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white tigers....

Discussion in 'General Zoo Discussion' started by patrick, 15 Jun 2006.

  1. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    i recently mentioned in another thread the prospect of our zoos keeping bengal tigers and the idea that the origin of the white tiger was indeed as a purebred indian subspecies. i knew that there was some talk of australia's bengal population being somewhat hybridised but wasn't sure exactly of the scenario. i did a little research and discovered various stories of the history of white tigers in captivity. though there are varying accounts the general consensus seems to be a story similar to what i have written below.....

    although there once were pure bengal white tigers in captivity - this is largely no longer the case. these days virtually all white tigers are hybrids and have their origins in american zoos. even in the case of the pure-bred tigers, due to the recessive nature of the gene responsible, even the pure-bengal bloodline is severely inbred and was created only by mating one original wild-caught tiger named "mohan" with his own daughters.

    white tigers seen in zoos worldwide today are virtually all of american stock (including australia's dreamworld tigers), a population that initially started out as two seperate bloodlines. one lineage was a pair of pure bengal whites that were originally imported from india and bred by the cincinatti zoo in the 70's, the other lineage was the result of interbreeding hybrid bengal/siberian littermates from a zoo in south dakota. eventually this siberian/bengal bloodline found its way to the cincinatti zoo who then bred them in with their pure-bred bengals. it was from this siberian-polluted cincinatti stock that the rest of the world's zoo got their white tigers.

    in fact (though isis records will state otherwise) one researcher has indicated that there are actually no authentic purebred bengals (white or otherwise) in zoos anywhere in the united states! this being supported by the fact that the US now has only SSP's for siberian, sumatran and a very limited number of indochinese. "bengals" in america are being phased-out due to their unknown and mixed ancestry.

    today there a apparently only about 40 pure-bred bengal white's left in the world. all decendents of the original "mohan" - all found in indian zoos.

    so as gorgeous as they can be (though i would argue a golden tiger is much more attractive) white tigers and the odd rare "tabby" tiger (which another abberent colour mutation that pops up in the white tiger lineage) have no conservation value whatsoever.

    apparently the chance of the white gene popping up in the wild again are around 1 in 10,000......
     
    Last edited: 15 Jun 2006
  2. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    white tigers

    yes, the only pure-bred(indian) white tigers nowadays are in India. There are literally hundreds of white tigers(crossbred Indian x Siberian) in America nowadays- many are so severely inbred they have all sorts of physical deformities. Some are almost stripeless- they have been bred almost along the lines of domestic cats. Its a real problem.

    First white tiger in America was imported to Washington-she was Mohini, one of the first litter of four white cubs produced by the Maharaja of Rewa in India using Mohan and his daughter Radha. Family tree/relatedness of the white tigers can be found on the Internet. Initially those produced in America were purebred Indian. Some were also produced in America by some normal, totally unrelated tigers - these must have carried the white gene too. So there was a second, totally different bloodline. Then unfortunately,Siberian blood was mixed in and they all became crossbreds eventually.
     
  3. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

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    chester, taronga's white tiger

    taronga zoo used to have a white tiger called Chester in the Cats of Asia exhibit. he was bengal x amur, and a magnificent looking creature although he always seemed to be sick-no doubt due to inbreeding over the years.
    when he died he was never replaced, now taronga only concentrates on sumatrans which is probably the most sensible outcome.
     
  4. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    white tigers

    Following on- I always find it amazing that while zoos nowadays focus heavily on Sumatran and Siberian tigers, there are NO breeding programmes for Indian tigers(white or normal-coloured) outside India. I don't think there have even been are any purebred Indian/Bengal tigers outside India for many years now- the last ones were probably produced during the 'pure' phase of white tiger breeding, but have since died out.

    Can anyone update me on that?
     
  5. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    there are a number of zoos in the US , Europe and Asia who list pure bengals amongst their collection, but it is true that most "bengals" seem to originate from US zoos, where early on they were hybridised with siberians.

    obviously siberian and sumatrans are the most endangered tiger taxa and the siberians are well suited to the climate of most north american and european zoos. australia doesn't really have enough zoos to justify keeping two tiger subspecies and our hybrid bengals are being phased-out in favour of sumatrans, for which we have an excellent breeding record.

    personally, id'e love to see our zoos negotiate to aquire some purebred bengals from india, for display at our open range zoos - but i know that it would be a counterproductive decision.
     
  6. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    purebred Indian tigers in zoos.

