Original source : www.thepetcollective.tv
Posted : February 2014
Author : Travis Rand Greenwood
Last week we stumbled across heartbreaking images of Kenny, a white tiger born with pronounced physical deformities that resulted from a program of for-profit, big cat inbreeding (white tigers, as we learned, are not native to the wild; their distinctive hue is tied to a recessive gene). The original post was short on details and context - and later revealed to be almost entirely plagiarized from a more reputable source, Live Leak - but we started to dig deeper and a bit of Google sleuthing revealed that Kenny had passed from cancer in 2008.
Kenny’s life - and that of many other white tigers, whose coat make them highly coveted and prized by zoos, hotels, and other destinations with dubious agendas - is equal parts cautionary tale and heartwarming twist of fate: his parents were siblings forced to mate and his early years were spent in the hands of the same unscrupulous breeder; along with his brother, Willie, he was rescued by the Turpentine Creek Wildlife Reserve in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, in 2000, where he lived out the rest of his life in relative care and comfort.
We reached out to officials at the reserve and here’s what Patricia Quinn, their spokeswoman, had to say to about Kenny.
Thanks for asking about Kenny. He has become quite the legend in the years since we had him and since he passed away. Kenny’s date of birth was 4/4/98 and he passed away on 6/28/08 due to cancer. We are not quite sure about the Down Syndrome diagnosis, but I can tell you for certain that Kenny was the result of inbreeding – a tremendous problem with white Bengal Tigers. Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge was asked to take in Kenny and his brother, Willie, from a breeder in Bentonville, AR, because he could not sell them. Both of the male tigers were rescued by us in October of 2000.
According to the breeder, neither of them could be sold because of their deformities. Kenny, as you can see from any videos, had a severe facial deformity (which was caused by inbreeding). His mouth was also malformed, resulting in his being unable to fully close it. His brother Willie, an orange Bengal Tiger, was severely cross-eyed, another result of inbreeding. Their parents (both white Bengals) were full brother and sister and had been bred for several years in an effort to create additional white Bengals to sell.
Several years after we brought in Kenny and Willie, the breeder called us again to take the parent tigers. The mother, Loretta, was producing cubs that were short lived and/or stillborn and he could no longer ‘use her’ for breeding purposes so he wanted to give her and her brother/mate, Conway, away.
All four of these white Bengals lived out their remaining lives with us. Kenny lived to be ten years old, Willie lived to be 12 years old. The parents, who appeared to have no genetic deficiencies, lived to be much older. Conway died at the age of 19 years and Loretta, our longest lived tiger to date, just recently passed away at the age of 23.
Kenny was non-aggressive, very friendly with our staff members and an obvious favorite with visitors because of his personality. Most people ‘fell in love’ with his friendliness combined with his strange looks. To them, and to us, he was beautiful. He shared his enclosure with his brother for the eight years that he was with us.
I think the first takeaway here is that any kind of “mill” breeding, where money is paramount above the health and well-being of the animals, is wrong. The second takeaway is that cats and dogs aren’t the only animals living in “mill” situations; critters from the everyday to the exotic are subject to needless suffering and cruelty that results from breeding of this kind (often done under the guise of “conservation”). In Kenny’s situation, at least, he got to spend the last portion of his life in a healthy environment with people who cared about him and his species.
R.I.P. Kenny the tiger.