Animal Rights Activists Say Four White Tiger Cubs Born in Polish Zoo Are Unethical
News| | By Robin Milling
The arrival of Bengal white tiger quadruplets — born at the Polish zoo Safari Borysew on March 21 — has been met with mixed emotions. While the zoo is touting their newest offspring with a cub naming contest, animal rights activists are growling about their birth.
In a press release, the zoo bragged, (translated) “For the first time in the history of zoology born babies up to FOUR! So far, anywhere, in any of the zoos in the world, they not happened so fantastic birth of white tigers. So this is enormously pleased that we repeat it again: the ZOO SAFARI Borysew the first time in history, were born as many as four white tigers in one litter.” The youngest inhabitants of the zoo are not their own species, but they are genetically created by inbreeding. The white tiger is extremely rare and only born in captivity. With only about 200 white tigers left in the world, this is a welcomed delivery for Safari Borysew. However, for an organization called Big Cat Rescue, it is an unethical abomination that needs to be stopped. “The only way to produce a tiger or lion with a white coat is through inbreeding brother to sister or father to daughter; generation after generation after generation,” Big Cat Rescue wrote on their website. “The kind of severe inbreeding that is required to produce the mutation of a white coat also causes a number of other defects in these big cats.” Big Cat Resuce claims that all white tigers living in captivity likely came from the same tiger — Mohan, captured in Rewa, India in 1951. In January 2012, the board of directors for the American Zoological Association (AZA) formalized their 2008 ban on the breeding of white tigers, or white lions. “Breeding practices that increase the physical expression of single rare alleles (i.e., rare genetic traits) through intentional inbreeding, for example intentional breeding to achieve rare color-morphs such as white tigers, deer, and alligators, has been clearly linked with various abnormal, debilitating, and, at times, lethal, external and internal conditions and characteristics, which are outlined in this paper,” their report said. Borysew zoo owner Andrzej Rabich spoke out about the inbreeding. “The most important thing is to properly match (the tigers) genetically. It took us a few years to find a male and then a female,” he said to Reuters. “There aren’t any of these white cats in the wild.” Borysew zoo said the interbreeding only affects one gene, which changes the tigers’ colors, but doesn’t affect the health of the cubs. However, according to the AZA, this is simply not true. “The same gene that causes the white coat causes the optic nerve to be wired to the wrong side of the brain, thus all white tigers are cross eyed, even if their eyes look normal,” the AZA wrote in their findings. “They also often suffer from club feet, cleft palates, spinal deformities and defective organs.” While they might be an adorable attraction at the zoo, the AZA recognizes that these big cats should not be bred and admonishes AZA accredited zoos not to breed any more of them.