BEIJING, July 8 -- It doesn't take a wildlife expert
to spot the difference between this white Bengal tiger cub and the rest of her
family. For six-month-old Fareeda missed out when they were handing out the
Blue-eyed girl: Squeaky-clean Fareeda at
just a few weeks old. (Photo: gb.cri.cn/photo)
That makes her an extreme rarity - and a major
attraction at the South African conservation centre where she was born.
Fareeda's mother Geena and father Shiva are kept at
Cango Wildlife Ranch, near Cape Town, as part of a breeding programme to keep
their species alive.
Last Christmas Day, Geena had three cubs - Fareeda,
her brother Shahir and sister Sitarah. Keepers immediately noted Fareeda's lack
of markings but had to wait to see if she developed them later.
"Some cubs develop stripes in their first few months
but after six months it's clear that Fareeda is truly one of the rarest of her
kind," said keeper Odette Claassen, 52.
Cream of the crop: Fareeda with her
siblings shortly after birth. (Photo: gb.cri.cn/photo)
"When she was born Fareeda had noticeably pale
colour. It did cause a stir of excitement amongst the staff. But we knew there
was the possibility of the cub's very light black and ginger stripes darkening
The white Bengal tiger used to be common in the wilds
of India, but now exists only in captivity after falling victim to disease and
Apart from Fareeda, the only other stripeless
examples are in the U.S., descended from a single male captured in the 1950s.
"She has a lovely nature and loves playing with her
brothers and sisters, although she has nipped me a few times when she wants a
feed," added Miss Claassen.
Star with no stripes: Basking in the sun
with Shahir and Sitarah. (Photo: gb.cri.cn/photo)
"White Bengal tigers are not albino - they have
distinctive blue eyes, and they used to be found in Northern India before they
"My hope is that one day Fareeda and her kind can be
returned to their native habitat.
"That is why it is so important to educate people
about tigers and keep the breeding programmes going."