    I believe most 'bengal' tigers listed in zoos anywhere outside india are NOT pure Indian tigers. I read somewhere that during the 1990's there was ONE purebred Indian tiger (maybe a remnant from the white tiger breeding?) in an American zoo and that one has since died- so none anymore. Even well known/long term tiger-breeding zoos like Howletts in UK have Indian/bengal tigers which are not of pure stock.
     
  7. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    zoos really need to stop taking up space with hybrids - even the most populous race, the bengal, are increasingly becoming scarcer in the wild and yet, tigers have excellent breeding records in zoos. in fact we are at the stage with certain subspecies, such as the siberian, where it is time to start looking at reintroduction. the captive population is a healthy one that far outnumbers the wild one. yet i know of only one project to teach wild tigers how to hunt - and their doing it in africa!!!
     
  8. Coquinguy

    Coquinguy Well-Known Member

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    china to reintroduce tigers

    a few months ago china announced a captive breeding and reintroduction program for tigers in the countries north east. cant remember much more about it and i threw the article out but it may be worth googling, or yahooing ;)
     
  9. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    chinese tigers

    These tigers are sometimes called the 'red' tiger as the orang colour is very rich. They are so numerically low -about fifty- and so inbred from very few founder animals that I believe there is virtually no hope for them in the future. I think they are all(the known ones at least) in captivity and until recently most have been living in dreadful conditions in Chinese zoos.

    I think it was a pair of these( ex zoo-bred litter mates) which Patrick mentions as having been sent to a South African reserve to teach them to live wild, kill prey etc before sending them back to a possible reintroduction trial in China. But although they started to adapt, one of them had a heart attack and died-so inbred it wasn't up to living as a wild tiger.

    The South China tiger is probably doomed to extinction even though it still exists now and there's probably not a lot anyone can do about it... A very sad situation.
     
  10. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    actually i beleve there have been two seperate projects involving trigers in africa. i watched a doco on animal planet about one, thinking i was watching a show about the south-china-tiger-in-africa project i had read about in nat geo. but it wasn't.....

    south china tigers are believed to be the ancestor of all other tiger subspecies, the first and most "generic" tiger type so to speak. however, what the clear differences between them and indochinese tigers is i'm not sure. recently, malaysian scientists announced that animals from the malay penninsular were yet another subspecies that is seperate from the indochinese, the malayan tiger! truth be told if historically tigers had a continuous distribution from the middle east to siberia to bali, there would have been alot of "inbetween" tigers out there...

    what to do with the south china tigers?

    well if the population is that inbred that it really is doomed one way or another, then best they simply introduce a bit of indochinese blood to keep them going...
     
  11. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    In its historic range there would have been a continuam of tigers 'types' with the sub species that we recognise now being the extreme ends of the range. So the Caspian represented the western most, the siberian the eastern and the sumatran, javan and bali being isolated on their islands ( interesting that the tiger never seemed to have reached borneo) The 'malay' group would have been partially isolated on the penisula but most of the mainland (indo chinese, south chinese, bengal and whatever the subspecies that inhabited Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia was) would have been a continous spectrum and most likely if the tiger still inhabited all of its historic range today, they wouldn't have been recognised as different sub species.
     
  12. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    i think your right jay,

    whats more some authorities claim the bali was identical to the javan. subspecies are a tricky thing, i think we'll find ther is awful lot of grey area in there and that as long as we continue to use genetics as a distinction (rather than appearance or morphological attributes) that in certain species the rate of subspecies recognised will become overwhelming and somewhat rediculous.

    indochinese tigers inhabited, as their name suggests, indochina, which is basically mainland southeast asia - vietnam, cambodia, laos, thailand, myanmar and the malay penisular.

    from the indochinese tigers i have seen they look somewhat halfway between a bengal and a sumatran, which would, taking into account their geographic distribution make perfect sense now wouldn't it?!! :)
     
  13. Pertinax

    Pertinax Well-Known Member

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    tiger subspecies

    Yep, I think Jay's right too- subspecies only came into existence when the populations started to be become fragmented, previously they'd have been like Pumas in the Americas, spead right through the two continents but animals from different regions showing local distances.

    Bali Tigers- its thought they may have swum there from Java- so must have been very close in size/appearance etc. I have seen a couple of photos of (dead) Bali tigers- they were pretty small.( There's a biological rule for size/mass in relation to temperature in mammals with a wide distribution- tropical = smallest, temperate = largest)
     
  14. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    wow sound slike my biolaogy lessons, it's all about surface area!

    so if the sun-species only become 'subspecies' when fragmneted, how do we explain the sume what substacial difference i coat patterns, not by individual tigers but by sub species, and minor diffences, eg) sumatran have a large rough around neck, somewhat like a mane but in the chin, up 2 the ears, very soft hehe ;)
     
  15. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    subspecies and intermediates....

    well, your using sumatrans there as an example Zoo_Boy, one of the few races that has been fragmented from the rest of the population, naturally, for a very long time....

    the variations in size, coat colour etc, would have always existed, and many other species have clearly regognised "subspecies" at the extremities of their range, and intermediate forms inbetween. to be honest, i think what we are doing at present is classifying, indochinese and south china tigers as seperate subspecies when indeed they probably once represented these intermediates. of course, provided they are distinct from the other populations, science has every reason to promote them to subspecies category - but it certainly can be a little confusing. its not supprising that some scientists don't aknowledge subspecies at all..

    whats even more confusing is some distinctly different species, like bottle-nosed dolphins and spotted dolphins (even pilot whales!), can occasionally interbreed and create fertile offspring who then in turn distribute another species genes through the population.

    then at the other end of the spectrum you have species like african buffalo, where two subspecies look so different, that if it wasn't for the fact that they are known to interbreed in "buffer zones" you would surely classify them as different species.

    african elephants is another example of a species recently split into two due to major genetic and morphological differences. though there are certain populations of both species that freely interbreed with eachother!

    and lastly, i couldn't not mention the quagga - the perfect example of a (once) continous population of animals that looked completely different from one end to the other... in northern africa plains zebras are heavily striped, right down the legs and ditinctly contrasting shades of black and white. by the time they got to the cape they had no stripes on the legs and were predominantly brown!!!

    now for your homework children i'd'e like you to..........
     
  16. Zoo_Boy

    Zoo_Boy Well-Known Member

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    hehe im on holidays now, and jeez i come home with 60 hours of holiday homework!!!!!!!! jeez, its like we dont have holidays.

    anyway thnx mr teahcer sir, so you are saying that these sub species have been separated for mnay years, and would this is due to natural, rather than human intervention?

    also, when i was at dubbo, talking to a giraffe keeper, he said he jsut wanted to breed giraffes, no bloody sub species, in his words. a giraffes a giraffe, so why should we concentrate on singles? is this the attitude our zoos may be taking - he spoke on his own accord though, western plains does want to concentrate on sub species eventually. our zoos acrnt really do anything till we get new blood, other than jsut pop out babies, maybe when babies stop, the public will go hang on, and our zoos will say with out new blood no baby giraffes. imagine hundreds of thousands rallying in our capital species, for a lifting of the ban- o happy days.

    sounds like a field trip sir!
     
  17. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    In Scotland there are two recognised SPECIES of gull, one is a black headed gull and the other (i think) is the herring gull. you can follow the herring gull west, through Ireland, Iceland, Greenland through Canada to Siberia, northern russiam finland, Sweden and Norway and back to Scotland. Each population is only slightly different from the one to the east of it and they interbreed freely with birds on either side , so slight is the difference that most people wouldn't spot it. But if you saw a scottish gull and a Greenland gull you would see a marked difference and say they were different subspecies. The trick is though that by the time you get back to Scotland the Herring gull has become the Black Headed gull! And never shall the two interbreed. So are they really one species or two? This is what would have been happening with the tigers. In time, if man hadn't interfered, the island groups and perhaps the extremeties would have become recognised different species but the intermediate lot (India through to China) would have provided a bridge between the Siberian and Caspians.

    whew!

    ps. I may not have got the names of the two species of gulls correct.
     
  18. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    thats facinating!!

    i don't know how on earth you could classify that one! clearly in scotland the two groups fall under the critera of different species. they don't interbreed and are physically different (is their behaviour different here also?). however, as you state they represent to extreme ends of one population (unusually just in the one place!)....

    i suppose it shows that in no way is nature always clean-cut and clearly defined. indeed you are correct about the sumatrans jay, they are on their way to becoming an distinct species in their own right. i have read that gentically they are markedly different....
     
  19. jay

    jay Well-Known Member

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    I don't know about the behaviou but as one bird is larger than the other it probably would be. I was interest to hear that the javan and bali tigers were almost identical, that seems to infer that the tiger was continuing to extend its range up until recent times.

    Nature is so full of suprises and that is perhaps where the creationists get it wrong. They think that everything is static, that what is will always be. It's like their comment that which human child was born to a chimpanzee?
     
  20. patrick

    patrick Well-Known Member

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    i actually believe that short of protecting what we have left, we should try and reclaim a bit too. i wouldn't nesercarily be opposed to re-introducing tigers to java one day (though right now i wouldn't dare put that sort of stress on the rhino!), using sumatrans as a stand in. prehistorically thats what would have happened...