WHITE TIGERS IN BRITISH ZOOS (1960s TO RECENT)
White Tiger Genealogies from Mohan to Modern Day
Circus White Tigers: Susie - Matriarch of a White Tiger Line
Circus White Tigers: Takila/Chequila & Tony - Patriarch of a White Tiger Line; Maharanee/Maharani
Circus White Tigers: Siegfried and Roy's Tigers
Circus White Tigers: Obie and the Mysterious 1975 Litter of Six
Circus White Tigers: The 1984 White Tiger Cubs Theft Case
Current Day - Spread Of White Tigers In Zoos - Too Many To Count
Reintroducing White Tigers Into The Wild?
White Tiger Studbook and Bibliography
WHITE TIGERS IN BRITISH ZOOS (1960s TO RECENT)
In spite of the agreement with New Delhi Zoo, because of the expense of keeping the white tigers the Maharajah threatened to release them all into the forest. As a result he received permission to sell two more pairs to foreign zoos. A brother and sister pair, Champak and Chameli, went to Bristol Zoo in 1963 at a cost of $10,000 each (£7,000) where they produced several litters, all white, but only 4 females (Sumuti, Nirmala, Chandra and Shubra) progressed well. According to the Leipzig studbook the pair produced 5 cubs on May 6 1970: 4 females, Nirmala, Seeta, Shubra and Nandini, plus 1 male that died on May 8 1970 at 2 days old. White brother-sister pair Chameli and Champak helped rebuild the fortunes of Bristol Zoo, but by 1973 they still hadn't bred successfully so an orange generic (mixed blood) male from Edinburgh Zoo was tried with a white female, but she failed to rear any cubs. Champak died in 1970. He was replaced in 1975 by Roop (son of Raja and Radha), who had been acquired in 1970. Roop and Sumuti produced white cubs of which Akbar II, Jehand and Chandra survived. Roop and Nirmali produced Shiva.
Arund 1963, Bristol Zoo acquired an orange daughter of Mohan and Begum, bron April 1955, and this is documented in Geoffrey Schomberg’s “The Penguin Guide To British Zoos,” (Penguin 1970 ISBN 0-14-146154-X). E.P. Gee said that Bristol Zoo acquired one of Mohan and Begum’s female cubs as a mate for Champak "to reduce inbreeding" but if she bred the offspring were unrecorded.
Bristol Zoo's last white male, Akbar II, was loaned to Dudley Zoo and paired with an orange tigress (Bristol Zoo had 2 white males: Akbar and Akbar II). Two male white tigers were transferred to Dudley Zoo from Bristol Zoo; Akbar II and either Shiva or Jehan (who do not appear in the International Tiger Studbook as going to Dudley Zoo from Bristol). An unrelated orange male was introduced to Bristol Zoo. Akbar II returned to Bristol Zoo and when he died in 1986 he was their last white tiger. At one point Bristol Zoo held one third of the entire global captive population of white tigers, but removed from the collection in the mid-1980s. The white tigers of Bristol Zoo are documented by "Wildlife Conservation And The Modern Zoo" (1981) by Gordon Woodroffe. The Cincinnati Zoo tried to buy a white tiger from Bristol Zoo in the early 1970s and got nowhere; also Glasgow Zoo also wanted a white tiger from Bristol Zoo, but was also refused.
The elderly white tigress that died in Dudley zoo around 1985 was the last living pure Bengal descendant of the original white brother-sister pair sent to Bristol Zoo from India. Bristol’s remaining tigers were not pure Bengal tigers. Several litters of orange tigers carrying the white gene were produced between 1989 and 1991 at Bristol Zoo from a white female mated to an orange male, and these were the last descendants of the Bristol white tiger line. The last descendants of Champak and Chameli at Bristol Zoo were a group of orange tigers sold via Ravensden Zoo Co Ltd to senator Zahid, Akhtar of Karachi, Pakistan. The senator had no idea they carried white genes until he gave away some of his tigers to Lahore Zoo where they had white offspring. Had he known, he would have obtained a better price for them. Three orange females carrying the white gene, born in 1989, 1990 and 1991 at Bristol (related but from different litters) went from Bristol Zoo to Longleat Safari Park: Nepti, Schalla and Suki. These were not pure Bengal tigers. Longleat may have sent one to Glasgow and bred the other(s) to their white male from Columbus Zoo.
