Save the White Tiger

Carmen M. Cusack, Save the White Tiger, Journal of Law & Social Deviance, 12, 1-42.

42 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2016 Last revised: 8 Jan 2017

Date Written: September 1, 2016


King Rex and King Zulu have reigned over Audubon Zoo for decades. Rex, along with Zulu, has been described as a “pretty,” “amazing,” and a “beloved resident.” Their undeniable beauty seems connected to their socialized and loveable interactions with humans, which have been characterized as “spiritual.” Rascal has been described as a “sweetheart” and as “wearing the pants.” Suri, an affectionate, sassy, and sweet white tiger was loved by millions of New Orleanians and tourists for approximately 16 years. Zabu was an extraordinarily beautiful white tigress living in an animal sanctuary in Tampa, Florida. Her blue eyes pierced and invited. Commenters have said that, when she played, it appeared as if she was having “way more fun than” spectators. Hollywood is a star living in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. He is huge, “fluffy,” and elegant. Kenney was a “gracious” white tiger living at a sanctuary. He was a special white tiger, who inspired and appealed to children and adults.

The white “tiger once ranged widely across Asia, from Turkey in the west to the eastern coast of Russia.” Now, white tigers may “inhabit less than 6% of their historic range.” Evidence of captive white tiger reproduction suggests that wild white tigers likely continue to proliferate. Yet, their proliferation in captivity suggests that they may prefer breeding in captivity where their offspring may safely reach maturity. White tiger breeding programs sponsored by Americans have been documented since at least the mid-1900s. Captive white tigers may have been part of human civilization long before recorded anecdotes from India indicate.

One reason for this lack of knowledge about the extent of captive white tiger-human coexistence may be that white tigers have been labeled using a variety of terms, for example, White Bengal Tiger and Royal White Tiger. “Only three subspecies of tigers are being managed in the [United States]. The white tiger is not one of them.” Therefore, colloquial names are not relevant to the conservation debate. However, speciation may result after successive generations of genetic diversification, which may require more precise classifications. Another reason for this lack of information is conservation. Historically, evidence of captive and wild white tigers may have been concealed in order to protect them. This pattern is evident today because there are no concrete figures about how many white tigers live in the world or in the United States, and some rural Indian villagers say that they would never disclose the location of a white tiger.

“Currently there are only about 60 Royal White Tigers on exhibit in zoos throughout the United States, and less than 400 in the world.” Thus, it is imperative to share their specialness with the general public. Advocacy for the white tiger is important. Yet, the arguments are complex because animal rights and welfare advocates intend to protect animals by limiting their proliferation. Activists believe that they can end cruelty by preventing breeding, trading, and exhibition. Some exhibitors intending to promote white tigers may subject white tiger cubs to problematic public petting events. Captivity has saved white tigers because they proliferate in captivity, and it may be the most viable habitat option for many of these white tigers. Continued appreciation by zoo patrons for their undeniable beauty and specialness reinforces that white tigers will continue to be bred in captivity and exhibited. Therefore, discussions about their comfort and care should take priority over concerns about their captivity or ex situ conservation.

In this Article, Section II discusses popularization of white tigers in the United States. This Section also discusses captivity and advocacy. Section III describes reintroduction of white tigers into the woods of India to demonstrate that white tigers belong in captivity (e.g., American zoos) for now. Section IV explains animal welfare arguments and the merits of public prevention of physically interacting with white tigers, particularly when these tigers are young cubs. Section V concludes that activists’ efforts are best invested when they focus on caring for white tigers and funding comfortable enclosures for them.

Keywords: White Tiger, special, Audubon Zoo, King Rex, King Zulu, save, saved, cubs, petting, zoos, captivity

Suggested Citation

Cusack, Carmen M., Save the White Tiger (September 1, 2016). Carmen M. Cusack, Save the White Tiger, Journal of Law & Social Deviance, 12, 1-42.. Available at SSRN:

Carmen M. Cusack (Contact Author)

Nova Southeastern University ( email )

3301 College Avenue
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314
United States

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