White tigers, contrary to much of the publicity that surrounds them, are not an endangered species. They are instead, the result of a mutated gene that creates their unique coat color.
Although white tigers were seen in the wild in the past, when tiger populations were much higher, the white big cats now are only seen in captivity. According to Kailash Sankhala, a renowned Indian naturalist and conservationist, the last white tiger ever seen in the wild was shot in 1958.
White tigers that you see in exotic shows or zoos are the result of selective breeding. Unfortunately, such practices result in genetic problems that get worse the longer and more frequently they are bred.
Problems can include a host of medical problems from cross eyes to neurological disorders and cleft palates.
One white tiger who shed light on issues of inbreeding was Kenny. He was rescued from a private breeder in Arkansas by Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge, a group that rescues exotic cats throughout the United States.
Kenny’s deformities caused him to have crooked teeth, facial deformities and a host of other health issues. He passed away at 10 years old.
Because of the problems with white tigers the Association of Zoos and Aquariums barred member zoos from breeding white tigers, white lions and king cheetahs in 2011.
Their accredited members no longer breed white tigers, although some may still have the tigers on display at their facilities.
One of the non-profit organizations trying to raise awareness about white tigers is Big Cat Rescue. They note that experts predict wild tigers will be gone within 20 years, and would like the public to give their money towards conservation efforts for wild tigers rather than to for-profit enterprises.
They ask the important question whether you would like a healthy wild tiger population or a sick, captive one?
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