In the late 1980s, Longleat Safari Park had imported a non-studbook male white tiger of the American strain from Columbus Zoo (Ohio). He was part of a collection that included 6 to 9 orange females at Longleat, which also housed many of Chipperfield Circus’s animals. These produced numerous cubs in the following years. When the later generations were bred amongst themselves they exhibited even more colour variations including “ginger” (golden). In the 1990s, a litter bred from an orange female carrying white genes mated to a golden male produced a mix of orange, golden and stripeless white cubs. The stripeless white tiger went to Japan. Golden tiger Butu came from that pairing; he was hand-reared and was one of 7 or 8 golden tigers bred by Longleat. Butu went to Glasgow Zoo.
In 1990, Sanjay And Simla, 12 month old male white tigers from Columbus Zoo, Ohio were sent to Longleat to join the white Bengal tiger breeding programme there. Also in 1990 – as a contribution to the festivities during Glasgow's year as European City of Culture - white tigers were loaned to Glasgow Zoo by Lord Bath and the Chipperfield family (i.e. Longleat Safari Park). Chandhi, a white female with blue eyes and chocolate stripes arrived at Glasgow Zoo on 27th June, 1990 and the white tigers were a great attraction up until September 1990. According to the Aberdeen Press and Journal (28th June, 1990) these were the first white tiger to be seen in Scotland. There were around 100 white tigers in captivity at the time. Chandhi shared an enclosure with male orange tiger, so she was presumably also on breeding loan.
By the late 1990s, Glasgow Zoo had Ayesha, an Aspinall-bred orange Bengal tigress from Howlett's Zoo in Kent. Two female cubs born in November 1998 remained with her while Butu, the six year old ex-Longleat golden male of the Columbus Zoo (Ohio) strain, went on breeding loan to a Spanish zoo in Spring 2000 to diversify the gene pool there. Butu and Ayesha had bred regularly and all their cubs were orange carrying both white and stripeless genes from Butu. In 2000 Butu had moved to Germany to be with two females, one white, the other golden. He was to return to Glasgow in autumn 2000, unless Glasgow Zoo could obtain an unrelated male from elsewhere. Glasgow Zoo, Scotland had white tigers on loan from Lord Bath and Chipperfield Circus (i.e. Longleat) before it closed and referred to these as "American non-studbook white tigers" i.e. mongrels.
Lichfield Mercury, 27th May 1999, carried this report about white tigers: ”If you fancy a unique encounter with a beautiful and rare animal, why not visit the West Midlands Safari and Leisure Park near Bewdley, where two white Bengal tigers go on show to visitors for the very first time at the park from Thursday, May 27. The pair, called Tahas and Tikua, are just 18 months old and were imported from Junsele Zoo, in Sweden, in December. They have been integrated into a small group of young Bengal tigers, born at West Midlands Safari Park, and it is anticipated that a further four will join them at a later date. White tigers are neither albinos, nor a separate species. They are rare white Bengal Tigers, of which barely 150 exist in the world, with no more than 12 being found in this country. The two white tigers at West Midlands Safari Park are in rabies quarantine after a landmark decision by MAFF to allow the first ever drive-through quarantine in this country.”
Chart 04: Champak, Chameli and Roop Genealogy (large image, opens in new window)
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Most white tiger websites have a pro- or anti-agenda and variously claim to give “facts,” “truths” or debunk “myths” but give misinformation or have hidden agendas. I stick to facts and deductions based on facts. Some information is documented, some is from personal correspondence with zoos, and some is from the recollections or personal notes of people involved with circus or zoo tigers where records were have been lost or destroyed. Even the different editions of tiger studbooks are inconsistent. Information from my pages, which are frequently updated, is widely copied on those other sites. Some sites have tried to claim I copied their work.
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