The White Tiger Fraud


(Edit: Related post – Meet the real captive-bred white tiger)

With the interest that Snowball is attracting, probably due to his having eyes of different colours, I thought it’s a good time to talk further about the cruelty trap that humans have subjected not only the small domestic/homeless/pedigree cat to in pursuit of the romantic ideal of the white-cat-with-blue-eyes.

snowball_20061125_029x.jpg

The information about Snowball’s eye colours is here.

The White Tiger Fraud I’m talking about concerns tiger conservation. As we all know, tigers are critically endangered. But not the White Tiger, which is a fraud. EH? Yup, you read that right. Get a cuppa, kick back, and take your time to read through what I’m going to say, and then make your decision about supporting the White Tiger Fraud.

Ahem.

First of all, I would like to state that I am a very keen supporter of conservation and DO appreciate the reasoning behind the necessity of captivity and breeding programs, in the name of ‘education’ , ‘bringing wildlife to the masses’, and ’species preservation aka conservation’. But I cannot bring myself to visit zoos anymore and I look at conservation projects with deep scrutiny now.

Sadly, not every conservation project is altruistic. How so? There are many examples but we’re talking about the romantisms of the White Tiger so let me lay it out with that in mind: One of the hippest and most popular gimmick is to tout ‘Save the Endangered WHITE Tiger’, in zoos all over the world, even the Singapore Zoological Gardens. Why gimmick?

Isn’t the White Tiger an endangered species in need of saving, conservation?

Consider, the tiger genus has 8 sub-species spread over Asia, 3 of which are extinct. But whether still struggling for survival or gone the way of the dodo, the white tiger is NOT one of these sub-species.

Instead the white tiger is a mutant, it was first noted in the bengal tiger, and in the wild only 1 in 10,000 tigers are white.

There are, in total, 6,000 tigers, estimated, surviving in the wild now. Of these, only 2-3000 are bengal tigers.

You do the math: where did the captive white tiger population, numbering hundreds, in zoos, circus and private collections around the world come from??

Selective breeding is a double-edged sword
Captive tiger, or anything, breeding, like cat/dog pedigree breeding, entails selective breeding – carefully choosing specimens with the desired traits and then mating them.

The white tiger occurs because of a recessive gene. Leaving it to nature to decide whether a cub would be white or not, is like playing the lottery, and no breeder can afford to wait on that 1/10,000th chance.

So captive-bred white tigers are bred from related tigers – father-daughter, father-granddaughter… you get the picture.

It is common knowledge that mating of related specimens, holds true for humans too: it heightens the chance of getting the trait/characteristic you covert, but it also heightens the chance for genetic defects to manifest.

Where be the defective White Tigers?
For every handsome white tiger being exploited to earn tourist/customer moola, there may be anything from 60 to a few hundreds failed white tigers – some are stillborn, some suffer delibilating birth defects throughout their lives – blindness, deafness, cross-eyes, hip/leg deformities etc, most don’t live long and die early.

But remember, selective breeding is still a chancy thing. There’s no guarantee you’ll get white tiger babies every single time. So what happens to the non-white tiger babies? Abandoned, killed, abused, tortured… just like the kittens and puppies of kitten and puppy mills. Some are sold to the chinese medicine trade.

“…The white tiger population in todays zoos traces its ancestry to a single white male named mohan, collected in 1951. Successive inbreeding in captive populations for the variation has resulted in the approximately 250 white tigers in existence today. The inherent genetic problems associated with the required father/daughter/granddaughter pairings, resulting in the white tiger lineage, often manifests itself in other abnormalities including crossed eyes, bone deformations and reduced immune system functions.

These factors have created a controversy among zoos, animal rights groups and those facilities who chose to breed and display the white tigers. At the root of the problem is the fact that white tigers are a popular exhibit, helping increase attendance and revenues at zoos and animal parks, while on the other hand their breeding serves no conservation purpose.” (source)

More information about white tigers and their breeding, and the very real implications for the tigers involved: The story of Zabu and Cameron, The White Tiger Fraud [check out especially pics 3, 4, 5, 7, 8 – this is how most white tigers tend to look like, the ones the public don’t see], The White Tigers of Rewa, White Tigers, Breeders have over-exploited their appeal, This is a White Tiger.

