After excessive research, scientists have finally concluded that white tigers are not a separate subspecies, but a mutant species of existing normal tigers, and their pale color can be attributed to a recessive gene in them. These tigers sport blue eyes and chocolate stripes. The gene responsible for the white coat is predominantly seen in Bengal tigers, i.e., the subspecies of tiger native to the Indian subcontinent. And therefore, when we talk about the habitat of white tigers, we are actually referring to the habitat of Bengal tigers.
Where Are White Tigers Found?
Generally, the habitat of tigers spans an area of 25 to 30 miles, where food is available in plenty. In case of food scarcity, they wander out of their natural habitat and encroach on human settlements in search of food. In case of Siberian tigers, their habitat spans 80 to 100 miles, especially in winter when there is severe scarcity of food.
At one point of time, Bengal tigers were found in abundance in central and north-eastern regions of India and parts of Bangladesh. Today, however, they are restricted to a small region near the Indo-Bangla border, predominantly characterized by the Sundarbans. If the sighting of Bengal tigers has become rare, the chances of coming across a white Bengal tiger are as good as none. In fact, their presence in the wild in itself is a matter of debate as only 12 sightings have been reported in the last 100 years. Most of the white tigers found today are captive animals. In the wild, only 1 in 10,000 tigers are likely to carry this gene.
Historical records though, have evidence of their presence in various parts of India in the first half of the 20th century. It is believed that excessive hunting was responsible for their extinction in the wild. Today, when there are just around a thousand orange tigers left in wild, the survival of white tiger would be nothing short of a miracle. To make things even worse, tigers with this recessive gene have a very small chance of survival.
What About White Siberian Tigers?
Like we said earlier, the recessive gene which is responsible for the white coat of the tiger is only found in the Bengal tiger. You must have come across white Siberian tigers in captivity. However, these are not pure-bred Siberian tigers, but are the ones that are inbred with a white Bengal tiger to produce white offspring which then go on to become the attractions of their captive habitat.
Many people believe that Siberian tigers are white tigers, and their white coat acts as a natural protection for them in their native habitat, i.e., the snow-clad coniferous forests in the eastern region of Russia, China, and North Korea. Far from true, this is in fact one of the biggest myth about the species.
Loss of habitat and poaching have brought about a significant decline in the tiger population in the wild. The tiger has already been listed as endangered in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. Considering that the white tiger is quite rare owing to its unique gene (1 in every 10,000 tigers), the likelihood of sighting one in the wild are as good as none. In the captivity though, you will find them in zoos in many parts of the world, including the United States. However, the practice of keeping them in captivity has been severely criticized, as it gives rise to abnormal conditions.