13 March 2012

White Tigers: Cruelty not Conservation

(This is a piece of information I found alarming.. and could not stop myself from sharing..)

Many think that the White Tigers are the most beautiful animals on earth. Mesmerised by their rare beauty, many of us are unaware of what makes a White Tiger white. The truth is, White Tigers are white because of the genetic mutation that causes a condition called ‘Leucism’. Leucistic animals are similar to Albino animals. It appears usually in Bengal tigers, and not in any other species of tigers, not even in Siberian tigers.

The only way to produce a White Tiger is through the inbreeding of brother to sister, father to daughter and mother to son. This kind of severe inbreeding that is required to produce the mutation of a white coat also causes a number of other defects in these big cats. The same gene that causes the white coat causes the optic nerve to be wired to the wrong side of the brain, thus all white tigers are cross eyed, even if their eyes look normal.  They also often suffer from club feet, cleft palates, spinal deformities and defective organs. Thus, the White tigers are actually very weak and live shorter lives.

In addition, There is no place in the world that tigers naturally inhabit where white coat is helpful. In fact for a tiger, being white in the wild is a distinct disadvantage. For this reason, they are generally kept in human captivity and cannot be released in the wild.

While the healthy orange-black tigers in the wild are disappearing at an alarming rate, inbreeding for producing White Tigers is carried on at fast pace. However, the beauty of White Tigers and our fascination with them are not enough reason to continue the practise of inbreeding them for commercial purposes. Millions of dollars are spent every year to inbreed White Tigers and people spend thousands to see them. Instead these resources can be used for conservation of the habitat of healthy orange-black tigers!!!

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