In contrast to what some believe, the White Tiger is neither a subspecies in its own right, nor an albino form of a ‘normal’ tiger. Rather, it is simply a rare form of Bengal Tiger that possesses a specific gene, giving it a lighter appearance. This variation is truly exquisite, giving the White Tiger an undeniable sense of mystery and beauty. Their blue eyes, rose-pink noses and light brown stripes make these tigers stand out from their rust-coloured peers.
The scientific name of the White Tiger is Panthera tigris, since it is merely a different coloured version of the Bengal subspecies.
As expected, the White Tiger is far lighter in its colouring than the more common Bengal Tiger. The majority of its coat is a light cream colour, with very light brown or grey stripes. Males can be anywhere between eight and 10.2 feet (that is, between 2.4 and 3.1 metres) in length, from head to tail. Females are smaller, averaging between 7.1 and 8.5 feet (equivalent to between 2.1 and 2.6 metres) long. Males can weigh anything between about 190 and 260 kilograms (or about 420 and 570 pounds), while females average about 158 kilograms, or 350 pounds.
The White Tiger ideally needs about 20 square miles (or 32 square kilometres) of space in which to roam, live and hunt. Obviously, the supply of prey is of utmost importance to its survival. In the wild, the White Tiger lives in South-east Asia and in various parts of India, inhabiting the grasslands and forests in which they can hide themselves effectively. Due to their lighter colouring, they are not as well camouflaged in the dark vegetation as their more common Bengal peers, but the stripes do help to break their profile up, visually speaking.
The White Tiger is a carnivorous hunter. It is also a particularly good swimmer, so it can pursue its prey even if it attempts to escape into the water.
The White Tiger can take down prey that weighs almost a ton, ranging from smaller monkeys and birds to wild cattle and deer.
Because the tiger only makes a kill every few days, it will feast on its prey until it absolutely cannot fit any more meat into its belly.
Family Structure and Reproduction
At about three years of age, a White tigress will be sexually mature, ready to bear her first litter. The gestation period is approximately 3.5 months long, and an average of three or four cubs is born. However, this number can be as high as five. Still, large litters usually mean that at least one cub dies. The cubs will begin to hunt for themselves at around 18 months of age, but stay with their mother until they are between two and three years old. Thereafter, they will break away from the family structure and live their own life in solitude. The life expectancy of a White Tiger in the wild is about 12 years. Those in captivity are more protected and have their medical needs seen to and are, therefore, likely to live longer.
Because the White Tiger is so rare, it is of particular interest to those visiting zoos and parks. However, they are not a subspecies and do not, therefore, warrant special breeding programmes and initiatives. In fact, breeding them in zoos is frowned upon as it is deemed to be done with the purposes of increasing revenue and tourist attraction, rather than protecting a valuable species. Still, any tiger poaching is illegal and White Tigers are especially valuable for their rare coats. The black market boasts a booming trade in tiger parts (for aesthetic or perceived medicinal purposes). Today, there are several programmes in place to protect tigers from the cruel horrors of which humans are capable.