Little White Lions – The Industry’s ‘Super Rare’ deception

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As news reports broke this July of ‘rare’ white tiger and lion cubs being born and hand reared at Loro Parque Zoo, Mexico, many people will be duped into thinking the Zoological Park is doing a good deed. The truth however, is that this practice is detrimental to the animals involved and to other species.

The truth about these ‘super rare’ white big cat cubs is that they are uncommon because all white big cats are captive having been bred by humans. These white creatures are not a breed or sub-species of lion or tiger, they aren’t even albino, they are in fact, leucistic – when a gene mutation leads to a lack of pigment in the skin causing white hair or fur. Whilst these white cats would occur in the wild, they would be incredibly rare with only a 1 in 10,000 chance of occurring naturally. It is likely that they would not fare well, being easily spotted by their prey. There hasn’t been a known leucistic white cat in the wild for many years because the deformation hasn’t occurred. All the white big cats in captivity (yes, ALL) are simply victims of manufacturing by the industry; an excellent money spinner with a fairy tale back story to make customers more likely to part with their money. In fact, the genetics of these cats has been messed about with so much they often have a lot of defects and have an extremely high death rate. Defects can include mental deformities, spinal abnormalities, hip dysplasia, severe eye problems and a reduced immune system. This is largely due to the fact that to create the white lion or tiger, it requires a lot of inbreeding which also means that a large amount of white cubs born will have to be put to sleep as their defects are too difficult to live with. Put simply; these creatures are Frankenstein’s monsters. They should not be in existence and we shouldn’t be supporting their breeders.

The other main problem with this story is the fact these animals are being unnecessarily hand reared. Hand rearing can be an incredibly useful tool for baby animals whose parents cannot raise them alone. Sometimes a parent dies, a mother’s milk dries up or they simply reject the child. If it seems that a youngster will not survive on their own then on some occasions it might be right to intervene. If hand rearing is necessary, then there are rules and recommendations which vary from species to species. However the main objective should always be to raise an animal that can live independently of human interaction and be comfortable with its own species. Some zoos and parks have an absolute ‘no contact’ rule and many think this should be a standard in all establishments, leaving animals to live as near to naturally as is possible. On the flipside however, hand rearing can also be a useful tool when it comes to raising money. You can  charge people to interact with the animals who are comfortable with humans or train animals to act in shows or behave in desirable ways. Also, as can be seen from the many photos which are going round online, zoo keepers feeding cubs with bottles will be described as ‘cute’ or ‘adorable’ by many people and will encourage customers to want to visit the facility or donate money.  However, there is a dark side to such pictures. It would seem in this situation that all the cubs have been pulled from their mothers as it is highly unlikely that the mothers of the cubs would all have had issues raising their young. Pulling cubs from mothers is not good practice as it can cause large amounts of stress to both mother and cub and stress can cause a lot of further medical problems. Hand reared animals can go on to have mental difficulties and there has been cases of animals attacking humans when they are older. One last issue with hand rearing is that the general public can also get the wrong idea about what interaction we should be having with animals or which animals make great pets. This can lead onto further problems.

Breeding these species is totally irresponsible as is the hand rearing and the subsequent media coverage. These facilities should be putting their money and time into looking after the species which really need our support instead of breeding manufactured animals which will likely suffer as a result.

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www.alexandra-pearce.com . alex-pearce@hotmail.co.uk

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