Other exotica breeding and abuse: Detailed information on tiger coloration, Hybrid and Mutant Big Cats

Conservation cannot be about exploitation or glamour, or romantic ideals
Putting aside the sheer waste of life, the tiger is afterall a highly endangered species, the conduct of captive white tiger breeders and the zoos/people who support them are equally despicable.

But the people who pay to see the White Tiger, they are the ones who perpetuate this cruelty, this greed-driven marketing machine.

If there is no demand, there will be no supply is the common refrain. So if people will look beyond the enchanting allure of the White Tiger Conservation movement, and ask zoos how this fits into the more vital TIGER conservation, then maybe there is hope for the true tiger conservation effort. Because, given all the facts, white tiger conservation cannot be discussed outside the context of tiger conservation per se.

In a nutshell: is the White Tiger endangered? Inasmuch as you consider the Tiger’s plight as a whole, then YES. The White Tiger is endangered because the the normal/tawny Tiger on which it springs from, is endangered, critically. There is no White Tiger without the tawny Tiger, and as nature intends there to be only 1 White Tiger for every 10,000 tawny Tiger, we must save the Tiger, not the White Tiger.

In this case, say what you will of my views, I cannot find a balance where support for the zoos exist with the opposition of captive white tiger exploitation can balance each other out – so I tilt prominently towards against, and no longer have the desire to pay to visit zoos. Nat Geo and Animal Planet are good enough for me.

Consumers: protest with your money
Consumer Savvy is needed for us to become caring, ethical consumers. Money talks, and if more people will step up and tell those perpetuating the White Tiger Fraud: “Enough, we want to see REAL conservation effort for the TIGER, not a money spinning gimmick”, maybe more effort will be channelled into TIGER conservation, rather than getting diverted into the White Tiger Fraud.

But I do not see the consumer savvy that some are so confident of. I find that people do not like bad news, and don’t want to know the truth. They prefer to be deceived by untruths, as long as they are pleasant.

People would pay, but they prefer to PAY for happy deceptions. Personally, I believe that is why the horrors of factory farming and circuses got so out of hand, and, disgustingly, is still on-going.

(Edit: Related post – Meet the real captive-bred white tiger)

References and links

Tiger information and conservation sites (“white tiger conservation” DOESN’T COUNT!). To save the tiger, know about the tiger and take action.

(EDIT: links and related info added on 8 Apr 07)

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15 responses to “The White Tiger Fraud

  1. i do not agree with you. White tigers are not frauds. There is a really low amount of white tigers so they are bred by incest but i love them.

  2. Then you are not reading what I am saying, Michelle.
    Whether white tigers are lovable or not is a different matter. I am certainly not arguing with your right to love them.

    However, Michelle, if you’ve truly read what I’ve wrote, then you would see that the breeding of white tigers is a fraud, perpetuated by breeders and zoos.

    You yourself agree “there is a really low amount of white tigers”. You even know “they are bred by incest”, so you know it is artificial. How can you condone this artificial breeding given the problems of “being bred by incest”??? If you really love white tigers, why do you accept the suffering and pain “bred by incest” white tigers typically endure FOR LIFE?

    Perhaps it is my inadequecies as a writer that caused the miscommunication. But there are all those reference links I included. Michelle, have you not read the reference sites and LOOK at the consequences of “bred by incest”, especially the white tiger fraud (http://www.bigcatrescue.org/white_tigers.htm)?

    If you really really had visited the reference sites and make the effort to read and understand the reasoning for white tigers being exploited this way by humans, and understand the consequences, I believe you would no longer condone the White Tiger Fraud perpetuated by unscrupulous breeders and zoos. Look at the real-life white tigers bigcatrescue is caring for, read their plights. Is that how you treat something you love, Michelle?

    After all that is said and done, you cannot escape, Michelle, you cannot deny the fact that the captive breeding of white tigers by incest IS a fraud, and should not be condoned. If you love White Tigers, you should love the “normal” tigers even more, because without them, without a healthy viable natural population of “normal” tigers, you CANNOT HOPE to have healthy white tigers. But the “normal” tigers are facing extinction, so the fate fo the white tiger is in the balance with them.

    Appreciate tigers for what they are through their NATURAL rarity, whether normal tigers or white tigers, but do not condone their exploitation or abuse.

