White Bengal tiger = Controversial or Natural?

Photo by Gary Hamburgh

Photo by Gary Hamburgh

All my career I have heard and listened to both sides of the white Bengal tiger controversy. There is one thing that I feel everyone should know, and this is typically not revealed or shared on a lot of animal rights websites. Why, you may ask? Well, simply put, it is so people will donate to their cause. It is a marketing strategy and one that is used often.

So, here you go:

White tigers exist IN THE WILD. They are the result of a recessive gene, just as blue eyes and red hair are in human beings. They have existed in the wild for centuries, if not longer. They can camouflage just fine since most of their prey do not see in color. It is their stripes that help them blend into their environment. They occur naturally in nature. Otherwise, how would we have them in captivity?

Controversy?

Simply put, yes. The reason being is that when zoologists brought a WILD white Bengal tiger into captivity in the 1950’s, (his name was Mohan), we bred him back to his offspring so we could maintain the recessive gene in captivity. Yes, there was inbreeding 60 years ago BUT since then, zoologists have bred tigers back out, allowing the lineage to be so far removed from one another that it is difficult to prove genetic relationship. With that said, there are other people out there who breed only for monetary gain. These practices can lead to unethical breedings and inbreeding, which can cause deformities in the tigers. I am whole-heartedly against unethical and irresponsible breeding practices of any kind. With that said, there are also many people who do ethical and responsible breeding of white tigers. Use your own judgement to decipher the good from the bad out there. But please, know that not ALL zoos have inbred white tigers and white tigers should not be seen as useless or generic. It is not the tigers fault that there are people out there who do unethical breeding. White tigers are important and serve as Ambassadors for their wild relatives, invoking thoughts of beauty and hope in those who engage and interact with them.

Scientific results on the white tiger 

This is a great article published last year about the white tiger gene. Lots of incredible science and hard work done for these results.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/save-the-white-tigers/

Where do we go from here?

Well, now you know that white Bengal tigers are naturally occurring in the wild. We have not seen a white tiger in the wild for decades, most likely due to the intense poaching of tigers. The white tiger is NOT a separate species, it is simply a recessive gene of the Bengal tiger subspecies. I hope you take this information and share it with others who may not know as much as you know now about white tigers. Keep an open mind when visiting zoos that have white tigers and use YOUR judgement on if these tigers should be classified as “useless” or if we should let them die off and no longer have this color represented in captivity. It is, after all, simply a difference in fur color. Similar to human beings with red hair or blonde hair. That is the reality of it.

As always, if you would like to discuss the white tiger gene further or any tiger information, please feel free to email me at Robyn@Talesofthetiger.com.

Thank you for supporting and saving the tiger! Save the tiger, save the world! 

 

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