White Female Siberian/Bengal Hybrid
5/15/00 – 3/25/19
About one month after losing her lifelong companion, Cameron, Zabu’s kidneys shut down as she gave up the will to live. Now they are together forever.
Zabu was born at a circus and roadside zoo in New England that has since closed.
Zabu was raised and housed with Cameron, a male lion, neither of which were spayed or neutered. Leaving these two intact cats together could have had grotesque consequences resulting in the birth of ligers. These genetically mutated cross-breeds are victim to a plethora of birth defects that plague the animal its entire life. These freakish hybrids have become popular, though this is not an animal that would even exist in the wild.
It is important that people understand that by refusing to visit venues with these animals on display, this type of animal abuse can be stopped. White tigers also do not exist in the wild. They can neither hide from attack nor sneak on prey. Man has created the glut of white tigers in captivity today through rampant inbreeding.
Because white tigers are all so deeply inbred, they all carry genetic flaws. Zabu is no exception. She has a shortened upper lip leaving her teeth exposed and unprotected. For every white tiger you may see in captivity, many normal colored tigers have died. Since public demand for the white tiger has driven up prices for them, more and more are being bred. Those that are born “the wrong color” are discarded in various horrific ways.
When Zabu and Cameron were rescued we constructed a large natural enclosure for the two of them to share since they are truly bonded as a couple. Cameron received a vasectomy shortly after his arrival to prevent any cubs from being produced. The two lived together happily for years, however, when Zabu would go into heat Cameron would become possessive over her and aggressive towards keepers. Zabu was spayed in order to curb this behavior which was successful for a few more years.
Cameron reverted to his previous behavior and the decision was made to neuter him, which would mean he would lose his beautiful mane. The loss was merely cosmetic and well worth the price to keep this loving pair together.
While Cameron tries to sleep most of the day away (as lions do in the wild), Zabu is extremely energetic and is always pestering him to play. She’ll often give up on him and just run and jump and play with her big red ball or splash endlessly in her pool. Of course, that’s after she’s tired of playfully stalking her keepers or trying to spray the groups of visitors that stop by.
Carole’s Presentation to Volunteers About White Tigers
I’ve been working in the area by Zabu for the past several days and have had the pleasure of hearing tour guides talking about the white tiger issue. I have heard the amazement in the voices of the guests as they learned that every thing they thought knew about white tigers was wrong.
I have heard guests try to argue the facts or ignore the new information by proclaiming that they still think white tigers are beautiful. It has given me a new appreciation for what all of you go through when giving tours. It especially impresses me that some of you, who are still so new to the knowledge yourselves, manage to be firm in your presentations while still being kind to the guests.
This week a thirty year old secret was exposed in Newsweek, the second largest weekly magazine in America. Sharyn Beach exposed it in Britannica Online Encyclopedia in March of this year. It is the same secret that Big Cat Rescue exposed 11 years ago as the first organization to go public with the truth about the white tiger.
What I knew in 1998 was that people could sell a white tiger cub for $60,000 and just about all of the breeders and dealers and zoos were out to breed them. I had been to facilities such as the one where Shere Khan was born, and where Modnic, TJ & Bella came from and where Auroara had come from. What I saw haunted me because I saw many tigers who had horrible deformities; teeth going in all directions, eyes out on the nose, clubbed feet and lame hips.
These birth defects were primarily in the white tigers, but some of their golden litter mates were affected as well. I started asking about who the tigers’ parents were, who their siblings were, and discovered that people were inbreeding these cats. They never used that word, but rather would say “line breeding” or “selective breeding” or they would make outrageous claims about how they had “created” a line of white tigers by choosing the best pairings. In 1998 there were only 200 white tigers world wide. With Siegfried and Roy promoting white tigers as Royal White Bengal tigers the breeders scurried to meet demand.
