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Breeding / Keeping exotic colours

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by CindelP, 9 Jan 2017.

  1. CindelP

    CindelP Well-Known Member

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    Hi everyone,

    Probably there is already a post about this, but what are everyines thoughs on zoo keeping and breeding exotic colours like white tigers?

    Personally, i dont agree. Nowadays every zoo aspect should be directed into breeding endangered species or at least keeping it pure and having a viable population in captivity.

    Sometimes i find it amazing how much money is spend in, ie, white tiger instalations and keeping, when that space and money could be used to house another spp.

    What are eveyones ideas?
     
  2. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    Animals such as white lions are significant draw-cards, especially for small, privately-owned zoos. The obstacles such zoos face are not as well recognised as they should be; most importantly that they exist without the public funding that substantially subsidise the operations of larger government zoos. They have to get people through the gates with what's often a much higher relative entry price for the size of the collection and sophistication of exhibits and visitor amenities.

    Given this pressure, I'm supportive of displaying crowd-pleasing mutations (especially in small private zoos, where they are most common) on two conditions. One is that they don't create an unreasonable obstacle to maintain a viable population of wild-type animals of the same species, and the other is that there are no health problems associated with the mutant gene that affects the quality of life of the individual animals.

    In Australia, white lions clearly pass this bar. Many of the zoos that have white lions are also keeping tawny lions; this applies off the top of my head to Darling Downs, Mogo, National Zoo and Aquarium and Altina, and I think it's also true of ZooDoo as well? There are also no health risks associated with the white gene in lions and with careful management of the global population they hopefully won't develop any.

    White tigers, by contrast, fail the second test given the known impact of in-breeding on this population. They should not be kept and the gene should be allowed to die out (but it won't, of course).
     
  3. Carl Jones

    Carl Jones Well-Known Member

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    The inbreeding problem in white tigers can be corrected by breeding with normal coloured unrelated animals and then back breeding to express the recesive white gene. Colour morphs are of course very common in captive populations of birds, reptiles, mammals and fish. The list of animals showing colour mutations and being displayed in zoos is very long and is a product of the species being domesticated, and the artificial selection that drives breeders. Colour mutations are also common and selected for with game animals hence on game farms you can hunt white springbok, black impala or golden wilderbeest.

    With long term self sustaining captive populations what is the problem in having colour mutations? These populations have been selected to live in captivity and their survival ability in the wild will be compromised. So the idea that Western zoos are keeping these animals to restock the wild is an unlikely dream. When we are breeding for conservation purposes, and ultimately for reintroduction we must approach the management of the animals in a far more rigorous way with regular gene flow between the wild and captivity, to mitigate the impacts of artificial selection and domestication.

    A great topic which is controvertial but one that zoos are having to seriously think through.
     
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  4. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    It's the inbreeding that has caused the problems, not the actual gene itself; and as Carl said above, outbreeding to unrelated stock will resolve the inbreeding flaws. It will also produce normal coloured tigers.

    And while I agree we should be breeding to eliminate genetic faults, I disagree vehemently with the idea of eliminating the white gene completely. It occurs in the wild population (at a very low frequency) and is therefore part of the natural genetic diversity found within the species. When trying to conserve an endangered species with a reduced population, actively decreasing the diversity within the species genome is counter-productive.

    The rampant inbreeding that has occurred over the past few decades (and probably still does in some places) due to ignorance and societal trends is unfortunate, but allowing the gene to 'die out' because of problems caused in the past would only compound those problems and could be detrimental for conservation of the species in the future.

    :p

    Hix
     
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  5. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Dr Jan Janecka is currently involved in a study of captive white tigers (and tigers in general) to determine how inbred they really are. Many argue (and I am inclined to agree) that the inbreeding problem is less serious now than it was a decade or two ago because there has been increased outbreeding with orange tigers. I have also heard (but cannot find a source) that the claim that they are all "useless hybrids" is an exaggeration as the preliminary findings from DNA studies show they are extremely high percentage Indian (aka Bengal).

    While I could not find Dr Janecka's findings published yet (I think he is still working on it), here is a thesis proposal from one of his students that contains a lot of information.
    http://oaktrust.library.tamu.edu/bitstream/handle/1969.1/148870/CARNEY-THESIS-2013.pdf
     
  6. Jurek7

    Jurek7 Well-Known Member

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    I am forced to agree that white lions and tigers might be seen as money bringers to the zoo, if they really bring more money.

    My experience with these breeds is that they look good on photos, but not so impressive and popular in the real life (unless the zoo builds a hype about them). So my question is how is the real benefit of white lions and tigers over making a nice public feeding or keeper presentation of normal lions and tigers?

    BTW - It looks like the lion and the tiger have become domesticated, and the white lines can be called domesticated breeds.
     
  7. Zorro

    Zorro Well-Known Member

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    It has been found that white Tigers and Lions do bring in more of the public than the normal coloured animals hence why the smaller private zoos like to keep them, As Hix said they are small part of the wild population. I would never like to see large numbers of white tigers in zoos but some kept and bred to the normal part of the captive population, I had read some years ago white Tigers also carry a link to a large size gene if that was needed at some stage in the captive management of the species. I really cant see regardless of colour they could ever be called domesticated.
     
