After 30-year-gap, zoo officials start breeding of tiger with white tigress
Almost three decades after two tiger cubs were born in the Delhi zoo when a normal Bengal tiger mated with a white tigress, the zoo authorities have again initiated a breeding programme in which a normal tiger has been paired with a white tigress.
Officials at the National Zoological Park in New Delhi said that if everything goes well, then the new couple is expected to deliver their first litter by September 2018. Visitors would be able to see them in October, as the zoo plans to introduce them to the public during the Wildlife Week. Currently, the zoo has 12 tigers, seven of which are white.
White tigers are Bengal tigers. They’re not albino or their own separate species. White tigers are born when two Bengal tigers that carry a recessive gene controlling coat colour are bred together.
In order to get more white tigers by retaining this recessive gene, zoos and breeders often inbreed the animals. This inbreeding can trigger many genetic problems with tigers such as cleft palates, scoliosis of the spine, mental impairments and crossed eyes.
“Hence to get some healthy offspring and avoid inbreeding, we decided to choose a white tigress and a normal tiger. The mating is expected to continue for three to four days till the time the female is in ‘oestrus’ — the time in which a female tiger is receptive and likely to conceive. We would then separate them again,” said Renu Singh, director of Delhi zoo.
However, this time the pair is no ordinary one. The three-year-old tigress Nirbhaya is the daughter of Vijay, the white tiger who killed a man in 2014. Her partner Karan, who would turn five in June, was brought from the Mysore Zoo in 2014.
“Nirbhaya and Karan have started mating since Monday — the day they were released in the same enclosure. Prior to that, we had to keep them in adjacent cages from where they could see each other and come close. Only when we found they have started liking each other we let them loose in the same enclosure,” Singh said.
The last time the Delhi zoo had started a breeding programme between a normal tiger and a white tigress was in 1991. The pair — Sundar and Shanti — had given birth to two cubs Aman, which was a normal tiger and Swaraj, which had a white coat.
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