When you think of a tiger, you’ll probably imagine a beast with orange and black stripes - just like the one who stars in The Tiger Who Came to Tea. This famous picture book is now a smash-hit theatre show for preschoolers and is one of the best children’s plays currently touring the UK. Tigers can come in a whole variety of colours, however. So let’s take a look at the rarest tiger colour in the world and what makes these creatures so special.
The Tale of the White Tiger
It’s thought there are only around 200 white tigers in the world today - all living in captivity. The last white tiger in the wild was shot in 1958 according to reports, and as white tigers only make up one in every 10,000 tiger births, they’re extremely rare. The white tiger is a result of a rare genetic mutation and, when breeding, both tigers need to carry the same recessive gene in order to produce offspring with a white coat. In captive breeding facilities the two mating tigers are often related, making inbreeding common. This often results in white tigers suffering from health issues.
Health Difficulties of the White Tiger
As the gene pool is too small for successful breeding, inbred tigers often end up with a wide range of significant health problems. Common issues include spinal deformities, defective organs and immune deficiencies. Despite this, people keep breeding white tigers because they look cute and can be sold for a high profit. They’re exactly the same as a normal Bengal tiger except that their fur is not reddish tan or orange with black vertical stripes. Pure white tigers have white fur with no stripes at all making them look almost like a feline polar bear. White tigers also have pink noses and blue eyes. Typically, tiger eyes are made up of layers of gold and brown.
The White Tiger and a Lack of Camouflage
Tigers are orange and black for a reason. The stripes help to break up their body shape, making them harder for their prey to detect. They also blend in well with the sunlight filtering through the treetops to the jungle floor. A tiger’s camouflage is a very clever result of natural adaptation to the environment and survival of the fittest. Darwin would be proud!
White tigers, on the other hand, can be easily spotted in a jungle setting, making their hunting attempts much more challenging. This, in conjunction with their rarity, explains why they’re now extinct in the wild. The reason for breeding such creatures must therefore be questioned. Unfortunately, it’s usually a matter of getting as much cash as possible from the successful sale of a white tiger.
If you love tigers, don’t miss The Tiger Who Came to Tea. It’s one of the best touring children’s shows in the UK and is suitable for little ones aged three and above. Book your tickets today and enjoy a day out to remember.