Especially complicit were the Cincinnati Zoo & the Nashville Zoo who knew that the origins of white tigers only came from severe inbreeding. It was common knowledge to breeders that there was an 80% mortality rate. They should have put an end to it right then and there, but white tigers were a novelty and people would pay to see them. The accredited zoos, who actually keep pedigrees on their tigers, knew that inbreeding was the only way to increase their probability of getting that money making white cub.
In 1998 I still thought that most of the breeders and dealers out there were just ignorant. I was a member of AZA and had been attending their conferences and meeting their cat experts to find out what they thought to be best practices. I thought that if the private sector knew better they would behave better and so I spent a lot of time writing articles for their club called the Feline Conservation Federation. I was part of their list serve and participated in discussions about exotic cat husbandry in the hopes of helping their cats have better lives. We had only had the Internet for a couple of years and were still trying to find ways to use it to band all exotic cat owners together for a comprehensive repository of information on best practices. Our own website had only been up for two years and I was using it as a way of making all of the lessons we had learned available for everyone else. I figured the reason all of these breeders had so many defective tigers was because they didn’t know that they were all so inbred and they were just making it worse by not keeping records.
I proposed all of what I knew about white tigers on our website and suggested that we create a registry of all of the cats in the private sector, along with micro chipping, to make sure that no more cats suffered from such terrible birth defects. I quickly learned that the people making money off the white tigers knew what they were doing and ignored the agony they were inflicting.
About a year later a veterinarian wrote to me after finding our white tiger page on the Internet. He said that we were the only people telling the truth and that he had the full story because he had been the veterinarian for the Las Vegas duo for many years, as well as the vet for several large zoos. He had worked with 250 tigers. He spent 20 years documenting the origins and malpractice involved in breeding white tigers and had never found a way to make his findings publicly known. The zoos didn’t want anyone to know. Dr. Dan Laughlin and I spent hours on the phone pouring over the documents he had sent me to convince me of his credentials and his findings.
We launched his letter on our website which culminated in his statement,
“…every white tiger in the U.S. is not only the result of repeated inbreeding of genetically defective animals but, even worse, is a hybrid or crossbred animal. Thus, anyone involved in breeding and/or exhibiting white tigers is doing a great disservice to honest conservation and preservation efforts to save the five remaining and endangered subspecies of tigers barely clinging to survival…”
We also quoted Ron Tilson, the head of the tiger species survival plan who said,
“The white tiger controversy among zoos is a small part ethics and a large part economics. The tiger Species Survival Plan has condemned breeding white tigers because of their mixed ancestry, most have been hybridized with other subspecies and are of unknown lineage, and because they serve no conservation purpose…”
“However, there is an unspoken issue that shames the very integrity of zoos, their alleged conservation programs and their message to the visiting public. To produce white tigers or any other phenotypic curiosity, directors of zoos and other facilities must continuously inbreed father to daughter and father to granddaughter and so on. At issue is a contradiction of fundamental genetic principles upon which all Species Survival Plans for endangered species in captivity are based. White tigers are an aberration artificially bred and proliferated by some zoos, private breeders and a few circuses who do so for economic rather than conservation reasons.”
Our tour guides began sharing this information with our visitors. We began writing letters to USDA, state wildlife agencies and to the media to raise awareness about the horrific practice of inbreeding to get white tigers.
The breeders, dealers, zoos and circus acts who were profiting from white tigers saw us as public enemy number one. There was no way they could prove the outrageous stories they were promoting about how these cats came from hidden islands, or were the product of their animal husbandry genius. If anyone looked beyond the image in front of them, they would find out the truth and that would mean the end of their profits. White tiger sales began to plummet, both from the over abundance of animals born and because more people were becoming aware of the inbreeding. I have seen white tiger cubs selling for as little as $1000.00. I have lost track of the number of adults who were offered to us for free and sometimes people even offering to pay us to take them so they could make space for more cubs.
The people who went from making $60,000 for a white cub to only $1000 for a white cub have no excuse for what they do. The only thing they can do is to try and discredit us. That is why they are always attacking us, and me in particular.
