Sunday, June 27

Sancturary: A white bengal tiger at the Singapore Zoo.

Photographer unknown. Click it for a bigger, sharper version.


An Gabhar Ban said...

Now THAT is a tiger habitat!!

Raelha said...

I fully agree - my mini-tigers would love it.

If only they didn't need the sanctuary though.

Metamatician said...

I agree on both counts, as habitats go, this is probably the best one I've seen at a zoo.

I also agree that I wish animals weren't enclosed in habitats at all.

But in some cases they have to be. One case would be animals raised in captivity - they can never be released to the wild, because they don't have the skills necessary to survive. And that comes about from the exotic (and illegal) pet trade, and all the idiots who participate in it.

The other problem specifically with white Bengals is that they're a genetic fluke in the wild, like an albino (but they're not full albinos, they just have the "orange" gene turned off by mistake). In the wild, these tigers always die, because their camouflage is worthless in the tan and orange and yellow colored savannas, so prey spot them a mile away and they nearly always starve one their mothers stop feeding them.

People, naturally, have exacerbated this problem by thinking, "Oh George, how precious! A butt-white tiger cub!" They take them home or to the circus or to sell on the black market, or whatever, and the public demand for "exotic white tigers" (often mistaken for Siberian or Amur tigers, which they aren't and which aren't white, though they are a bit white on the underside than Bengals) shoots up.

The long-running and extremely popular Siegfried & Roy show in Las Vegas used white tigers, which only increased the demand more - yes, even zoos in the bad old days gave in and bred white tigers, because it would bring in guests. Zoos no longer do this (or extremely few) because they've cleaned up their act since the 60s and have changed their focus from presenting animals as a menagerie for people to gawk at to that of stewards of endangered animals and, working with other zoos and rescue centers, places to increase the gene pool of captively-bred animals, which is another controversy but at least the animals are happier than the once were.

Moral of the story is white Bengals should never have been bred, because now that they have been, they will never be able to be released, and humans have artificially selected for that gene so that even when crossed with other zoo tigers, some of the cubs may turn out white (those most won't), and then you're stuck with a white tiger in captivity all over again.

Ideally all zoos would immediately adopt a policy of not breeding their white tigers, and when the existing population died off, that would be it. But less-scrupulous zoos know that it brings in money, and so are slow to phase them out.

And ideally all poachers and private "collectors" and Chinese medicine ignoramuses would be lined up against a wall and shot, or educated if they don't understand that they are contributing to the extinction of these animals and so many others. The closer to extinction an animal is, the rarer it is, and thus the fetching price on the black market goes up, which leads to a nasty cycle of even more poachers wanting to get the last few, which will fetch top dollar. Then like the Thylacine or the Dodo, they're gone, and so are the profits, and no one is happy because everyone was so short-sighted or just didn't care. And the world become a bit more impoverished in its beauty and diversity.

And that my friends is a bit about white tigers.

Magdalene said...

So beautiful and also heart rending to think what we're doing to the magnificence of the natural world.

PS. Blogging a bit again recently so pop by and say hello sometime.

Metamatician said...

Ok, brilliant! Glad to hear you're writing again - any little bit helps, for me at least. I'll stop by very soon. :-)

Hans said...

Is he my Papa?

Metamatician said...

I don't think so, Hans. Your dad was Mr Biagi, remember? I'm sure your mom has shown you his picture. He looks a lot like you. Probably because he's your dad!

This white tiger looks like a nice guy, though. I had a dream about Siberian tigers and great white sharks last night, and I realized I could approach them and that they were friendly if I simply lost my fear of them. I don't think I'm going to try to go try it in the real world, but I think animals do sense and react to fear.

Also I'm sure the dream was more symbolic than literal.

Confronting fear is probably the biggest challenge in life. Pema Chodron has a book called "The Places That Scare You" that I recommend. Also, "Start Where You Are," and "Becoming Unstuck" (I may not have these title exactly correct, but they're close) are good, as is really anything by her.

Her audiobooks (read by her) are especially nice because you can relax and listen to her and it somehow seems compassionate and direct, as though she's in the room with you.

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