What is a white tiger?

Despite what some may say, they are not a separate species or albino, white tigers are simply Bengal tigers. White tigers occur when two Bengal tigers that carry a recessive gene controlling coat color are bred together.

It’s been said the entire captive white tiger population originated from one single white tiger and has been inbred ever since. In order to retain this recessive gene, zoos and breeders must continually inbreed father to daughter, father to granddaughter and so on.

This inbreeding can cause many genetic problems. Many of the white tiger cubs that are born either in zoos or by breeders have to be ‘disposed’ of because they are malformed at birth.

For years, breeders and exhibitors have been using the excuse that white tigers are an endangered species so they need to keep breeding them. This is completely false. Breeding of white tigers does not contribute to any conservation effort, they breed for one reason only, money.

What about the endangered Royal White Bengal tiger?

If you’ve seen a big cat exhibitor at a fair, festival or drive thru zoo, chances are you’ve probably heard them talk about Royal White Bengal tigers. This is not an actual species and does not exist. It is simply a lie these exhibitors will tell you to try and sell more tickets. The truth is, they are just inbred Bengal tigers.  

How are white tigers created?

White tigers are simply Bengal tigers with white fur.  They’re not a separate subspecies of tiger.  They’re the result of a mutant gene that’s been artificially selected through inbreeding to essentially produce man-made tigers for entertainment.

You’ll still find famous magicians and entertainers trying to promote them as a rare separate species. Only a minority of the general public knows the truth about this business of breeding for birth defects. So it’s easy to manipulate many who’ll pay to see them.

Do white tigers have other health issues?

Captive-born white tigers who survive also carry, in addition to the white gene mutation, numerous life-altering complications due to inbreeding.

These tigers tend to have difficulty processing visual stimulation, problems with the way their brains control their eyes, and trouble understanding spatial relationships when young since so many are cross-eyed in one or both eyes. Kidney problems, cleft palates, club feet, spinal deformities, and shortened tendons are also common disorders that may afflict them.

Mohan was a white tiger that we rescued in 2005 from a roadside zoo. As you can see he was severely cross-eyed, and his daughters inherited those bad genetics. Gracie is 95% blind and Thor is cross-eyed.

How does paying to see one hurt other tigers?

When you pay to see a white tiger, you encourage the irresponsible inbreeding needed to supply this abusive industry. It’s been reported that the neonatal mortality rate exceeds 80% for white tigers! To put that in perspective, it’s typically only 30% for orange-colored tigers in AZA zoos.

A lot of tigers must be bred in order to get that one “perfect” white tiger everyone wants to see. And a lot of surplus orange tigers and imperfect white tigers born in the process are unwanted and disposed of any way possible.

This white tiger mania is also a big reason why we have more orange tigers in cages in the US today than tigers left roaming in the wild.

Do AZA zoos still breed white tigers?

In 2011, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) took a huge step in banning member zoos from breeding white tigers, lions, and cheetahs. But, it doesn’t stop these zoos, roadside attractions, and traveling exhibits from displaying them. They’re also not prohibited from obtaining them from other sources.

What can you do?

It’s up to all of us to stop supporting the cruelty involved in displaying this non-existent species.  The white tigers being dumped after they’re no longer earning their keep in the exhibition world didn’t ask to be in this situation.

  • Don’t support facilities that support the breeding of white tigers, or that invite exhibitors to come to their location.
  • If you see a post on social media about a white tiger exhibitor in your area help educate your friends and family about the problems with white tigers.
  • Support true sanctuaries like ours that care for the discarded big cats that result from white tiger breeding as well as educate the public to end the practice of white tiger breeding.