On April 29th, 2022, we welcomed a new white tiger cub to our Tanganyika Wildlife Park family – and he’s already stealing the hearts of many!
WE’RE NOT LION, A NEW TIGER HAS ARRIVED
Born at a wildlife park in Minnesota, this spunky 3-month-old is spending time adjusting to his new home here in Kansas and preparing to meet you!
While some of you may remember Gilbert and Sky who retired in 2020, this little guy will follow their (very big) footsteps and eventually be located in the habitat across from Lemur Island! You can currently spot him through the nursery window where he roughhouses with his toys, is fed by our professional nursery keepers, and enjoys catnaps.
He has yet to be named, so YOU will have the chance to help us choose it by attending this year’s Twilight Tour, our annual Tanganyika Wildlife Park fundraiser that will include behind the scenes viewings of our new Safari Barn (for Elite guests only), local appetizers, beer, and wine samples, and more.
Ranking among the biggest wild cats alive today, Bengal tigers have been the subject of political and social pressure due to their mismanagement by unprofessional facilities. This caused AZA to shift their entire focus to Amur tigers and leave Bengal tigers to die out. In addition, increased legislation has significantly reduced the population in private and public facilities. As a result, the bengal tiger population in managed care is at a breaking point.
Like most species, their population is dwindling in the wild and one way to keep them from going extinct is by ensuring there is a vibrant population in managed care. Tanganyika hopes to partner with other zoological facilities in the US as part of an Animal Management Plan (AMP) to help strengthen their numbers. We hope to find him a female companion within the next couple years, and restart our breeding program.
“We are excited to have tigers back at TWP! Tigers are sadly endangered in their native habitats, so we hope that our guests will be excited to see our new tiger and fall in love with him as much as we have, and get inspired to learn more about tigers and their conservation. Our ultimate goal is to encourage and support a new wave of conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts that will take action to help our cub’s wild counterparts – simple, every day actions can make a big difference in the long run!” -TWP Assistant to Chief of Care, Sam Russak, PhD
WHITE TIGER MYTHS DEBUNKED
Are White Tigers Albino?
The white tiger, an elusive Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) with white fur and dark stripes, has fascinated humans for centuries ever since its discovery in the jungles of India. While some people may think white tigers are simply albino tigers, this is not true. Despite what some may say, they are not a separate species or albino, but are simply Bengal tigers!
Tigers can also be black with tan stripes, all white (albino), or white and tan. The easiest way to tell the difference between a white tiger and an albino tiger is that true albinos have pink eyes!
Are White Tigers Inbred? Myth, busted!
Sadly, there is a widespread belief that it is necessary to severely inbreed tigers to maintain the black and white characteristics. While this did occur many years ago, today, accredited facilities breed animals using the science of genetics to ensure healthy offspring. Oftentimes, line breeding and outcrossing (as seen in the diagram) are used by these facilities to introduce new genetics into the breeding population with unrelated, regular orange tigers.
While the common narrative is that white tigers can only be produced through inbreeding, that is simply not scientifically accurate. The gene that causes a tiger to be white is naturally occurring and has been proven by historical accounts of white tigers being found in their native habitat.
Why White Tigers Are White
Despite its low frequency, this unique trait has existed for at least several hundred years according to Shu-Jin Luo of China’s Peking University, “represents part of the natural genetic diversity of the tiger that is worth conserving”.
As a breeding facility ourselves, we know and understand that unfortunately there is, and always has been, irresponsible breeding with many species across the world; however, we pride ourselves and our partners on responsible breeding to promote healthy reproduction and preservation.
Because this specific type of tiger is often misunderstood and misrepresented, the internet is scattered with outdated, scientifically inaccurate information, so it is important to be careful where you are receiving your information.
Do White Tigers Serve a Conservational Purpose?
The lack of “purebred” genetics has caused many in the zoo industry to state that white tigers have no conservational value and therefore shouldn’t exist. Animal activists have taken it a step further by stating “anyone involved in breeding and/or exhibiting white tigers is doing a great disservice to honest conservation and preservation efforts to save the five remaining and endangered subspecies of tigers barely clinging to survival in their rapidly diminishing natural habitats”. However, we don’t believe being “mud bloods” disqualifies white tigers from existence.
A Chinese scientific study showed the mutated gene that white tigers carry naturally, occurred in the wild. They stated, “the fact that many white tigers captured or shot in the wild were mature adults suggests that a white tiger in the wild is able to survive without its fitness being substantially compromised.” They further determined that the gene in the tiger primarily affects only pigmentation, and that the white tiger morph is a viable natural genetic polymorphism. For this reason, white tigers should have as much of a reason to live as orange tigers.
In addition, white tigers are a rare form of the Bengal tiger and are classified on the IUCN Red List as endangered, therefore, conserving their species as a whole is something we make an effort to focus on here at TWP.
Overall, white tigers are a rare form of the Bengal tiger and are a healthy representation of natural genetic diversity. By visiting our new arrival, you have the opportunity to not only see this rare tiger, but support our mission to be stewards for the animals in our care and in the wild.
As always, we strive to strengthen the connections between people and the natural world. Whether you’re seeing this new white tiger through the nursery window as a cub, or once he’s older and in his on-exhibit habitat, our hope is that you become connected with him just as we have!