A rare black tiger on the verge of extinction has been pictured in the wild.
Amateur photographer Soumen Bajpayee, 27, took images of the melanistic tiger in eastern Odisha, India.
The species is only found in the jungles of the Indian state and there are only six known to exist in the wild.
The tigers, which are smaller than their regular counterparts, have thick black stripes that cover their orange fur.
Bajpayee was on a visit to Simlipal Reserve and Nandankanan Sanctuary when he spotted the tiger.
He said: "I was surprised and felt fortunate to have seen the tiger.
"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.
"Then suddenly it appeared from the woods, stayed for a few seconds and walked back behind the trees."
Camera traps found that only six or seven melanistic tigers were in Simlipal Reserve and Nandankanan Sanctuary, in Odisha.
Bajpayee, who is studying for a Masters in Technology from Kolkata in West Bengal, hopes the tigers will mate with other tiger species so there’s a chance to get more melanistic cubs.
He added: "Initially I didn't even recognise what happened as I saw a completely different tiger.
"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, 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.
"I was extremely grateful to see it myself even though it was for few seconds."
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