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Let the White Tiger Go Extinct

Hugh Pickens writes (1984118) writes | about a year and a half ago

Science 0

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Many people are under the impression that the white tiger is a variety of Siberian tiger, camouflaged for a snowy climate. Others applaud zoos with white tigers for supporting conservation of white tigers while lamenting a lag in reintroduction efforts. But Jackson Landers writes that almost no one knows that white tigers are not a subspecies at all but rather the result of a mutant gene that has been artificially selected through massive inbreeding to produce oddball animals for human entertainment. "Many of the venues that display white tigers have a long history of shading the truth about their mutants," writes Landers. "The Cincinnati Zoo, an otherwise respectable institution, labels their white tigers as a “species at risk!” Nowhere on the zoo’s website or at its tiger enclosures does it point out that this species at risk is in fact an ecologically useless hybrid of Bengal and Siberian strains, inbred at the zoo’s own facility for big money." One of the Cincinnati Zoo’s biggest sales was to the illusionists Siegfried and Roy who bought three white tigers from the zoo in the early 1980s and quickly set up their own breeding program referring to the cats as “royal white tigers” and giving the public the impression that this was an endangered species that they were helping to protect. "Humanity has a collective responsibility to care for the two-headed calves and white tigers that we create for our own entertainment, but do we really need to be creating more of the genetic disasters that pull resources away from truly endangered species," concludes Landers. "We can choose a future in which white tigers disappear into memory and hopefully one in which truly endangered subspecies of tigers maintain enough genetic diversity to be successfully reintroduced into a wild that can sustain them.""

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