Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Power and Grace - but at what price?

They would have to be one of the most charasmatic and much admired creatures on the planet. Visitors swarm to zoo just to see them, or to watch them perform. Many people, when asked their favourite animal, will answer with their name. But they do not realise. They do not realise that the animal the admire so much for its grace, its beauty, its pride, is not actually a species at all. Nor is it even a subspecies.

It's not even pureblood.

No, it's a non-viable genetic mutation.

What is this animal of which I speak?


The "Royal White Tiger" as it has been dubbed, branded a uniquely coloured subspecies of tiger to try and perpetuate its popularity and reinforce its breeding. It is not a subspecies, it is a genetic flaw - a genetic flaw that has been continued via inbreeding and thus often results in deformities like the poor cat above suffers. A cleft palate, for a start. Also, often hip displacement. The "Royal Whites" are not even true Bengals (which IS a subspecies of tiger) - most of them have Siberian blood - bred into the line in the past to try and increase their size. White tigers are usually cross-eyed. The gene for the colouration is linked to a number of negative characteristics all of which cause the tiger to be completely non-viable in the wild.

So when I read a newspaper article discussing the Zion Wildlife Park and how the "...royal white tiger was extinct in the wild..." I had to laugh. One of those dry, humourless laugh. Of course it's extinct in the wild - it's a detrimental gene mutation. It can't survive in the wild!

There are probably enough independent strains of white tiger out there that it may be possible to breed them without engaging too heavily in inbreeding, but it seems a lot of time and effort and expense to go to when there are so many other species needing assistance - like the normal coloured tigers for example!

For more information, visit this website: Big Cat Rescue - it may be a bit biastbut it still makes some good points.

This is the last white tiger I will ever draw.

Btw, his name is Kenny and he lived at the Turpentine Creek Refuge in Arkansas. He died in June, 2007.

1 comment:

LuvLoz said...

Thanks for the info, Kat. I had thought that they were just albino tigers or something similar, hasn't realised it was a deliberately bred genetic mutation.

Love the 'soapbox' and 'rant' tags.