  3. Michelle,
    You clearly do not want to “hear” what Calsifer said/wrote and you are only wanting to see the White Tiger as a beautiful and unique breed. It is not. Please go to this link and read for yourself.

    http://www.bigcatrescue.org/white_tigers.htm

    If that doesn’t work, then perhaps you will listen to a person that works with abused, extorted, abandoned and neglected exotic cats. For every White Tiger you find beautiful there are at least 100 “throw away” tigers. These animals sometimes have horrid physical and or mental defects. They are not always white so not desired and can end up sold as pets, or to road side zoos, to taxidermists or into canned hunts. You can read about one of our wrong colored “white tigers” below:

    SHERE KHAN Male Bengal/Siberian Tiger born 12/20/94 stole our hearts on 3/12/95. His birth was a result of the demand for White Tigers by a public that is fascinated by oddities. A White Tiger is not an “endangered” species that should be bred to be saved. It is a co lour mutation that happens infrequently in the wild and usually is not passed along because white animals in a forest environment would not live long due to their inability to hide and sneak up on prey.

    Shere Khan had been sold as a cub, but because he was born “the wrong co lour” the purchaser kept putting off his delivery date, until he finally canceled the sale at four months. The breeder’s then had a four month old cub on their hands for whom they had no other facilities than a small carrier that he was quickly outgrowing. He was up to his belly in feces and decaying food in a pet taxi that seemed to just bust at the seams with tiger fur.

    He never got the vitamins and exercise he needed as a growing cub so his back legs were badly underdeveloped. He was very sickly for a long time and suffered major problems from calcium deficiency. X-rays showed that his baby canine teeth were rotting in their sockets from his malnourishment and they had to be excised because they because they had rotted through his face. His bones were mere paper shells and one wrong jump could easily break a leg. He is a perfect example of why people should not be allowed to have such animals as pets. We supplemented him three times a day with Calcium, to encourage healthy bones and teeth. He is now well over 800 pounds and the picture of health. We have seen him leap in play over twelve feet and hit the ground running. His three acre pen on the lake provides him with plenty of room to run through the marsh and swim in the spring fed lake. He has been neutered so that there is no “accidental” breeding.

    If you don’t know what a “canned hunt” is, then go to this link:

    http://www.bigcatrescue.org/cannedhunt.htm

    Or, you can read the following:

    These video clips show hunters in a canned hunt situation. The lioness has been lured into a fenced paddock, by holding her cubs on one side of the fence. As she frantically tries to get to them in clip one, the hunters guide is trying to coax her away from the fence so that the hunters will have the feeling that they shot her in the wild. The second clip is very graphic and disturbing. The hunters shoot her to death, right in front of her crying cubs and then all gather around the dying lioness, with milk dripping from her teats, to have the pictures made. These take a while to load, but the animals need you to be patient and to see what is happening to them all across America. In many cases they are shot in transport cages and don’t even have this much of a chance.

    Either way Michelle, grow up, get your rose colored glasses off of your eyes and see what the exploitive world of animals is really like.

    Good luck with your life!

  4. Thank you, bcrpeanutsmum.

    Michelle, bcrpeanutsmum is a volunteer worker at Big Cat Rescue caring for one of the many feline victims rescued from human abuse and cruelty.

    Because bcrpeanutsmum volunteers at bcr, caring for the rescued cats out of her love for the big cats exploited and suffering because of humans, she has seen firsthand what it is for white tigers to like to be “bred by incest”.

    And because of bcrpeanutsmum ‘s experience with the truth about the White Tiger Fraud, she feels strongly about it and her words are also very forceful. But it does not negate her passion and compassion for the big cats.

    The fact is bcrpeanutsmum is here as a reality-check for you, and people whose notions of “love” do not consider impact, consequence, and reality.

    I hope you will think about it and consider what your “love” of white tigers cause. I can also ask bcrpeanutsmum for more reference about the poor white tigers being cared for at BCR if you’re interested to know some real “bred by incest” white tigers that were lucky enough to be rescued from human abuse and cruelty.

  5. I’ve seen the white tigers in the Singapore Zoo. On the information board, they did say that all white tigers descend from Mohan. But I’m not sure if they are in-breeding the white tigers. I was wondering where the normal bengal tigers have gone to as I was looking forward to seeing a normal tiger.

