Tiger Brothers Rescued As Cubs Still Sleep Together Every Night
White tiger breeding is horrible — and more zoos need to break the cycle.
Two years ago, Simon and Jeremy, two white tiger brothers, were born at a zoo that bred tigers. For most white tiger cubs, that would have meant a lifetime of being bred and paraded in front of visitors.
But Simon and Jeremy got lucky. Shortly after their birth, new management arrived at the zoo and decided it was no longer interested in tiger breeding. So the staff called up Wildcat Sanctuary, a big cat rescue in Minnesota, to see if it could rehome the young cubs.
"Of course, we agreed to help as long as they would sign a contract stating they would not breed their remaining adult tigers and, if they had to be placed, they would be placed at an accredited sanctuary or zoo," Wildcat Sanctuary wrote on its website. "We were inspired by the facility and staff who were now putting the animals first and really trying to make the right decisions. They could've made a hefty profit by selling white tigers and cubs to the highest bidder, but they didn't."
The zoo even neutered the brothers, as requested by Wildcat Sanctuary, and provided their transport.
When Jeremy and Simon first arrived at the sanctuary, the two tiger cubs were very frightened, even though they had spent time near people during their former lives at the zoo, Tammy Thies, founder and executive director of Wildcat Sanctuary, told The Dodo.
"We worked hard on socialization from outside the enclosure, including reading aloud to them, walking past them, bringing objects around and providing enrichment to make them comfortable with their new surroundings," Thies said. "What a difference it made. By the time they celebrated their first birthday, they were outgoing and rambunctious boys."
At the time of their rescue, the tiger siblings were 6 months old - and undeniably gorgeous with their white fur adorned with black stripes. However, the reality behind white tigers and the breeding of them is ugly - in harsh contrast to their beautiful appearance.
White tigers are actually just Bengal tigers - not albino tigers or a separate species, as some breeders claim - and are the result of two Bengals with the recessive "white gene" being bred together.
White tigers are popular with zoos, fake sanctuaries, breeders and exhibitors, according to Minnesota's Wildcat Sanctuary. The entire population of captive white tigers started with one white cub who was found in the wild and taken from his normal, orange family decades ago - his descendants have been inbred ever since.
White tigers don't naturally occur in the wild and often don't live as long as their orange counterparts because of health problems, sometimes severe, due to decades of inbreeding.
"This inbreeding has caused many genetic problems with tigers such as cleft palates, scoliosis of the spine, mental impairments and crossed eyes," Wildcat Sanctuary wrote in a blog post. "Many of the cubs that are born either in zoos or by breeders have to be 'disposed' of because they are malformed at birth."
Thankfully, Jeremy and Simon were freed from such a fate.
Out of the two, Simon is the more outgoing brother and the "clown." He's the first to greet people, destroy his enrichment toys and trip his brother up by jumping on him or grabbing his back leg when he tries to run off.
Jeremy, on the other hand, is more reserved and allows his brother to test out things first. That doesn't stop him from indulging in sillier moments, which sometimes include sitting on top of his brother if the opportunity presents itself.
"Where you find one, you find the other ... They are provided a large, free-roaming habitat with lots of platforms to climb on, a pool to swim in and toys to play with," Thies said. "They each have heated indoor rooms where they are fed separately, but choose to sleep together in one room."
Not only do the two tigers get to live out the rest of their days in the comfort of a sanctuary, they've also been effectively spared from the harmful cycle of white tiger breeding.
"We are so pleased we could offer these two boys a home and inspire a zoo who once bred white tigers to end the practice," Thies said. "Taking on two more tigers meant building a new enclosure with pool and landscaping. It was a huge financial undertaking, but well worth [it] for every rescue we provide a second chance to."
You can help Wildcat Sanctuary care for Jeremy and Simon, and rescue other cats like them, by making a donation.
Watch this video of the two brothers in action: