Watch: The cruelty of breeding white tigers

Did you know that all the white tigers alive in captivity today can be traced back to the bloodline of one male white tiger?

Mohan, the start of this bloodline, was found in the forests of India in 1951, and separated from his normal, orange tiger family when they were all killed. He was then taken in by a Maharajah who mated him with another orange tiger, and then his white tiger daughter Radha, to create Mohini. Mohini was the first to take Mohan's bloodline to the US in 1960, when she was gifted to the Smithsonian National Zoo, and was then mated with her uncle/half brother Sampson, thereby setting the white tiger bloodline in motion in the continental US.

White tigers are not a separate species from your average Bengal tiger. They just happen to have a mutation in one specific gene. The gene, called SLC45A2, when mutated, can cause the protein compound that inhabits it to potentially prevent the creation of the red-yellow melanin. The mutation in this gene, however, is recessive. So, for a tiger to turn out white, it must have parents with the double recessive gene, making it an incredibly rare circumstance to occur. But, when the tiger is already white, mating it with another white tiger increases the chances of their offspring being born white by a significant amount. This is where the inbreeding comes in. These tigers were inbred with their own mothers, sisters, fathers, daughters, brothers and sons to create more white tigers.

But like with inbreeding in human beings, there come a host of health related issues for these tigers as well. First, their white fur makes it difficult for them to survive in the wild, creating the crux of why inbreeding is necessitated by humans that want to "preserve" their whiteness. If they do miraculously survive this, the inbreeding and the genetic mutation causes in them health problems like poor vision, spinal deformities, and defective organs.

Among the first to really draw attention to the harm caused to these animals because of their inbreeding and genetic mutation was the tiger Kenny, who was rescued from a private breeder at age 2, and taken to Turpentine Creek Rescue in the year 2000. Kenny's facial deformities were incredibly striking, given that he had a wide set face, short snout and misplaced teeth. Along with these, he had quite a few health problems that caused him to die at age 10, half the average lifespan of the tiger.

Despite this, all the information circulating about the harm that comes to their health and lives from the inbreeding and the genetic mutation, breeders today continue to raise these white tigers, mostly for the cause of human entertainment. They also happen to discuss in this popular media as the conservation of the species of white tiger, creating a false impression for those who come to see these creatures. They couldn't be more wrong - their conservation isn't really conservation, it's cruelty.

Updated Date: May 26, 2017 18:19:19 IST