Zuri is a female white Bengal tiger (Panthera tigris tigris) born May 27, 2012. She was donated to become part of the Foundation’s non-invasive behavioral and nutritional research program. Born with Strabismus (the medical term for crossed eyes), Zuri has no depth perception. She has no discomfort and to assist her growth and help her learn to cope with her special need, we keep objects and events that might startle her away from in and around her enclosure. Her enclosure is also sprayed with the strong scents of peppermint and cayenne pepper to help her navigate the environment around her better by smell. Unfortunately, her condition is likely due to the many genetic problems that arise from breeding white tigers. Zuri’s condition can also occur in humans but the lack of depth perception does not always occur.
White tigers are not their own species, nor are they albino. The white tiger gene is a recessive gene carried only in the Bengal tiger subspecies. The genetic condition creating this reduced pigmentation is known as leucism, whereas an albino animal has complete lack of pigment. In order for a white tiger to occur, both parents must have this recessive gene controlling coat color. This is extremely rare in the wild. Should a white cub be born in the wild, its coloration would offer no camouflage and it would likely be vulnerable to predators while young. White tigers also have difficulty hunting because with the lack of camouflage they are not able to sneak up on their prey. Due to popularity of white tigers and a very small gene pool, almost every white tiger has a genetic problem, mainly due to inbreeding, such as cleft palates, scoliosis of the spine, mental impairments, and strabismus.
Tigers are a rarity among cats, as they love to swim and are quite adept at it. Tigers are solitary animals and heavily scent-mark their territory. They are sit-and-wait predators, using their coat as camouflage and wait until prey is within pouncing distance before attacking. Main sources of food include buffalo, deer, wild pigs, and other large mammals. Tigers have even been known to take down small elephants. A hungry tiger can eat as much as 60 lbs of meat in one night, though they don’t usually eat that much on a regular basis.
Bengal tigers (also called Indian tigers) are found in the Indian subcontinent. The mangrove forests of Sundarban, shared between Bangladesh and India, are the only mangrove forests where tigers are found. Today, Bengal tigers are mostly in India, with smaller populations in Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. Although still considered endangered, Bengal tigers are the most common of the tiger subspecies in the wild, as well as in captivity. Primary declines are due to poaching and habitat loss.
Bengal Tiger Quick Facts:
|Body Length||5 – 6 ft|
|Weight||240 – 500 lbs|
|Gestation Period||103 days|
|Litter Size||2 – 4 average|
|Life Span||8 – 10 years in the wild, 10 – 12 years in captivity|