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After a gap of over four decades, famed white tigers are once again set to roar in Madhya Pradesh’s Rewa forests.

At a recent meeting of the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has given a go-ahead to the state government’s proposal to start a rescue centre and captive breeding of highly-endangered white tigers at Maand reserve near Govindgarh Fort.

White tigers are historically associated with the Central state. Way back in 1951, the Maharaja of Rewa had found the first white tiger cub, later named Mohan, and kept it in Govindgarh fort till his death in 1970.

Mohan’s off-springs were born there and now its lineage can be traced in various zoos in the country. Unfortunately Madhya Pradesh has no white tigers today.

“White tigers were first found in Rewa forest and because of that reason, locals are emotionally attached with these feline beauties,” said Chief Wildlife Warden H S Pabla.

“Moreover, since they are the centre of attraction at zoos, we are planning to have this breeding centre in an area spread over 100 hectares,” he said.

“After the approval from the Centre, we will now approach the Supreme Court for permission for establishing the breeding centre,” he added.

Meanwhile, Ramesh has suggested that the project could be in collaboration with the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) which is presently overseeing conservation and management of tigers in the wild.

NTCA member secretary Rajesh Gopal said that contrary to popular belief, white tigers are not albinos. “They are the expression of the recessive mutant gene. The breeding programme would ensure that they are back in their natural habitats,” he said.

“If two white tigers breed, 100 per cent of their cubs will be homozygous white tigers. After captive-breeding, they can be released in the wild as has been done successfully with the Bengal tigers in Sariska and Panna reserves,” Gopal added.

Delhi Zoo and Nandankanan Zoological Park in Orissa have been successful in captive breeding of these rare species.

White tiger breeding programme will be the part of the CZA scheme under which it has identified 58 different critically endangered wild animal species for increasing their numbers, such as the Asiatic lion, the Bengal tiger, the Snow leopard, the Clouded leopard, the Asiatic cheetah and the Golden cat.

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