Tuesday, September 29, 2009

White Bengal tiger

My idea for today's blog was postponed as soon as I saw this incredible image in the weird news this morning - a rare white Bengal tiger vying for his food at the Singapore Zoo. White tigers have a recessive gene that causes the pale colorization, but are not albinos. They can breed with - and often grow larger than - orange tigers, reaching an adult male weight of more than 500lbs. A white tiger named Mohan (1950-1970) was captured as a cub in India by the Maharaja of Rewa and successfully bred in 1953, producing white tigers that went to 6 zoos, including England's Bristol Zoo and Washington, D.C.'s National Zoo. When Mohan's daughter was drawn up to the White House in a traveling cage in 1960 for presentation to Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969), the president's reaction to the tiger roaring and leaping in his direction was, "Well!" followed by silence. Another strain of white tigers began with the birth of Tony in 1972 in the Cole Brothers Circus. The Cincinnati Zoo acquired a pair of Tony's offspring and bred 70 white tigers, 3 of which were purchased by German-American entertainers Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn, better known as the animal and magic act Siegfried & Roy.
Siegfried & Roy then bred white tigers in collaboration with the Nashville Zoo. They incorporated the tigers into their act and Roy, as you will recall, was mauled by one of them onstage. Montecore had been raised by Roy and had performed with him for 6 years when, on Oct. 3, 2003, the tiger mauled him, causing severe blood loss. Accidentally injured onstage, distracted by a female audience member, or confused when stagehands attempted to intervene after Roy tripped over his paw, Montecore grabbed Roy by the neck and attempted to drag him offstage (as a mother would her cub, says Siegfried). The critical injury resulted in months of rehabilitation and left Roy with partial paralysis. Siegfried & Roy have returned to public life, although their Las Vegas show was cancelled after the attack, and appeared most recently at the award ceremony for inductees to the Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame. Roy is pictured with Montecore above and reportedly said, "Don't shoot the cat" as he was being transported to the hospital on that fateful day. There are only 130+ white tigers in the world, all of them in captivity...but obviously not domesticated. They can be trained, but not tamed.

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