepal although he had bagged his tigers in India. He showed us his photo albums from his estate at Bal Harbor, Florida. He raised two white tigers as pets that he had purchased from India. The dichotomy of keeping tigers as pets and shooting them for pleasure at the same time was lost on us then; those were the days before celebrities took saving the panda or the dolphin or the whale as cause célèbre. Mad hunters mellow with age and become conservationists. An example was my father General Kiran Shumsher who bagged 24 tigers in his youth and later in life became a founding member of Nature Conservation Society of Nepal. Hunters conserve because without the animals there is no hunting. Ralph S. Scott too embraced conservation big time as this story demonstrates.


I am with Sudarshan Karki atop elephant in the 1966 shikar
The first white tiger documented to be living in the jungles was caught in the jungles of Bandhavgarh, Madhya Pradesh, India in 1951 by the Maharajah of Rewa, Martand Singh. He named the nine month old cub Mohun or "enchanter", one of the many names of the Hindu God Krishna in the hope Mohun would also go after the gopinis, his female escorts. He was successful in breeding white tigers by mating the white male with regular females. White tigers became much sought after by circuses and zoos.Ralph S. Scott was instrumental in taking the white tigers to America from India. He had acquired one of the male offspring of Mohun named Sampson from the Maharajah of Rewa in 1959 and he was raising this tiger at home. A daughter of Mohun named Mohini, the enchantress, was later gifted by the Government of India to the USA in 1960 and Scott made the arrangements for the official presentation to President Dwight D. Eisenhower at the White House. Mohini went to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. As the zoo could not acquire a male white tiger, Scott gifted his own Sampson to the National Zoo to mate with Mohini.


Mohini the white tigress, picture courtesy of
Mr. Paul McCarthy
Scott acquired his second white tiger from the Maharajah of Rewa, this time a half-sister of Mohini named Princess in 1968 for an astronomical sum of US$ 35,000.00. Scott donated her to the Zoological Society of Florida and the society kept her at the Crandon Park Zoo. It is said that the actor Jimmy Stewart disclosed at one of the episodes of the Johnny Carson Show that he was acquiring a white tiger from the Maharajah of Rewa. Watching the show was Ralph Scott who felt cheated out of his tiger. A bidding war erupted and Scott won by offering a princely ransom of US$ 45,000.00 for the male called Raja. He wanted to make sure this male would mate with the female Princess at the Florida zoo. However, it was not to be. Princess died of an unknown cause just a few weeks after Raja arrived from India. Heartbroken Scott got an Indian taxidermist to stuff Princess full body length and gifted it to the Museum of Science in Miami in 1972.


Back to the hunt in Nepal - Scott never bagged his tiger. He did shoot one, a great big male tiger, as I witnessed it from the machan platform he was on, but the tiger leaped over the vith, wall of white cloth surrounding the zone of the tiger, before he could fire another shot and disappeared. In hindsight I can say that this was a fitting finale to the hunt where I learnt so much about white tigers and now I have come to learn of the passion Ralph S. Scott had for tiger conservation and breeding. 


Comments

  1. Fascinating account of white tigers. Never seen one, probably never will.

    I do appreciate your reference to Arvind Adiga's prize winning novel "White Tiger". Written in a unique style - as a letter by an Indian to the Chinese Premier - in very down-to-earth language, I re-read this book whenever I need to be reminded of some of the deep flaws in our society. The protagonist terms himself "white tiger". Not really sure how applicable that is. But he surely is a hunter who went out and got what he wanted.

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  2. Dear Horatio, thanks for your comments. Why do you think Adiga gave the title of "The White Tiger" to his book? Did you glean any reason out of two readings? Let me know please.

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  3. I must say I haven't actually done two complete readings of Adiga's book. I pick it up whenever I fancy and read sections of it, haphazardly. This afternoon, I was looking to answer your probing question when I picked it up yet again. Found the answer on page 35:

    When the school inspector visits Balram's village school, he is pointed out by his teacher as the smartest student in the class. The inspector, parroting the 'party line', declares, "Any boy in any village can grow up to become the prime minister of India", then asks Balram what is the rarest animal in any jungle. Our hero replies, "The white tiger". The inspector beams, "That's what you are, in this jungle". "So that's how I became the White Tiger," says Balram.

    This was supposed to be the turning point of Balram's young life, as the inspector left with the promise of a scholarship for Balram to a "real school" in a city. Things didn't work out that way. No chance for him to become PM of India. He eventually lands up as a driver to the landed gentry. The whole book is about how the "White Tiger" conspires at escaping his cage.

