The Problem With White Tigers

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"White Tiger" by jdog90. This photograph is licensed through Creative Commons 2.0.

by Ethan Gathman

There’s something very peculiar about the obsession with albino animals.

They cost more than other animals and serve as huge attractions for zoos and farms, especially albino tigers. Because they are so distinct and rare, zoos that feature white tigers advertise them proudly.

However, the cost of these animals is far more than just the cash that they go for on the market. They come with a terrible price: the price of their existence.

White tigers are not a naturally occurring animal — at least, not anymore. They are the result of generations of inbreeding where brother and sister tigers are made to mate with each other. There is no other way to produce the mutation; and as though that wasn’t disturbing enough, they come with dire side effects.

Since 2011, inbreeding tigers had been strictly banned by the American Zoo Association (AZA). According to their studies, inbreeding causes serious internal and external malfunctions. For example, a lot of white tigers have major issues with their nervous systems. Their optic nerves are wired to the wrong side of their brains and as a result, most white tigers are crossed-eyed.

Other results of extreme inbreeding are dysfunctional organs, spinal deformities, cleft palates, and more.

The tradition of inbreeding white tigers began with the discovery of natural white tigers in the wild. Because their genetic pool was incredibly rare and zoos desperately wanted more of them as attractions, they figured that by forcing the tigers to mate with their siblings, the chances of the gene passing down would increase. As this was proven true, more zoos across the world began to adopt these practices.

No creature deserves a fate like this and the more zoos and other organizations continue to inbreed tigers (and other animals as well), the more they sentence them to lives of pain and discomfort.

Fortunately, there are several groups the fight against the inbreeding and mistreatment of animals. One of these groups is Cat Laws, an organization that specifically focuses on abuse towards large cats.

 

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