The Dehiwala Zoo last week received its first pair of White Tigers as a result of another successful animal exchange programme. The White Tigers shipped from China, had at 10-hour journey with a transit flight through Kuala Lumpur to Colombo.
This is the second consignment of animals the Dehiwala Zoo exchanged with Xiangjiang Safari Park. One female Chimpanzee, one pair of Silver Leaf Monkeys and two female Toque Monkeys were exchanged for these White Tigers and it really a valuable exchange for the zoo which has never had a White Tiger before.
Both male and female White Tigers were born in 2006 and are still very tame according to Menaka Pathiraja who escorted the Tigers from the airport. The Tigers are in a newly refurbished tiger cave which has combined two pens and is more spacious. Instead of its original cement floor built as far back as the 1920s, the Tiger cave now has a grassy floor with a few trees- more like a natural setting
These White Tigers are not albinos. White Tigers are a melanistic form of the Royal Bengal Tigers that are orange in colour. The pale coloration is created by a recessive gene that is “hidden” behind the dominant genes of Bengali Tigers. For a recessive gene to show up, the animal must inherit the gene from both parents. Zoos around the world pair the white tigers in order to get white babies, but only a percentage of Tiger cubs born to the white parent become white tigers.
However, the Dehiwala Zoo authorities are confident that they can successfully breed these White Tigers in the future to get white Tiger cubs. The Dehiwala Zoo is already home to five Royal Bengal Tigers. It is estimated that only around 3000 to 5000 Tigers are surviving in the wild currently. Tigers are killed for their valuable skin, head and bones that are used as a local Chinese medicine.