  8. Hix

    Hix Wildlife Enthusiast and Lover of Islands Premium Member

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    When Chester, the White Tiger at Taronga Zoo, died the zoo received hundreds of cards and gifts all addressed to Chester. It was - IMO - quite ridiculous. When any of the normal tigers dies that doesn't happen. Apparently this happens at other zoos too.

    I haven't heard this, and I suspect it is probably one person's loose definition of the word 'domestic'.

    :p

    Hix
     
  9. CGSwans

    CGSwans Well-Known Member

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    All very fair points.
     
  10. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Here is a thread on the topic (white tigers specifically), and the second post lists two additional threads: White tigers, yes or no ?
     
  11. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    But I wonder if any have been found to be 100% pure Indian, rather than just having a 'high percentage' of Indian blood- which is not surprising given all/most of the founder stock of white tigers came from India originally and they were only later crossed with other miscellaneous tigers (mainly Siberian).
     
  12. Maguari

    Maguari Never could get the hang of Thursdays. Premium Member

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    This is interesting in context of this discussion - not a wild white tiger, but certainly one whiter than normal, in Kaziranga. Just posted today.

    Dr Rajesh Gopal on Twitter
     
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  13. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Wooowwwww! That is a wild golden tabby tiger!!!! This is another form also from a recessive gene like the white tiger (and white and golden and orange can all be born in the same litter). However, while wild whites were well know historically there is little to no information about wild golden tabbies.
     
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  14. Zorro

    Zorro Well-Known Member

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    Thats quite interesting. There has been reports in the past of black tigers with a few skins taken
     
  15. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    So called black tigers are not true melanistic (black) cats. They exhibit hyperabundism, which means they have more black stripes than usual (but still typical orange underneath, just a lot less of it).
    MUTANT BIG CATS
     
  16. overread

    overread Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget that many individuals destined for reintroduction are often not on display at most zoos. They might come from display stock, but they are raised and kept outside of that system. You don't want your re-introduced tigers to be accustomed to human interaction and comfortable being used to living near humans - if anything you want them terrified of humanity so that they don't linger close to human habitation (this triggering human-wildlife conflict which can so often be the cause of destruction of individuals within a species and a species itself).

    So have the white tiger on display and then round the back the money it helps generate helps support a tiger reintroduction program.


    From my thinking colourmorphs have an ability to stand out as an individual to the common public who are otherwise not as involved with those animals. It's like any animal or even human population. If you just visit then one tiger is like another; its big and its stripy and honestly you can't "really" tell them apart from another tiger all that easily. So you can't recognise individuals.

    Now visit that individual a few dozen times and you start to see the smaller features that allow you to pick that individual out. Work with animals and you'll find the same - a pack of hounds is a pack of hound but a hound master will know each hound individually and be able to tell most apart from the other.


    A morph that is far more unique is much easier to spot - its the different one by a large margin. Marketing can also much more easily market this. If you've got two white tigers then the public can easily come and spot those two white tigers. You can give them names; beef them up marketing wise and generate far more attention and interest and people will recognise them much more readily.


    I agree that so long as the morph population is properly managed to avoid inbreeding and that the morph itself brings no excessive health problems then it can't be a bad thing to have something that brings in extra money to allow support of conservation efforts and the zoo. Remembering that your reintroduction individuals are unlikely to ever be on public display excepting when they are very young.
     
  17. CindelP

    CindelP Well-Known Member

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    Im not really concerned about inbreeding as it does not takes much to show a simple recessive gene (ie, white tiger) and also it does not bother me much showing them to the public.

    I'm aware that white lions or tigers may be a strong point to seduce visitors, but are they really? As someone has said they are usually not-as-exciting in person, plus how many visitor does go to the zoo just to see them/knowing that they are there.

    What I find some worry is seing certain zoos using precious space/enclosure/resources to keep them, when I do think that more than exibiting an "exotic colour" focus should be directed to keep others spp that may need the space.

    I do not know if AZA or EAZA have guidelines about that ...
     
  18. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    Yes, woooooow! :D First time I've ever heard of/seen a 'Golden Tabby' tiger in the wild- I presumed this mutation was somehow only a product of captive breeding. I will regard it rather differently from now on. I don't think White tigers have ever been reported from Kaziranga so the Golden Tabby gene must be an entirely seperate one, and not linked to white, which was also not what I thought.
     
    Last edited: 19 Jan 2017
  19. elefante

    elefante Well-Known Member

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    I know this has been discussed in depth but I have to admit that I do like seeing white tigers. They are beautiful animals. However, I do agree that priority should be given to the orange ones. This isn't to say that they don't have educational value. Maybe if a zoo had some space I could see keeping one (especially if it's a rescued one) to educate the public about that color variation. Doesn't Nashville have something similar?
     
  20. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    If White tigers in captivity were still a morph of pure Indian tiger,as was originally the case, it would be more acceptable to keep/breed the two colours alongside each other. The problem is that pure Indians have disappeared in zoos outside of India, with all White tigers now being impure/generic.