“To get that one perfect, pretty white cub, its one out of 30,” Bass explained. “What happens to the other 29 … euthanized, abandoned … who knows.”
Regrettably, breeders and the individuals who buy white tigers continue to spread the myth that they are an endangered species and need conservation, or that it’s beneficial to breed them, which keeps the profitable industry going.
“These are not a species, they are not endangered, they don’t need to be saved, they shouldn’t exist,” Bass said. “[Breeders and owners are] duping the public into thinking that they need conservation, and paying money to see them.”
But at least Kenny’s story had a better ending than most. While some media outlets have incorrectly reported that Kenny had Down syndrome, McCormack said the playful tiger seemed to be mentally normal.
“He acted like the rest of them,” she said. ‘”He loved enrichment, he had a favorite toy … he ran around in his habitat, he ate grass, he just looked kind of silly.”
“Everybody loved Kenny,” she added. “He had a great personality … he loved all the keepers, loved all the animal care staff.”
Regrettably, like many white tigers, his life was a short one. While tigers can easily live to be more than 20 years old in captivity, Kenny died in 2008 at 10 years old after a year-long battle with melanoma. It’s uncertain if the disease was a result of his breeding.
Kenny’s still missed at Turpentine Creek. McCormack said that while Kenny’s clearly a poster boy for the glitches with white tigers, she hopes he can teach a broader lesson as well.
“Tigers in captivity, especially in the private industry, just aren’t genetically pure,” she said. “The problem is privately owned exotics in captivity.”
It’s best to stay away from zoos or other amenities that own white tigers as they’re almost always disreputable – the American Zoological Association (AZA), the foremost zoo endorsement group in the country, has outright banned members from breeding white tigers.
Watch the video below to see a white tiger named Zabu in slow motion: