Be skeptical of the white tiger

They are mutants.

White tiger controversy: Zoos shouldn’t raise these inbred, ecologically irrelevant animals. – Slate Magazine.

A white tiger is a striking creature. Tigers are always impressive animals, but when you take away the orange, the result is a big cat that looks like a phantom out of a dream. They seem almost magical, and yet I firmly believe that the world would be a better place if there was not a single white tiger in it.

There are only about 4,000 tigers, at most, remaining in the wild. Yet there are probably tens of thousands of captive tigers around the world (there is no official census). This would appear to make a compelling case for the existence of zoos and private collections. If tigers can survive and breed well in captivity, then perhaps more can be introduced to the wild when safe habitat becomes available. Yet that system isn’t working the way we think it does. A huge number of the captive tigers are hybrids of various subspecies and are so inbred that they will never be suitable for reintroduction to the wild. No tigers are more emblematic of this problem than white tigers.

The author’s view is that this creature is strictly for human entertainment, the result of a mutant gene that has been artificially selected through inbreeding to produce this unique animal that is not suited for the wild. They can not be re-introduced – captive bred animals can’t survive in the wild. The blame falls on Siegfried and Roy, Las Vegas entertainers, who used the tigers in their act. They are novelties, a product of genetic engineering where two copies of an extremely rare recessive gene found in Bengal tigers produce this odd coat color. The author reports, as with inbred animals of other types, they often have health problems or other defects.

Is this a good use of money? Is it ethical? This story was a new one on me. I wanted to share. Much of what is in this article is also in the wikipedia entry for white tigers.

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  3 comments for “Be skeptical of the white tiger

  1. D. Walker
    December 13, 2012 at 8:37 PM

    Our white tigers here in this city have always seemed very healthy. But I doubt seriously that very many wild animals raised in captivity would do well if placed back into a wild setting, predators in particular. Much of the behavior they’d need to survive is learned : not instinctual. And I also seriously doubt that wild places will recover suitably for re-introduction for animals such as gorillas and other primates. There are just too many people to hold out much hope for species like tigers and gorillas to recover in the wild. Zoos might be the only viable option in many cases. But maybe I’m wrong. I like to hope that I am.

    • daran
      December 13, 2012 at 9:44 PM

      Tigers are cats and therefore have everything they need to survive in the wild, speed, stealth and strength. The killer instinct never leaves a cat.
      A lion was shot by police near Bendigo, Australia in 1985 whilst eating a sheep on the side of the road.
      They never found out where it escaped or released from

      • LovleAnjel
        December 14, 2012 at 1:20 PM

        The instinct is there, but they need to learn how to focus it properly. Otherwise, cheetah cubs would not kill themselves chasing down a warthog with piglets or a zebra herd. They need to watch their mother hunt to learn what’s proper prey and what isn’t.

        Domestic cats especially are not suited to survive if they’ve been dumped in the woods. It’s a lucky few that make it past the first couple of years.

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