Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Pic(k) of the week 52: The myth of the WHITE TIGER - Al Ain Zoo, UAE

The myth of the White Tiger, says that they are almost extinct and endangered... After doing extensive research I found that some say that White Tigers haven't been seen in the wild since the early 1950's, while others pretend they never existed as wild animals in the first place as they are the direct result of breeding by mankind.

The first camp says it all started in 1951 when one of the last wild white tigers was captured as a cub; the story has it that Mohan was caged by the Maharajah in India and destined to father a significant portion of the worlds captive white tigers population. 

What is however clear, is that White Tigers are not albinos or their own separate species.; they occur when two Bengal Tigers that carry a recessive gene controlling coat control, are being bred together. In order to continue and breed this recessive gene, breeders must continuously inbreed father to daughter, father to granddaughter and so on. Just like with humans, this inbreeding is causing a lot of genetic problems such as mental impairments, scoliosis of the spine and organ problems. The fact that they are so deeply inbred also means that they will never be ready to be released into the wild and that they have a far shorter live span than its wild brother and sisters.   

In 2011 the association of Zoos and Aquariums, has banned member zoos from breeding White Tigers themselves; even if they do follow that advice, quite a few zoos are however still accepting White Tigers from other sources. 

The Al Ain zoo in the UAE, had two White Tigers donated by the Dubai Royal family in early 2011; a female called Sugar and male called Spice. Unfortunately Sugar died end of 2016, leaving green eyed Spice very lonely and unhappy. The image below was shot through a glass wall as he walked around his enclosure in search for his female counterpart, early December this year. 

Image details:
  • Fujifilm X-T2 with the XF100-400 lens
  • ISO 200, f5.6, 1/250s , 400mm
  • RAW development in Lightroom CC

Although I've never been a huge fan of zoos, I was quite happy to see how the Al Ain zoo seems to be looking well after their animals; most animals have decent size enclosures and with its total 400 hectare total area, the zoo has a lot open space making it very different from your typical zoo around the world. Worth checking it out here.  

Having said this, taking the effort to see animals in their natural habitat remains the best way to support animal conservation. In case you missed it, please make sure to check out my "Fujifilm goes wild", to check out some "real wildlife" photography from my latest trip to Tanzania.  Click here for more.

Remember: "Life is a zoo in a jungle" - Peter de Vries.


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