At Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary we have one white tiger male who is visually impaired.
The white tiger is a recessive mutant of the Bengal tiger. Compared to normal coloured tigers without the white gene, white tigers tend to be much larger, both at birth and as fully grown adults. It is due to this mutant gene that this Tiger has such bad eyesight.
The unusual colouration of white tigers has made them popular in zoos and unfortunately also in entertainment showcasing exotic animals. German-American magicians Siegfried & Roy became famous for breeding and training two white tigers for their performances, referring to them as "royal white tigers", the white tiger's association with the Maharaja of Rewa.
Note that white tigers are not albinos: true albino tigers would not have stripes. Even the "stripe less" white tigers have very pale stripes.
White tigers have been prone to crossed eyes, a condition known as strabismus, an example of which is "Clarence the cross-eyed lion", due to incorrectly routed visual pathways in the brains of white tigers.
Other genetic problems include shortened tendons of the forelegs, club foot, kidney problems, arched or crooked backbone and twisted neck. Reduced fertility and miscarriages, noted by”tiger man” Kailash Sankhala in pure-Bengal white tigers were attributed to inbreeding depression. A condition known as "star-gazing", which is associated with inbreeding in big cats, has also been reported in white tigers. Some of the white tigers born to North American lines have bulldog faces with a snub nose, jutting jaw, domed head and wide-set eyes with an indentation between the eyes. However, some of these traits may be linked to poor diet rather than inbreeding.
Did you know?
There is a myth that white tigers have an 80% infant mortality rate. However, the infant mortality rate for white tigers is no higher than it is for normal orange tigers bred in captivity.
In the movie 101 Dalmatians (1996 film) the evil Cruella de Vil kills a White tiger for its fur.
Aravind Adiga's novel The White Tiger won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. The central character and narrator refers to himself as "The White Tiger". It was a nickname given to him as a child to denote that he was unique in the "jungle" (his hometown), that he was smarter than the others.