There were also surprise births of white tigers in the Asian Circus, in India, to parents not known to have been white gene carriers, or heterozygotes, and not known to have any relationship to any other white tiger strains. There was a white cub born at Mysore Zoo from orange parents descended from Deepak's sister. On August 29, 1979 a white tigress named Seema was dispatched to Kanpur Zoo to be bred to Badal, a tiger who was a fourth generation descendant of Mohan and Begum. The pair did not breed so it was decided to pair Seema with one of two wild caught, notorious man eaters, either Sheru or Titu, from the Jim Corbett National Park. Seema and Sheru produced a white cub, and for a while it was thought there might be white genes in Corbett's population of tigers, but the cub didn't stay white.
There have been other cases of white tiger, white lion, and white panther cubs being born, and then changing to normal color. White tigers which were a mixture of the Rewa and Orissa strains, born at the Nandan Kanan Zoo, were non inbred. A white tiger from out of the Orissa strain found it's way to the Western Plains Zoo in Australia. Australia's Dreamworld, on the Gold Coast, wanted to breed this tiger to one of their white tigers from the United States, acquired from Croatian-American tiger trainer Josip Marcan, who was a trainer with the Hawthorn Circus and the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros. Circus, and had also worked as a veterinarian at the Frankfurt Zoo. The Western Plains Zoo rejected the idea. Stripeless (Snow White) Tigers
One of these nearly stripeless tiger is on display at The Mirage in Las Vegas, Nevada An additional genetic condition can remove most of the striping of a white tiger, making the animal almost pure white. One such specimen was exhibited at Exeter Change in England in 1820 and described by Georges Cuvier as "A white variety of Tiger is sometimes seen, with the stripes very opaque, and not to be observed except in certain angles of light.". Naturalist Richard Lydekker said that, "a white tiger, in which the fur was of a creamy tint, with the usual stripes faintly visible in certain parts, was exhibited at the old menagerie at Exeter Change about the year 1820." Hamilton Smith said, "A wholly white tiger, with the stripe-pattern visible only under reflected light, like the pattern of a white tabby cat, was exhibited in the Exeter Change Menagerie in 1820.", and John George Wood stated that, "a creamy white, with the ordinary tigerine stripes so faintly marked that they were only visible in certain lights." Edwin Henry Landseer also drew this tigress in 1824.
It is believed the modern strain of snow white tigers came from of Bhim and Sumita at Cincinnati zoo. The gene involved possibly came from the Siberian tiger, via their part-Siberian ancestor Tony. Continued breeding appears to have caused a recessive gene for stripelessness to show up. About one fourth of Bhim and Sumita's offspring were stripeless. Their striped white offspring, which have been sold to zoos around the world, may also carry the stripeless gene.
Because Tony is present in many white tiger pedigrees, the gene may also be present in other captive white tigers. As a result, stripeless whites have occurred in zoos as far afield as the Czech Republic, Spain and Mexico. Stage magicians Siegfried & Roy were the first to attempt to breed selectively for stripelessness; they own snow white Bengal tigers taken from Cincinnati Zoo (Tsumura, Mantra, Mirage and Akbar-Kabul) and Guadalajara, Mexico (Vishnu and Jahan), and a stripeless Siberian tiger called Apollo.
In 2004, a blue-eyed, stripeless white tiger was born at a wildlife refuge in Alicante, Spain. Its parents are normal orange unrelated Bengals. The cub was named Artico ("Arctic"). Stripeless white tigers were thought to be sterile until Siegfried & Roy's stripeless white tigress Sitarra, a daughter of Bhim and Sumita, gave birth. Another variation which came out of the white strains are unusually light orange tigers called golden tabby tigers. These may be orange tigers which carry the stripeless white gene as a recessive. Some white tigers in India have been very dark nearly reverting to the orange color
Genetics & albinism
The presence of stripes indicates it is not a true albino. Contrary to popular belief, white tigers are not albinos; true albino tigers would have no stripes. The stripeless white tigers known today only have very pale stripes. Part of the confusion is due to the misidentification of the so-called chinchilla gene (for white) as an allele of the albino series (publications prior to the 1980s refer to it as an albino gene). The mutation is recessive to normal color, which means that two orange tigers carrying the mutant gene may produce white offspring, and white tigers bred together will produce only white cubs.
The stripe color varies due to the influence and interaction of other genes. While the inhibitor ("chinchilla") gene affects the color of the hair shaft, there is a separate "wide-band" gene affecting the distance between the dark bands of color on agouti hairs. An orange tiger who inherits two copies of this wide-band gene becomes a golden tabby; a white who inherits two copies becomes almost or completely stripeless. As early as 1907, naturalist Richard Lydeker doubted the existence of albino tigers. However, we do have a report of true albinism: in 1922, two pink-eyed albino young were shot along with their mother at Mica Camp, Tisri, in the Cooch Behar district, according to Victor N Narayan in a "Miscellaneous Note" in the Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society. The albinos were described as sickly-looking sub-adults, with extended necks and pink eyes.
Cross-eyed, is not a result of inbreeding.
The only pure-Bengal white tiger reported to be cross eyed was Mohini's daughter Rewati. Strabismus is directly linked to the white gene and is not a separate consequence of inbreeding.
The orange littermates of white tigers are not prone to strabismus. Siamese cats and albinos of every species which has been studied all exhibit the same visual pathway abnormality found in white tigers. Siamese cats are also sometimes cross eyed, as are some albino ferrets. The visual pathway abnormality was first documented in white tigers in the brain of Moni, after he died, although his eyes were in normal alignment. There is a disruption in the optic chiasm. The examination of Moni's brain suggested the disruption may less severe in white tigers than it is in Siamese cats. Because of the visual pathway abnormality, by which some of the optic nerves are routed to the wrong side of the brain, white tigers have a problem with spatial orientation, and bump into things, until they learn to compensate. Some compensate by crossing their eyes. When the neurons pass from the retina to the brain and reach the optic chiasma some cross and some do not, so that visual images are projected to the wrong hemisphere of the brain.