  6. Marilyn,
    I think that is cause enough for suspicion. I’m sure they would trump the fact that they are natural-bred, given the rarity, and on the other hand, downplay the reality of in-breeding.

  7. If that’s the case, it’s a little disappointing isn’t it? I’ve always been very proud of our zoo.

    Has anyone actually written to the zoo to ask about how the white tigers are bred? Do they actually have normal tigers to breed the white tigers with or is it based purely on in-breeding? They used to have normal tigers, I think they could all now be at the Night Safari.

  8. Yes it is, and disturbing too. I feel cheated, in fact.

    I’ve written before, asking them about that, and also the embarrassing green algae on Sheba, quite a while ago. But nada, zilch, absolutely no replies.

    Anyone who has tried and gotten an answer of some sort?

  9. BTW, I tried looking online. No dice on the SG white tigers’ genealogy, but found this interesting tidbit:

    “Orissa White Tigers

    White tigers also appeared in the Nandankanan Zoo in Orissa, India. Three white tiger cubs were born there in 1980. Their parents were normal-colored tigers called Deepak and Ganga who were not related to Mohan or to any of the white tigers being bred in zoos. One of their wild-caught ancestors would have carried the recessive white gene. It showed up when Deepak was mated to his daughter Ganga. This lineage resulted in several white tigers in Nandankanan Zoo and in Sri”
    (source)

  10. According to the educational write-up, algae appears on any animal, and it’s normal and doesn’t harm them. Especially in the summer months when the temperatures rise above 35*.

    I’m not so worried about the polar bears as at least the zoo is taking a step in the right direction with them.

  11. Right, but then polar bears are not made for year-long summers. Even if wild polar bears get algae, it would freeze and die come winter.

    But yes, I am also glad that the zoo made that decision , however late it may be. i just hope they stick to it.

  12. I am still not so sure about inbreeding. I agree many tigers white or otherwise are exploited by circuses but it is unfair to say that all private owners or circuses are like this. Siegfried and Roy Are not. They not only have white tigers but also keep and take care of their orange tigers too. They also have cheetah’s, leopards, and lions to name a few. They do not keep them cooped up in cages either. They are always ina habitat were they ca run free. SIEGFRIED AND ROY ARE THE BEST. They do not treat the cat’s like circus animals. They love them and they are like a part of teh family.

  13. Kailee,
    Good on you to have doubts. But it is such a pity – you still lean toward the naive, sharing the same misguided opinions as MM, Melissa and Sara, and leave comments that is clone to what they’ve said on Meet the real captive-bred white tiger. So rather repeat again what I’ve said in response, pelase go to Meet the real captive-bred white tiger and read their comments and my responses please. That is the least you can do for yourself. While you’re at it, check out Joanna’s post too.

    Oh, and if you can, please answer the questions I have raised about Siegfried and Roy’s “efforts” in my responses there please. Your cohorts MM, Melissa and Sara have conveniently ignored and refused to answer all the gaping holes I pointed out in your assumptions and statements. Thank you.

    And thank you for giving me my headsmack-caused-by-misguided-white-tiger-breeding-supporter for the day. I was so worried I was going to miss it.

  14. now i know what you all are saying, but they use bengal tigers to they just think inbreeding is the way to get white tigers fast and raise money fast which yes is wrong, but people do the same thing. if you are critizing the zoo about it than look at the real world people are not doing it to hurt the tigers they are doing it so the can keep the people who do not know what happens to the tigers happy and so the people can see the other animals that might be extint here soon. plus the reason they do inbreeding is because the need to raise the population of white tigers to get them off the endangered species list. if you do not think of this in good terms than you must want them to die out and that is far worse than having a messed up tiger. and another thing if it was so bad for the tigers the goverment would not let them do it because it could hurt the population of white tigers, not help them. now if you acually read all of this you would see where many people including me stand on this situation.

  15. Princess94,
    I’m not sure I understood your logic, especially since your writing habits make it difficult to read what you write. However, I think it safe to say this from your last sentence: you are naive in your deep trust o d the “government”. And it would be interesting to know who are the “many people” you represent?

    However, the main point I defintely get from your post is very simply: you don’t get it.