New Hope for White Tigers. And a Shameful Past.

Ground-breaking scientific studies provide hopeful new insights into white tiger genetics. Critics still question the ethics and conservation value of white tiger breeding.

Tigers are struggling to survive in the wild. Three sub-species are already extinct.

Tigers are struggling to survive in the wild. Three sub-species are already extinct.

Abuse and Exploitation. Claims of Conservation.

Zoos Assert White Tigers Aid Conservation Efforts

White tigers have been a wildly popular attraction at zoos and exhibits. Their popularity has generated much needed funding. Zoos claim this aids conservation efforts.

Many see this funding source as essential for the survival of the tiger as a species. The population and range of tigers has declined precipitously. As few as 3,200 remain in the wild. Three tiger subspecies have gone extinct over the past hundred years. Most experts don’t expect to see this trend reverse any time soon. Without white tigers to capture the public imagination and fund captive breeding, many feel conservation efforts would suffer.

(Siegfried and Roy, a famous Las Vegas magic act, made white tigers the stars of their show. It ended in 2003 when a tiger mauled Roy Horn onstage. They now breed and prominently feature white tigers at their Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat, located in a ritzy Las Vegas hotel. Their careers stand as a testament to white tigers’ charisma and charm.)

White tiger breeding abuses have led to many genetic defects.

Kenny, now deceased, was afflicted by genetic defects typical in white tigers. Breeders have resorted to severe inbreeding.

Genetic Defects and Cruelty for Profit

Crippling genetic defects have plagued the white tiger. Mental retardation, cleft palates, club feet, facial deformaties, retinal degeneration, scoliosis of the spine, emotional instability, immune deficiency, and cross-eyes to name a few. According to anti-cruelty and animal rights activists, the vast majority of white tigers don’t survive into adulthood. They tend to die young. Most are so crippled they must be euthanized or otherwise disposed of. A small minority are beautiful and smart enough to display or perform.

Dr. Daniel C. Laughlin, veterinarian, researcher, and consultant to Big Cat Recue, estimates that 80 percent of white tiger cubs die from birth defects associated with the inbreeding needed to produce a white coat.

Still, the profits have been high. So the breeding continues. As do the horror stories. There are no exact numbers, just estimates and anecdotes. Breeding these big cats has been loosely regulated with no official registry or firm statistics.

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