A lucky amateur photographer has captured an extremely rare "black" tiger—only a handful of which are thought to exist.
Soumen Bajpayee took the pictures of the melanistic tiger, also known as black tigers because of their thick black stripes that hide their orange fur, in eastern Odisha, India.
The species, which is on the verge of extinction, is only found in the jungles of the Indian state, and there are only six known to exist in the wild.
The black tigers are comparatively smaller than their regular counterparts and have hardly been seen in the past.
Soumen, a 27-year-old student of Masters in Technology from the city of Kolkata in West Bengal, was on a visit to the Nandankan Zoological Park when he spotted the tiger while watching birds and monkeys.
"I was surprised and felt fortunate to have seen the tiger," Soumen said.
"I was watching various birds and monkeys in the trees when I suddenly saw something which looked like a tiger but not like a usual tiger. Back then I didn't have any idea about Melanistic Tigers."
Soumen said the rare tiger suddenly "appeared from the woods" and stayed for a few seconds before walking back behind the trees.
Soumen, who had just started photography back then, was so startled by the unique species that he said he didn't realize what he saw.
"Initially, I didn't even recognize what happened as I saw a completely different tiger," Soumen said. "I had seen many tigers before both in the wild and in captivity but this was completely a different one."
"Nandankan is the first sanctuary to show melanistic tiger," he added, "but there is no guarantee you can see it because in Nadankanan they roam in natural environment and the number is just one or two."
Soumen said he was "extremely grateful to see" the rare black tiger even though it was only for a few seconds.
The camera traps in the Simlipal Reserve and Nandankanan Sanctuary have found that possibly only six or seven melanistic tigers could be in the state of Odisha. This makes Soumen incredibly lucky to spot them.