9 min read

Tiger Saved From Backyard Surprises Rescuers With Tiniest New Arrival

He has the cutest little roar 😍

Trapped in a barren enclosure on a private property in Texas, the future looked grim for a pair of white tigers, sister and brother, named Zahra and Assad.

white tiger siblings Zahara and Assad
In-Sync Exotics

Two months pregnant, Zahra should have been preparing for her new cub by building a secluded den where she could give birth comfortably, protected from bad weather. But she had nowhere to hide inside the cage where she and Assad, the cub’s father, lived.

Isolated and without proper care or medical attention, her cub would most likely not make it. But the expectant tiger parents’ luck was about to change.

In-Sync Exotics/Emily Wilson

On January 18, rescuers with Texas Parks and Wildlife and a local county sheriff's office saved Zahra and Assad when officials discovered that the tigers' owner did not have the proper paperwork to house them legally. (The exact location where the tigers were held was not officially released to the public.) The two tigers were rushed to In-Sync Exotics, an animal sanctuary that cares for neglected, abused and unwanted exotic felines in Wylie, Texas, where, against all odds, they were given a clean bill of health.

“They were in better physical condition than we were afraid of, but their enclosure was just fence and grass,” Angela Culver, a spokesperson for In-Sync Exotics, told The Dodo. “No platforms, logs, enrichment, pool, toys or shelter.”

Zahra the white tiger at the big cat sanctuary in Texas
In-Sync Exotics

On March 6, 47 days after the rescue, Zahra gave birth to a healthy male cub in the safety of the sanctuary. The miracle baby was named Kylo Ren, in a nod to “Star Wars,” a favorite movie of Vicky Keahey, founder of In-Sync.

But the name also has a deeper meaning.

In-Sync Exotics

“Kylo Ren's father, Assad Dost (meaning ‘lion friend’ in Arabic) has two names, so Vicky thought it fitting that his son also has two names,” Culver said. “In-Sync was also home to a very special white tiger for many years named Kiro, so Kylo Ren was named for both his father and in memory of Kiro.”

“Plus, he really does resemble Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in the ‘Star Wars’ movies,” Culver added.

A baby white tiger getting weighed
In-Sync Exotics

Though the sanctuary hoped Zahra would care for her baby, the relationship between mother and cub was strained almost from birth.

After Kylo's birth, both mother and baby were closely monitored for signs of normal and healthy behavior,” In-Sync Exotics wrote in a Facebook post. “While Zahra did clean Kylo off and did not exhibit aggression towards the cub, she did not keep him close for protection or warmth, did not nurse him, nor did she respond to his cries.”

In-Sync Exotics

The reason Zahra rejected her cub remains unknown, but it’s not abnormal for first-time tiger moms to be unsure of what to do — especially if they’ve been raised in captivity with nobody to show them the ropes.

baby white tiger Kylo Ren sleeping
In-Sync Exotics

After six hours of observation, workers removed Kylo from Zahra’s enclosure before his body temperature could dip too low, giving the tiny 1-pound cub a better chance of survival.

We really wanted to watch her raise her little baby, but it just wasn’t to be,” In-Sync Exotics wrote. “Little Kylo Ren is being given specialized around-the-clock care by Vicky Keahey and veterinarian Dr. Emily Wilson, and is doing well.”

In-Sync Exotics

Now 2 weeks old, Kylo has opened his eyes and is enjoying stumbling around his soft surroundings, snuggling plush pillows and stuffed animals.

Kylo Ren the tiger snuggles a lion stuffed toy
In-Sync Exotics

He has even experimented with his “roar” when he’s ready to be fed.

With each passing day, Kylo’s playful personality is slowly starting to blossom, according to Culver, which is an excellent sign. “Kylo is doing well. He's gaining weight, is active and is not shy about telling Vicky and Dr. Emily when he's hungry,” Culver said. “We're looking forward to watching him grow big and strong.”

But Kylo may not be out of the woods just yet.

In-Sync Exotics

Due to the generations of inbreeding that produce their unusual coats, white tigers are prone to serious health issues. Many white tigers suffer from genetic deformities such as cleft palates, crossed eyes, clubbed feet and organ deformities, Culver noted. As Kylo’s parents are siblings, his health is being monitored closely should any issues arise.

“The white coloration comes from the expression of a recessive gene. Because of this, breeders will often put siblings or parents and offspring together to mate and create more white tigers. Both private breeders and people in the cub petting industry are well-known for doing this,” Culver said. “In these instances, the cubs will be taken from their mothers at a very early age and either sold or used as ‘entertainment’ for people to pay to play or have their photo taken with. It's a deplorable industry that we're working very hard to educate people about in the hopes that one day soon, it will end.”

In-Sync Exotics

While Kylo will never be able to meet his parents, he will soon see the sunshine and feel grass for the very first time. Once he reaches the age of 3 months old, he’ll receive vaccinations, and get his own spacious outdoor enclosure, where he can lie in the warm sun, swim in pools and play with enriching toys. Little Kylo has a lot to look forward to.

If you'd like to help Kylo Ren and other rescued cats, you can make a donation to In-Sync Exotics here.