By Erika, age 14

White_Tiger_2-300x190Have you ever seen those campaigns that say you should help save the white tiger? Don’t listen to them. You should not “save” the white tiger! Here’s why: the white tiger is not a species, but a group of leucistic Bengal tigers. These tigers are often treated poorly and are forced to inbreed, which has terrible side effects.

Leucism is a condition where an animal doesn’t have a lot of pigment, which makes them pale or white. It’s similar to albinism, but there can be some pigment and normal eyes.

Breeders want to promote “conservation” of the white tiger, so the mutation of the white and black stripe pattern doesn’t disappear. The mutation is quite uncommon, since it doesn’t help the tigers blend into their environments, so there are a limited number of white tigers in existence. They don’t survive in the wild.

Breeders generally have access to only one family of white tigers and to keep the pattern, they force the tigers to inbreed, sometimes across generations. Besides the ethical problems with this, inbreeding also affects the health of the tigers. I saw a white tiger named Zabu at the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida who was born with crossed eyes because the recessive trait for crossed eyes had been overlapped so many times that it was expressed.

If you see people trying to promote the conservation of white tigers, don’t help them. A better way to help tigers is to support conservation of their wild habitat and organizations like the Big Cat Rescue where they care for tigers, lions, and other large felines rescued from abusive environments like white tiger breeders.