WHAT are white, have stripes and blue eyes? The two white Bengal tiger cubs born recently at a private zoo north of the city.
The two male cubs, Spirit and Zeus, and their orange-coloured Bengal brother, Apollo, were born almost two weeks ago and are the newest attraction at the Mystic Monkeys and Feathers Wildlife Park outside Pretoria.
“People love to interact with them (the cubs) and the cubs like the touch,” said the park’s marketer, Ilse van Aardt. The cubs made their first public appearance on Friday when visitors could play with them and take photographs.
The cubs are the second set of white tigers born in the park. These tiger cubs are not albinos, as true albino tigers do not have stripes. Two orange tigers carrying the recessive mutant gene for white colouration can produce white offspring.
Their mother, Tiffany, and father, Alex, are both orange-coloured Bengal tigers.
The cubs were taken from their parents because their mother does not have enough milk to feed all three brothers and the father is a threat to the cubs’ safety.
“He (will) eat them,” said Maria Manganye, the primary caregiver and “new mother” of the cubs.
Manganye, who has been working at the park for 17 years, takes care of the cubs and feeds them each a bottle of milk every three hours.
“They irritate (you sometimes),” she said amid loud wails from the cubs.
The cubs drink a special milk for cats, but in three months their diet will change to meat, preferably chicken.
A new goal for the park is to start a breeding programme with the white Bengals.
“Bengals are almost extinct and they breed easier in captivity,” said van Aardt.
She said the cubs were perfectly healthy.
But with so many males around, they first have to find a new bloodline and a few female tigers before they can start breeding.
Apart from the white tigers, the park also has white lions, cheetahs and ocelots.