White tigers, Siamese cats, and Himalayan rabbits have enzymes in their fur which react to temperature causing them to grow darker in cold. They produce a mutated form of tyrosinase, an enzyme used in the production of melanin, which only functions at certain temperatures. This is why Siamese cats and Himalayan rabbits are darker on their faces, ears, legs, and tails, where the cold penetrates more easily. K.S. Sankhala, who was director of the New Delhi Zoo in the 1960s, observed that white tigers were always whiter in Rewa, even when they were born in New Delhi and returned there. "In spite of living in a dusty courtyard they were always snow white." A weakened immune system is directly linked to reduced pigmentation in white tigers. White tigers react strangely to anesthesia due to their inability to produce normal tyrosinase, a trait shared with albinos, according to zoo veterinarian David Taylor. He was treating a pair of white tigers from the Cincinnati Zoo at Fritz Wurm's safari park in Stukenbrock, Germany, for salmonella.
Mohini was checked for Chdiak-Higashi syndrome in 1960, but the results were inconclusive. This condition is similar to albino mutations and causes bluish lightening of the fur color, crossed eyes, and prolonged bleeding after surgery or in the event of injury, the blood is slow to coagulate, in domestic cats. There has never been a case of a white tiger having Chédiak-Higashi syndrome. There has been a single case of a white tiger having central retinal degeneration, which could be related to reduced pigmentation in the eye, reported from the AZA accredited Milwaukee County Zoo. The white tiger was a male on loan from the Cincinnati Zoo.
Because of the extreme rarity of the white tiger allele in the wild, the breeding pool was limited to the small number of white tigers in captivity. According to Kailash Sankhala the last white tiger ever seen in the wild was shot in 1958. Some animal rights activists have called for a halt to the breeding of white tigers altogether. It is probably due to the rarity and demand for white tigers that Rewati was later bred by Robert Baudy, in Center Hill, Florida, to an unrelated orange Amur tiger, but did not conceive. A white Amur tiger may have been born at Center Hill, and given rise to a strain of white Amur tigers. Rewati also lived at the AZA accredited Bronx Zoo for several years and they may have attempted to breed her. She appeared on the covers of the April 1970 National Geographic and the June 22, 1973 issue of Science.
It has been possible to expand the white gene pool by outcrossing white tigers with unrelated orange tigers and then using the cubs to produce more white tigers. Most zoo's are now doing this.
Ranjit, Bharat, Priya, and Bhim were all outcrossed; in some instances to more than one tiger. Bharat was bred to an unrelated orange tiger named Jack, from AZA accredited San Francisco Zoo, and had an orange daughter named Kanchana. Bharat and Priya were also bred with an unrelated orange tiger from the AZA accredited Knoxville Zoo, and Ranjit was bred to this tiger's sister, also from Knoxville Zoo. Bhim fathered several litters by an unrelated orange tigress named Kimanthi, at the AZA accredited Cincinnati Zoo. Ranjit had several mates at the AZA accredited Omaha Zoo. The last descendants of Bristol Zoo's white tigers were a group of orange tigers from outcrosses, which were bought by a Pakistani senator and shipped to Pakistan. Rajiv, Pretoria Zoo's white tiger, who was born in the Cincinnati Zoo and became the first white tiger in Africa when he was traded for a king cheetah, was also outcrossed and sired at least two litters of orange cubs at Pretoria Zoo. Outcrossing isn't necessarily done with the intent of producing more white cubs by resuming inbreeding further down the line.
In recent years a white tigress at the Buenos Aires Zoo has produced several litters of white cubs, including some which are stripeless, and a litter of 6 in 2004. A stripeless white tigress gave birth to four stripeless white, and one orange cub, at the zoo in Guadalajara, Mexico, which has an association with Siegfried & Roy, in 2007. The fact that the litter included one orange cub shows that the father, Nino, is orange. This was the sixth litter born at the zoo.
The new Delhi Zoo loaned out white tigers to various zoos in India for outcrossing, and the government had to impose a whip to force zoos to return either the white tigers or their orange offspring.
Siegfried & Roy did at least one outcross. In the mid 1980s they offered to collaborate with the Indian government in the creation of a healthier strain of white tigers. The Indian government was reportedly studying the offer. At one point the Cincinnati Zoo was the only zoo in the world breeding them. The New Delhi Zoo decided to try again reasoning that if Cleopatra could be born healthy and normal as the product of three generations of brother to sister unions then so might white tigers. (Cleopatra's parents were not brother and sister.) Mice have been bred brother to sister for 150 generations without ill effect, and are therefore 99.999% genetically identical.
Hybrid white tigers appear to be healthier than white subspecific purebreds and an analogy can be made with purebred vs. mongrel dogs.India is committed to keeping their white tigers purebred. In the mid 1980s Siegfried & Roy owned 10% of the world's white tigers. In the 1980s Siegfried & Roy were escorting two big, dark striped, white tiger cubs to their new home at Phantasialand, in Bruhl, Germany, when the white tigers and their truck were briefly stolen in New York City, when the driver stopped for coffee. The white tigers made their debut in Germany at a ceremony attended by the United States Ambassador. Siegfried & Roy have bred white tigers in collaboration with the Nashville Zoo and they appeared on Larry King with white tiger cubs born at the Nashville Zoo. Fritz Wurm's safari park in Germany bought a pair of white tigers from the Cincinnati Zoo, and Joan Collins attended the opening of the golden domed white tiger pavilion, at the safari park in Stukenbrock, Germany.
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