    I take back my earlier remark. The book is most aptly titled. Saying anything more here would take away from its reading pleasure.

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  4. Subodh,it`s always a treat to read your blogs.
    It`s interesting that you point out that white tigers are not albinos but have a rare chromosomal defect. I thought they were albinos; thanks for pointing that out.
    I remember seeing a such a tiger in the zoo in Bhubaneswar,India.

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  5. Dear Sir: Ralph S. Scott only had one white tiger named Princess, who died at the old Crandon Park Zoo in Miami in 1970. The male white tiger, Rajah, never arrived from India. Ralph S. Scott bought a male white tiger in 1966, I think it was, or maybe 1977, but that one died at Kanpur railway station in India. May I send you an e-mail? Sincerely Paul McCarthy

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  6. Dear Mr. McCarthy,

    Thank you for posting your insight on Ralph Scott and his white tigers.

    You are welcome to contact me at ranasubodh55@yahoo.com.sg

    Best wishes, Subodh

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  7. Dear Mr. McCarthy, thank you for providing me with news clips regarding Ralph S. Scott and his involvement with white tigers. I have posted them on my blog. best regards, Subodh

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  8. Dear Subodh: Thank you for posting those. I just came back to add something if I may. The first white tiger in the Western Hemisphere, Mohini Rewa, was actually purchased by John W. Kluge from the Maharaja of Rewa, for $10,000 in 1960, as a gift for the children of America. (I think this was Ralph S. Scott's idea.) John W. Kluge is also known for the John W. Kluge Center of the Library Of Congress, and for the John W. Kluge Prize. He was at one time the richest man on earth. He was born in 1920 in Germany and died just a few years ago. Mohini's first mate at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington D.C. was a normal orange tiger named Mighty Mo. He was captured in central India by Ralph S. Scott, and donated to the zoo in 1959, but the two did not hit it off, so Ralph S. Scott acquired Sampson, the orange offspring of Mohan the white tiger, from a zoo in India, as a mate for Mohini. Sampson was her uncle, and half brother. (Something went wrong here. This was the message I started typing earlier, but it disappeared and I started over. You can decide if either one is worth posting.) I had a photograph of Princess, in her display case at the Metro-Miami Zoo, which was taken recently by Mr. Michael Dulaney of the Cincinnati Zoo. As I said her stripes have faded. Today the Crandon Park Zoo is a "ghost zoo", just a collection of empty cages. Thanks again. Sincerely Paul

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  9. Thanks for the information on John W. Kluge. US$ 10,000.00 in 1960 sure looks like a lot of money! But the American children got to see a white tiger thanks to him!

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  10. I did some checking (looking through my white tiger files) and I found that the tiger named Mighty Mo was captured in the forests of the Maharaja of Panna in Central India, by Ralph S. Scott, and donated to the National Zoo in Washington DC on June 19, 1959. It appears as though his marriage, Mighty Mo's I mean, to Mohini Rewa was not consumated, which is why Ralph S. Scott then acquired Sampson as a mate for her. Mighty Mo and another tiger named Foa were given to the Pittsburgh Zoo in August of 1966. Sampson and Mohini had two litters of cubs. The first was in 1964 and consisted of an orange male named Ramana, a white male named Rajkumar (the very first white tiger to be born in the Western Hemisphere, and the first to be born in a zoo), and a white female named Ramani. These cubs were born one year to the day after Sampson arrived at the National Zoo. Rajkumar and Ramani died of distemper. Sampson and Mohini had two orange female cubs in 1966, of which only one survived, and was named Kesari. I believe that Sampson died of kidney failure around 1966. Kidney problems are common in big cats. As far as anyone knew Ramana was now the only male tiger in the Western Hemisphere who carried white genes. Since the white gene is recessive a white tiger must inherit it from both parents, so Ramana was then paired with Mohini. They also produced two litters of cubs, including one in 1969, which included a white female named Rewati, who appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 1970. There was also an orange cub which did not survive in 1969, and in fact when Mohini gave birth that year it was a surprise as nobody suspected that she was pregnant. In 1970 Mohini gave birth to five cubs, of which three were white and two orange. Only one white male named Moni survived. I think one was still born and Mohini inadvertantly crushed the rest. Moni died a year later of a neurological disorder attributed to severe inbreeding. Next Mohini was bred in 1973 to a North Indo-Chinese tiger named Poona, who was on loan from the Chicago Brookfield Zoo, but she did not concieve. However her daughter Kesari had six cubs by Poona, of which only one survived. Kesari handed this one cub over to her keepers, and kept the rest, which did not survive. Sincerely Paul

