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Genetic Diversity of White Tigers and Genetic Factors Related to Coat Color
White Tiger: The Color of Controversy


Jihad Against White Tigers

By Lynn Culver, January 2008

Jihad against white tigers

White tigers exist in captivity because of the human interest in this color mutation of the Bengal tiger. The hostility some delusional people have towards this color variation is hypocritical and detrimental to the species.

All tigers, regardless of color, are critically endangered species. The world’s wild tiger population has declined from 100,000 a century ago to just 5,000 by 1990 and in the past decade, India has experienced a 50% further decline of its native tigers and there are only about 2,000 tigers left in that entire country.

White tigers were extirpated from the wild by trophy hunters. Selective captive breeding preserves this color variation of the Bengal tiger. Many normal colored Bengal tigers have been bred to white tigers in the 10 generations since the first white tiger Mohini arrived at the National Zoo, greatly increasing genetic diversity of this color variation.

There is no AZA (American Zoo and Aquarium Association) Species Survival Plan for Bengal tigers, so there is no AZA interest in breeding white tigers in the USA. Only non-AZA zoos and private conservationists manage this color variation of the Bengal tiger. AZA zoos house approximately 150 Amur tigers, descendents of about 40 founders, and about 4-dozen of the Indo-Chinese and 5-dozen of the Sumatran tigers. These two sub-species have fewer than a dozen founders, and therefore are not true plans for survival.

Many of the AZA Species Survival Plans are mixed sub-species, such as the jaguar and the fishing cat and the Amur Leopard. The AZA does not condemn their deliberate mixing of sub-species as being worthless to conservation.

No captive tigers will be returned to the wild. All tigers have a conservation value as research and educational animals. It is critically important that they be bred and managed in captivity and that enough captive habitats are available to insure genetic diversity. The attack on captive breeding by both the self-interested and by those ignorant of the facts, is threatening the only chance for survival these great cats have.

Private conservationists provide more habitat than municipal zoos. Education is the key to improving animal welfare and public safety. Cats need to be properly managed and housed so that conservation of endangered and threatened wildlife can be accomplished and these species can continue to exist to educate and inspire the future generations. The Feline Conservation Federation teaches a Feline Husbandry Course across the country to increase keeper knowledge. For more information visit FCF website.

Lynn Culver is the president of the Feline Conservation Federation. She and her husband Bart are owner/operators of Natural Order Animal Husbandry Feline Conservation Center. Lynn has over two decades of experience in the husbandry of cougars, and currently breeds smaller species of cats and houses one of the largest colonies of Geoffrey's cat in the US. Lynn has served in the Feline Conservation Federation as Legislation Director, giving FCF input on state and federal laws and USDA regulations pertaining to exotic felines.

Copyright 2007 © Lynn Culver & REXANO
Photo Copyright 2007 © Zuzana Kukol & REXANO