Sasha & Sergei
This is a classic tale of two hybrid Siberian tiger cubs born in captivity. They were both bred to be white tigers, because that is what is popular these days and worth a lot of money. Unfortunately, nature ultimately still decides what color it will assign to a new-born tiger no matter what the human intentions are. In nature a white tiger has no chances of survival because the natural yellow and brown stripes serve as camouflage while stalking their prey on the hunting trail. White tigers would stick out like a sore thumb and the hunted would be quickly alerted and easily escape these ill-fated predators.
It is a common misconception that white tigers are found affluently in the wild. White tigers in zoos are there because they were purposely bred that way and because people are mesmerized by the combination of the beautiful color of the tiger's coat and the contrasting blue eyes.
In the wild, white tigers are most common in the Bengal tiger breed, the last one believed to have been sited in India in 1951!!!!!! They are rare but to call them endangered is a big mistake, since it is not natural nor beneficial for them to occur in the wild!!! Only about 12 Bengal white tigers have been spotted in the wild in the last 100 years in India. In contrast, in zoos, most white tigers are usually a Bengal/Siberian hybrid which, of course, is also not natural.
White tigers are NOT albinos. The white color of their coat is caused by a recessive gene. Tigers have genes, genes exist of two parts, called alleles. The cubs each get one allele from the father and one from the mother. In order for the cub to come out white, it needs both alleles to be recessive. It does not happen very often really. For example, if the cub gets two orange coded alleles it will be orange, if it gets only one orange coded allele and one white coded (recessive) allele, the cub still comes out orange. So you can imagine that most cubs turn out orange. The fact that one parent is white or carries a recessive allele for the white color makes not difference: Chances are the cubs come out orange anyway.
For breeders to be more successful and to increase the chances for a white tiger cub, a lot of inbreeding takes place. This means that parent is bred to offspring, sibling to sibling, etc. This continued inbreeding, as with all animals that are inbred, causes deformities like hip and back problems, crossed eyes and gross physical deformities that can cause needless suffering to these beautiful animals.
In reality, not only does the breeding of white tigers compound the problem by giving the general public a completely incorrect image of these powerful wild predators, in addition it has caused a giant surplus of regular golden colored tigers in the private sector across the world. Out of a litter of cubs, the breeders will pick the white cubs that bring in a lot more money on the market and euthanize, inhumanely destroy or neglect the cubs that do not meet the color requirement.
So, this is what happened to Sergei and Sasha, the two Siberian tiger cubs currently residing at Wildlife Survival. A breeder gave the cubs to a private owner because they had no monetary value. Owning two Siberian tigers that can grow to be anywhere between 400 - 800 lbs. is a very costly affair, and private ownership of these Class I cats, the biggest cat in the world, is just not realistic. These animals are not suited for private ownership, they are wild animals and extremely powerful. In this case, the cubs were lucky enough to end up in the hands of a caring and responsible person that was willing to search for a permanent, more suitable, home for them and persisted in her quest.