Roar for Tigers

Mom’s neglect kills 5 white tiger cubs

Mom’s neglect kills 5 white tiger cubs

Jan 27, 2014

New Delhi. Five of the six white tiger cubs born to Kalpana (7) at National Zoological Park have died over the weekend. The reason behind their deaths was neglect by their mother, say zoo authorities. Kalpana had refused to feed the cubs. Most white tigers are constitutionally weak as severe inbreeding is required to maintain the colour of their coat. In fact, all white tigers in captivity are descendants of a single animal which owed its unique coat to a genetic mutation. Conservationists feel they are “unnatural”. As white tigers are born with very low immunity and genetic malformations due to inbreeding, early death is common. The zoo’s reason for breeding them despite the risks is their popularity with visitors. Officials claim the breeding is done between partners born of different sets of parents but that may not help address the issue. “People just love to see their coat. Even though Central Zoo Authority discourages breeding of such hybrids, zoos like to have them because of their popularity,” Brij Kishor Gupta, evaluation and monitoring officer at CZA, says. Gupta has noticed a trend of genetic deformities among white tigers.  The 2009 CZA rules state that every zoo shall ensure that no hybridization of species or races of a species takes place in the zoo but there seems to be no clarity on white tigers. “Breeding in a planned manner of white tigers is allowed in zoos but not inbreeding,” Gupta says. Prominent conservation scientist and tiger expert Ullas Karanth says breeding of white tigers should be gradually phased out. “All white tigers are derived from a single wild ancestor caught way back in 1950s. They are all severely inbred to retain their peculiar colour and loss of darker pigmentation, a condition called leucism. They are of no interest to conservation science. It is a waste of space, money and resources to maintain them in zoos, let alone breed them. Most responsible and larger zoos in the West do not keep them anymore. We need to maintain in our zoos Indian subspecies of tiger of the normal types,” he says.

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