April 3, 2018
White tigers are not albino, a different subspecies of tiger such as a snow, arctic, or Royal Bengal white tiger. There are currently no white tigers in the wild. Color morphs are typically associated with rarity and separate endangered species, which is not the case for white tigers. They possess a double recessive gene that expresses a white coat, and roughly 1/10,000 tigers have this rare allele. With only 3,820 tigers currently in the wild, it is extremely unlikely one will be born. If so, white color is a disadvantage since they do not have their camouflage, and would not survive.
In the 1950’s a Bengal white tiger cub was found in India and taken out of the wild to breed in zoos within the United States. They found that only if they bred this tiger back to his daughter, more white tigers would be born.
In order to isolate this gene, exploiters have to inbreed white tigers, meaning brothers and sisters, fathers and daughters, as well as mothers and sons are bred to create white coats. By breeding together relatives, there is a greater chance that tigers will be born white and maximize profits. People pay top dollar to view white tigers and use them for entertainment, so breeders do not care about the massive amounts of health issues caused by inbreeding. Inbreeding causes extreme health issues in any breed of animal, and white tigers are no exception.
Severe inbreeding causes dangerous deleterious health issues in tigers such as abnormal external and internal conditions and characteristics. These health issues often compromise the welfare and health of the animal and result in death. It is estimated that only 1/30 white tigers that are born are aesthetically pleasing enough to survive. 29/30 cubs are born with such severe health defects that they are euthanized since they cannot be sold for profit. 80% of tigers born due to inbreeding die due to debilitating health defects.
The white tiger gene is associated with the optic nerve wiring to the opposite side of the brain, causing them to be cross eyed and have terrible vision. This disability creates a more desired animal since they become more dependent on humans to see. They suffer from clubfeet, spinal deformities, defective organs, and cleft palates. The majority of white tigers also have mental impairments, making them easier to manipulate and exploit.
White tiger mothers do not always give birth to white cubs, they can also be born orange. Only ¼ of tiger cubs are actually born white. They are considered “throw away tigers” in the trade and are killed because they are not white. The orange babies still suffer all of the health defects but are not worth any money due to the color of their coat.
The reason why white tigers are continued to be carelessly bred is that the general public will pay money to view white tigers, hold their babies, and keep them as pets. They serve no conservation value and only exist because humans think they are beautiful and are exploited for economic gain.
By choosing to not patronize facilities that breed white tigers, allow cub petting, use them for entertainment, or keep them for personal pets is the best way to protect them.
Any credible facility will not endorse the breeding of white tigers, and work to educate the world on why they exist. The American Zoological Association (AZA) banned the breeding of white tigers in 2008, and explain that intentional inbreeding causes “…abnormal, debilitating, and at times, lethal, external and internal conditions and characteristics”, outlined it the paper Welfare and Conservation Implications of Intentional Breeding for the Expression of Rare Recessive Alleles.
Please “Help Us, Help Them!” by not patronizing any entertainment or breeding facility, and speak up against big cat abuse!
Click here to support H.R. 1818 The Big Cat Public Safety Act, to create a federal law against exploiting big cats in captivity.
Blog Written By Education Intern Hannah Wherry