Read on to find out the truth about white tigers!
Contrary to popular belief, white tigers are NOT a separate tiger species. The white coat is a result of a double recessive gene. In order for a white tiger to be born naturally in the wild, two tigers that each carry the recessive gene must mate. This is extremely rare in the wild and a white tiger has not been observed naturally in the wild since the 1950s. The only observations recorded of white tigers in the wild throughout history were in Bengal tigers. The white color coat is very disadvantageous to survival in the wild, thus their rarity illustrates the course of natural selection: when a recessive genetic mutation randomly occurs that is dangerous to the survival of the animal (white coat in tropical jungle environment), the animal does not survive to pass on that gene. So where did all these white tigers in captivity come from then?
White tigers only exist in captivity because of continual inbreeding, such as sister to brother or father to daughter. The American white tiger bloodline is the result of a cross breeding between a Siberian tiger and a Bengal tiger. So not only are all the white tigers in the US a result of inbreeding somewhere along the way, but they are also a hybrid. Because of their mixed ancestry, breeding white tigers serves no conservation purpose. Inbreeding causes severe birth defects and health problems, such as: club feet, cleft palates, spinal deformities and defective organs. The gene that causes the white coat also causes the optic nerve to be wired to the wrong side of the brain, so all white tigers are cross eyed, even if their eyes look normal. People breeding solely in an effort to produce a white tiger often end up with “throw away cubs” because of the high rate of defects. Inbreeding also results in early deaths and still births.
It is for these reasons that in 2011, the American Zoological Association officially banned breeding of white tigers in all accredited institutions. Their report said, “Breeding practices that increase the physical expression of a rare alleles (i.e., rage genetic traits) through intentional inbreeding, for example intentional breeding to achieve rare color-morphs such as white tigers, deer, and alligators, has been clearly linked with various abnormal, debilitating, and, at times, lethal, external and internal conditions and characteristics, which are outlined in this paper.”
At this point, the only legitimate reason for exhibiting a white tiger would be for educational purposes, so that the exhibitor can teach its visitors the truth about white tigers. White tigers still exist in some accredited zoos, but they are not bred anymore. White tigers also exist in accredited sanctuaries, who have taken in abandoned white tigers that were probably initially bred for profit and then discarded once they grew up or to make room for new white cubs.
When breeders or organizations say they are saving white tigers by breeding them, that is a lie. White tigers are not a species that need to be saved. White tigers should only exist in the wild by rare, natural occurrence. Anyone or any organization that breeds white tigers for display are doing so simply to make a profit because people are willing to pay to see white tigers. YOU can help by spreading the truth about white tigers and by saying NO to any organization that breeds or exploits white tigers. Please take a moment to share this with your friends so that we can help educate the public about white tigers!
Please visit Big Cat Rescue’s site for more detailed information!