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  11. PS: I neglected to mention that after Moni died the director of the National Zoo, T.H. Reed, was interested in acquiring another tiger as a mate for Mohini, named Ram, from a small zoo in southern India. Ram was a descendant of the Maharaja of Rewa's original, wild caught, white tiger named Mohan. Ram had a 50% chance of carrying the white gene. Ram was non-inbred. Apparently they weren't able to get Ram for the National Zoo, which is why Poona was brought in, on breeding loan in 1973. Mohini also had an orange brother living in the Paris Zoo. The Maharaja of Rewa gave this tiger to the President of India, who in turn made him a state gift to France. The one surviving cub of Poona and Kesari was a female, named Marvina, who was handreared by zookeeper Art Cooper, at his home in Baltimore. Rewati and Moni were both raised by T.H. Reed's wife Elizabeth, at their home in Maryland. In 1974 the National Zoo was renovating, and Ramana, Kesari, and Marvina were sent to the Cincinnati Zoo to be boarded. Mohini and Rewati went to the Brookfield Zoo. Ramana and Kesari produced a litter of three white and one orange cub in Cincinnati in 1974. These were a white male, named Ranjit, an orange male, named Peela, and two white females, named Priya and Bharat. They were all named by the Indian Ambassador. Ramana died before the cubs were born. Ranjit, Bharat, Priya, and Peela were all returned to the National Zoo in 1976. In that year Kesari was bred to a white tiger named Tony, on loan from Mr. John F. Cuneo Jr., the owner of the Hawthorn Circus Corp., and she produced a litter of four white and one orange cub. The Cincinnato Zoo retained a pair of white tigers from this litter, named Bhim and Sumita, and continued breeding, selling white tiger cubs for $60,000 each. Mohini died in 1979. She was over 20 years of age. Sincerely Paul

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  12. Dear Subodh: I did a little more checking when I went home yesterday, and the zoo in India from which Ralph S. Scott was able to acquire Sampson, was the Ahmedabad Zoo. They had a number of orange tigers from the Maharaja of Rewa, but no white ones. The information I had concerning Ram came from the obituary for Moni, the white tiger cub of Mohini Rewa by Ramana. Ram carried 25% of the genes of Mohan, the patriarch of the captive-bred white tigers of Rewa, so he was Mohan's grandson, but on the other side of his parentage he was the offspring of a wild caught tiger. Zoos used to place a premium on wild caught animals because they were assumed not to be inbred. Many zoo animals were ruined by inbreeding before zoos started co-operating in captive breeding programs. After Mohini Rewa arrived in New York City in 1960 Ralph S. Scott appeared on a children's television show, called Wonderama, in connection with the white tiger. Sincerely Paul

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  13. Dear Subodh: Regarding the message from the Metro-Miami Zoo stating that Ralph S. Scott was responsible for bringing their pair of Asian elephants, Dalip and Seetna, and pair of Indian rhinos, Mohan and Shanti, to the Crandon Park Zoo-I had previously wondered whether he was responsible for getting the Indian rhinos for the zoo, which I saw in 1970. I wondered whether the Indian rhinos were not substituted by India for Raja, the male white tiger, who never arrived, in 1970. One of the newspaper articles about Princess the white tigress stated that India wanted her to be the last white tiger to leave India. In another of the articles Ralph S. Scott commented on the death of Champak, the male white tiger, at Bristol Zoo in England. You see the government of India made a deal with the Maharaja of Rewa, under the terms of which the New Delhi Zoo recieved a pair of white tigers, both littermates of Mohini Rewa's, named Raja and Rani (this was not the same Raja which Ralph S. Scott wanted for the Crandon Park Zoo, and was expecting in 1970)and in return the Maharaja of Rewa would recieve a share of their offspring and the government of India agreed also to subsidize his white tiger breeding program, and to allow him to sell two more pairs of white tigers abroad, to offset his costs. Raja and Rani were New Delhi Zoo's breeding pair of white tigers, and it was one of their offspring, a male white tiger, who was returned to the Maharaja of Rewa, and sold by him to Ralph S. Scott. This is the one which died at Kanpur railway station in 1967. He had been earmarked for Crandon Park. Incredibly the Bristol Zoo got three white tigers out of India. They bought the pair, Champak and Chameli from the Maharaja of Rewa in 1963 for $10,000 each, and then after the male died in 1970 they were able to obtain another male, named Roop, from New Delhi Zoo, in exchange for a female white tiger offspring of Champak and Chameli. Roop had been named by U Nu of Burma at one of the public christening ceremonies for white tigers at which Indira Gandhi used to officiate. President Tito of Yugoslavia also saw the white tigers at New Delhi Zoo, and asked to have some for Belgrade Zoo, but was refused. I think he was also a big game hunter, like Ralph. Sincerely Paul

