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Zoos and Tiger Inbreeding

When zoos first appeared in the 19th century, they were seen as a permanent carnival where people would pay a fee to go see exotic animals from around the world without much regard for animal welfare. At the turn of the 20th century, they were perceived by the masses as a way to conserve species faced with extinction and used as a source of animal education for the young. However, in the 21st century it seems that the zoo system has gone full circle. Upon closer examination it becomes apparent that what is actually happening in zoos is tantamount to profiteering from bad behavior. Any organization set out to protect and preserve animals has rules that must be adhered to in order to remain active. They may not wantonly abuse and pollute the integrity of a species against its nature, as is standard with tigers in zoos and subsequently breeding farms.

Zoos discovered that there was a huge profit in the marketing of "special attractions" by displaying white tigers. A white tiger is a rare genetic mutation for good reason, as they are the direct result of inbreeding. In the wild, the white coat and blue eyes are an indication to other tigers that its gene pool has been compromised, thereby making a white tiger unsuitable as a candidate for mating. Incestuous encounters amongst tigers are so rare that no white tiger has been seen in the wild since 1958 when a hunter, thanks to the high visibility of the tiger’s coat, shot the only one in existence. Every white tiger found in the world today is the byproduct of human interference with the species.

Tigers suffer setbacks similar to humans from inbreeding practices, which in general results in a wide range of physical, mental, and life expectancy issues. If a zoo does not already own a pair of white tigers, it can take an enormous amount of pregnancies to produce one, which is a costly prospect that results in massive amounts of unwanted cubs. To supplement the expense, the inbred cubs that are not white are sold to breeding farms that turn around and sell them as exotic pets.

In America, these cubs are labeled as generic and not considered “real” tigers. Therefore, the Endangered Species Act does not protect them, allowing for unaccountable, unrestricted trade. The cubs are not considered legitimate by human law for the simple principle that tigers left alone in their wild habitat do not naturally practice incestuous behavior, which leaves these innocent victims condemned to lives as sideshow freaks. This opens an unprecedented Pandora’s box for exploitative practices and abusive behavior to go unchecked and unpunished. This enormous loophole allows people to force tigers into unnatural situations that ultimately degrade the genetic code of the species, further hastening their extinction.

Typically, tigers are solitary and territorial. Females keep to a range of approximately 8 square miles (20 square km) and males keep a range up to 39 square miles (100 square km). Female cubs will typically keep territories in closer proximity to their mother’s. However, male cubs are sent away within months after weaning so they have time to seek out and establish their own territory well away from related females prior to their mating age, as nature intended.

The population of inbred “generic” tigers has surpassed “authentic” tigers found in the wild. In 2011, it is estimated that there are approximately 7,500 wild tigers remaining with nearly half of their population found in India. Tigers are not indigenous to the North American region. As a result, in America nearly all 10,000 of the generic tigers in existence are caged, as there is inadequate conservation space for this species. They are found in zoos, breeding farms, roadside carnivals, theatrical billets, and even truck stop parking lots. The “generic” breed of tiger is not even afforded the same protection as domesticated pets because of the inherent danger they represent. Their purposes are to be used for profit and as status symbols, not for educating the young and most certainly not for species preservation.

Actions speak louder to future generations than does idle conversation. If adults are engaged in negative behavior, children believe it is acceptable even when they are told that it is not, perpetuating a destructive learning pattern. Globally, we need to show future generations that all life matters by providing a well-rounded, meaningful education based in fundamental humanity and respect for all forms of life, rather than teaching them how to be its destroyer.

The proliferation of such an unethical practice threatens the existence of tigers and should not be rewarded with tax cuts, donations, and profits. Rather, this toxic behavior should be viewed for what it is, which is a cruel and illicit act. The act of forced inbreeding is in direct violation of the Endangered Species Act when both parents are “authentic” tigers, as it intentionally harms the continued existence of an endangered species. The fact that humans have forced them to produce unnatural offspring is in no way the fault of the parenting tigers. Therefore, the protection rights should remain valid for the offspring and the humans/companies responsible for the breeding should be charged to the fullest extent of the law.

This proud, self-reliant species is being exploited for monetary gains while being taught to ignore their mating instincts to the detriment of their species. For those interested in lending their voices please sign the Preserve Tigers Initiative.

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