The breeders and dealers seem to spend all their time talking trash about me. Little do they realize that it is actually helping us show the world what kind of person would breed white tigers.
Thanks to the pressure that Big Cat Rescuers have kept on them, the AZA came out with a policy statement against breeding white tigers fairly recently, even though they do not yet enforce it strongly.
It is so exciting to me to see that we have persevered through more than a decade of trying to get the world to see that breeding white tigers (especially) is cruel and unconscionable. To see Britannica and Newsweek running stories that tell the truth is a HUGE win! This was the headline caption for the Newsweek story this past week, “Bred for profit, the animals are often cruelly deformed by inbreeding.” The only reason the truth is being exposed is because of you. No one else was willing to take on the Goliath of zoos, circuses and Las Vegas. The day is coming when no more tigers will be purposely inbred to create a freak for the paying public. That day is coming because Big Cat Rescuers won’t give up until it does.
See More About Zabu, the White Tigress:
See Chris & Gale setting up Piñatas for Cameron and Nikita the lions and Zabu the white tiger in this Wildcat Walkabout Video on April 25, 2014 – https://bigcatrescue.org/now-big-cat-rescue-april-25-2014/
ROOT CANAL PERFORMED ON TIGER
Zabu is a 16-year-old female white tiger who was rescued along with Cameron the lion from a roadside zoo in New England in 2004. At the zoo Zabu and Cameron were housed together and neither had been spayed or neutered. This could have resulted in the pair producing offspring called ligers. These genetically mutated cross-breeds are victim to a plethora of birth defects that plague the animal its entire life. Unfortunately these freakish hybrids have become popular, though this is not an animal that would even exist in the wild. Since their arrival at Big Cat Rescue Zabu has been spayed and Cameron neutered so the duo can continue to live together.
Zabu was sedated earlier this year for a dental exam after keepers reported her gum line around one of her teeth appearing a little red and inflamed. Because of the sheer size of her teeth and the special equipment required to perform root canals on a big cat a specialist was called in. Dr. Gingerich and his staff from the Pet Dental Center, with locations in both Bonita Springs and Fort Lauderdale, made the long trip to Big Cat Rescue for a day of dental work on the big cats.
Despite never showing any symptoms of tooth pain it turned out that Zabu had several teeth in need of repair. During her first exam she had two root canals performed on both an upper and lower canine. A few months later she was sedated again and two molars were repaired. Unfortunately for Zabu her dental work is still not complete. She requires work on four more teeth. Due to complications that arise in the big cats during sedation we limit the time spent under anesthesia to 3 hours. Because of the intricate nature of performing a root canal on such a big animal the dentist can only complete 2-3 teeth during each visit.
Zabu will require at least two more dentals in order to complete all of the restorative work needed. We are so thankful to Dr. Gingerich and his staff Jennifer Dupree and __ for their help making Zabu feel so much better!
Zabu Gets Another Dental 10/7/2017
Zabu turned 17 in May 2017. The Peter Emily Foundation for volunteering nine vets and techs to come care for the cats here. They came from VA, TX, CO, and FL The Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation is based in Lakewood, Colorado.
We are heartbroken to announce the passing of our beloved white tiger Zabu. She stopped eating a couple of days ago and was lethargic this morning. Dr Justin came in to examine her. He first did blood work, which indicated she was in the final stages of kidney failure. She was humanely euthanized.
While kidney failure is the medical cause of her death, we believe she died of a broken heart. She’s now reunited with her Cameron, and for that we are grateful. There will never be another “odd couple” like them and our hearts are shattered yet again.
Zabu the white tiger reunites with Cameron the lion over the Rainbow Bridge. Although she was in end-stage kidney failure, we know she was really suffering from a broken heart despite all of our efforts to support her during her time of loss. This iconic famous couple will remain in the hearts of all who loved them.
Show Comments (23)