The striking and unusual coloration of white tigers has made them one of the most popular animals in zoos and exotic animal shows from around the world. But what is behind the captivity of hundreds of white tigers around the world? What advantages and disadvantages do these measures bring in the face of the endangered situation that threatens white tigers? It is quite contradictory to see how despite the fact that white tigers are able to thrive in the wild when they are born occasionally in their natural habitats, more and more specimens of white tigers are bred in captivity to guarantee the presence of this surprising coloration. in future generations of these tigers.
Characteristics of the white tiger and its origin
White tigers, one of the most striking and surprising felines, are the result of a genome mutation occasionally suffered by some individuals of the subspecies of the Bengal tiger ( Panthera tigris tigris ) and / or the Siberian tiger (Panthera tigris altaica). This mutation of the tiger genome implies the presence of two recessive alleles (not predominant) in the gene that determines the color of the animal, a phenomenon that leads to the elimination of the orange pigment that both Bengal tigers and tigers commonly present in their fur. Siberians. In this way, white tigers are characterized by a cream-white coat with stripesblack, gray or light brown; as well as by the presence of blue eyes and a pink nose .
Despite the differences in the physical appearance of white tigers, they are not a different subspecies and, therefore, they are fertile and able to reproduce with individuals without whitish fur of the opposite sex of Bengal and / or Siberian tigers (depending on the subspecies to which the white tiger individual belongs). As a result of the crossing between individuals, the descendants will be tigers of normal orange coloration, although they will carry the recessive allele that will allow the formation of possible white tigers in future generations (when crossing with another individual of white tiger). Beyond these special genotypic characteristics of these felines, these are other characteristics of white tigers :
- Greater size and weight, both at birth and during adulthood, compared to the rest of Bengal and Siberian tigers with normal coloration, reaching 230 kilograms during adulthood.
- Habitats associated with its maintenance in captivity in zoos in different parts of the world. Despite not suffering any type of adaptation to the natural habitats of the abanas, subtropical and tropical forests in which the other Bengal and Siberian tigers live, white tigers tend to remain under exhaustive studies and maintenance to be exposed as an object of interest. for human beings.
This fact is directly related to the current situation of danger of extinction experienced by the population of white tigers worldwide. Let’s see in more detail in the next section what is the reason for this threat suffered by white tigers.
The current population of white tigers is really scarce, there are barely 300 specimens in the whole world . Despite this sad situation, the white tiger is not listed directly as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List, but rather indirectly, through the recognition of the subspecies to which they belong, Bengal tigers. and Siberian, as endangered species (category Threatened – Endangered, EN ).
In this way, any action focused on the conservation and protection of the Bengal and Siberian tigers will also lead to saving the white tigers from the danger of extinction. For this, it is important to take into account the different causes that currently make these precious cats are in danger of extinction.
Causes of the endangered wild white tigers
- Poaching for the sale of their skins and bones.
- The loss and division of the regions that make up their natural habitats, thus hindering the proper reproduction and development of individuals.
- The problematic decrease in the amount of prey that tigers need to feed.
In the next section we include more information regarding this drastic loss of biodiversity, focusing on possible measures of action and awareness that we must adopt to try to get the white tigers to leave the situation of danger of extinction very soon.
How to help the white tiger to avoid its extinction
With the ultimate aim of helping white tigers not become extinct , it is important to become aware of and support the different studies and measures focused on the reinsertion of white tigers , both in captive environments (in zoos and nature reserves), as well as promoting the conservation and protection of specimens that live wild in their natural habitats.
This last option is, without a doubt, much more effective and positive, since it is not ethical or convenient for animals to promote their breeding in captivity, since this has a well-defined economic objective by the local and international institutions that seek entertain people with the presence of white tigers in their zoos.
The main and vital thing is to get out of the situation of danger of extinction the different subspecies of tigers from which the white tigers have derived by genetic mutation, that is, the Bengal and Siberian tigers. Conserve their natural habitats with strict measures and laws that prevent both the poaching of the specimens and the destruction of the ecosystems in which they live.