White tigers are very rarely seen in the wild. The white tiger cannot be considered as a sub-species, but is a result of recessive yet rare genes of the Bengal tiger, and is actually a colour variation. It is estimated that only one in 10,000 births can result in a white tiger naturally.
Over the past couple of centuries, white tigers have become even rarer in the wild, with some unsubstantiated sightings in the Siberian wilderness, due to trophy hunting or capture for the exotic pet trade. Today, the white tiger can still be found in a handful of zoos and animal sanctuaries around the world, with these large and beautiful felines often being the star attraction.
Controversy Surrounding Inbreeding
The very rarity of these majestic creatures puts a lot of pressure on zoos to produce more and more white tigers. These beautiful animals make very popular exhibits and help in increasing the zoo’s traffic and revenue. Since white tigers are not found in the wild, they are multiplied by inbreeding.
Most genetic defects tend to be recessive, and are generally masked by normal genes, but in this case, with the persistent inbreeding taking place, genetic problems are accumulating, and are amplified, resulting in high mortality rates and severe disabilities.
Approximately 80% of the cubs die from serious birth defects as a result of inbreeding that is necessary to create the white coat. The controversy involved establishments and individuals who claimed that they are trying to save or keep the species alive, or are simply manipulating the truth to keep their unethical activities running. Breeding of white tigers is just for the purpose of moneymaking and benefits the tiger species in no way, most believe.
Why are they being extinct?
The reasons for the white tiger being extinct in the wild is because it lacks the natural camouflage of normally coloured tigers, and most of those born are killed by predators as they are young and vulnerable, and more so because they stand out. Those that do survive and make it to adulthood, have a hard time hunting for the same reason – lack of camouflage.
Apart from this, another reason being, they are hunted down for their beautiful fur and organs. Tiger body parts are most sought-after for their use in medicines and exotic cuisine. According to IUCN, there are estimated to be around only 4,000 tigers left in the wild.
- In the wild, white tigers usually hunt at night, as their white fur does not provide camouflage during the day, and their night vision is six times better than that of humans.
- Just like human fingerprints, no two tigers have the same pattern of stripes.
- There are more tigers held privately as pets, as compared to the number that is there in the wild.
- The tiger is the biggest species of the cat family, and white tigers tend to be larger than the normal orange-coloured tigers.
- July 29th is celebrated as Global Tiger Day.
- Tigers usually carry the Chinese mark of wang or king on their forehead.