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  14. Just to conclude- the first and only pair of white tigers which the Maharaja of Rewa was allowed to sell abroad was Champak and Chameli, to Bristol Zoo. I wonder whether the Indian government counted the one which died at Kanpur railway station as a sale abroad, because after that Princess was the only white tiger to be exported from India for many years. I have also wondered whether Ralph S. Scott did not make the same sort of deal with the Maharaja, Martand Singh, as the government of India had done in order to acquire Raja and Rani for New Delhi Zoo. Maybe he pursuaded the Maharaja to sell Raja to him, instead of to Jimmy Stewart's wife for the Los Angeles Zoo, by saying that he would share the offspring of Raja and Princess with him, and since these white tiger cubs would be born outside of India, he could sell them to whom ever he pleased, and get around India's export ban. The sale of white tigers was a source of US currency to the Maharaja, who was forbidden to exchange rupees for dollars. The Maharaja also sold two male white tigers to Calcutta Zoo, and later donated one to Bombay Zoo, if I'm not mistaken. One way around India's export ban would have been to obtain orange tigers which carried the recessive white gene, such as Sampson. In 1976 a pair of orange circus tigers named Raja and Sheba, belonging to Hungarian expatriot Baron Julius Von Uhl, produced two white cubs at the Baltimore County Fair. Raja and Sheba produced another three white tiger cubs at Kingdom's 3 safari park, in Stockbridge, Georgia, in the Summer of 1977. In 1980 another pair of orange tigers produced three white cubs in the Nandan Kanan Bio Park, in Orissa, India. The parents were determined to be unrelated to the white tigers of Rewa. Sincerely Paul

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  15. Dear Subodh: I was just reading the earlier message from Govind, who saw the white tiger in the zoo in Bhubaneswar, India. That zoo is the Nandan Kanan Bio Park, where the Orissa strain of white tigers originated. When the three white tiger cubs were born there in 1980 the park already had a female white tiger from New Delhi Zoo named Diana. They were able to blend the two bloodlines to produce a healthier strain of white tigers. The Cincinnati Zoo, in the United States, which had set a world record for white tiger births with 70, later acquired two female white tigers from Bhubaneswar, but they never bred them. Sincerely Paul

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  16. Spent the better part of an hour reading your write up and the comments on it, perhaps for the same reason that I'm an avid fan of National Geographic and the Discovery and History Channels. I loved it. Thanks. Looking forward to your next. Nice photo of the family too.

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  17. Dear Kiran,

    thanks for your comments and encouragement! I am doing some creative writing now, many years since our Fr. Watrin days! Let us meet and catch up on our common interests.

    Cheers, Subodh

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  18. These tigers are surely one of their kind and very rarely found and and it is almost impossible to find them in their natural habitat due to excessive demand of their body parts in the black market and even their are some measures been taken to save them but still there is so much to do for saving them from being extinct from the face of world.
    Tiger Hunt

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  19. Subodh, I realized I had missed this wonderful blog on white tigers. Your old pictures are always historical and great to see. But your stories with so many details are even more fun. This time for me it was great to learn about the bidding war between Ralph Scott and Jimmy Stewart that the late night Johnny Carson show triggered. Please keep on enchanting us.

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  20. Great stuff. Always interesting to find such stuff on Nepali history. Being a great fan of Nepali history i have been looking around for some material on Nepali history online.. and this is by far one of the the most informative.. you should keep going..
    :)

    bikalpa

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  21. Dear White Tiger Enthusiasts,
    A white tiger urinated on me a child-
    I was hoping that one of you could help me figure something out. When I was about 5 or 6, which would have been 1972-74 I was living in Miami, Fla.
    My mother made a big to-do about the fact that a male white tiger was coming to mate with another tiger-white I assume.
    I am also assuming that it was the Crandon zoo. However, I cannot find any record of a male white tiger, in Miami at the time. My Mother passed on when I was younger, so I can not ask her, but I, no surprise, recall the event very clearly. Possibly it was at another Florida Zoo? The tiger was in a cage with bars, separated from people by a railing.

    Does anyone recall anything about this breeding visit to Miami?
    I would appreciate any input or random recollection.
    Thank you!
    Best,
    Shari

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