In the early 1980s, a strange and rare creature welcomed hordes of visitors to the zoo in Calcutta (now Kolkata). Part tiger, part lion this animal, called the Litigon, soon faded into oblivion, evidence of its existence almost gone without a trace.
That’s because the popular perception, something that is even taught in schools, colleges and institutes of higher learning, is that all hybrid animals are undesirable and sterile, like the mule.
However, hybridisation is far more common in plants as well as animals than is believed and can even lead to the birth of new and interesting species. Take, for example, the Coywolf in northern America – part dog, part coyote and part wolf.
So what explains the disdain and prejudice for hybridisation, so much so that India banned such experiments in 1985? According to Indian naturalist Billy Arjan Singh, this is an extension of the race prejudices that exist among humans.
This episode of The Intersection traces the story of the forgotten Litigon in Kolkata to explain the politics around hybrids in the animal kingdom, a trend that, with growing acceptance, could unseat the very concepts of categorisation of species that the scientific world follows.
This is the latest episode of The Intersection, a fortnightly podcast on Audiomatic. For more such podcasts, visit audiomatic.in.
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