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When the trio of Bengal Tiger cubs, Fareeda, Shahir and Sitarah, were born on Christmas day in 2008, it was cause for great celebration at the Cango Wildlife Resort near Cape Town. Then the staff noticed something that made them catch their breath. . . .
Unlike her parents and siblings who bore the trademark black tiger stripes, Fareeda's white fur sported very light black and ginger stripes - could she really have beaten the 10,000-to-one odds and be a White Bengal tiger?
While hopeful, the staff at the Wildlife resort also knew from past experience, that her stripes could darken as she grew older.
However, the little tiger who is now six months old, has retained her light stripes, joining the elite group of only 200 such tigers known to exist in the world today, all born in captivity. Even more special is the fact, that most of of them are born in North America - Fareeda is the first white tiger to be born in Africa.
These beautiful animals, are not a different species, nor are they albino tigers. Their coloring is simply lighter and they have beautiful blue eyes. They are fully grown by the time they are three years old. Males can grow up to 3 meters long and weigh 400lbs, while females can grow up to 2.5 meters and weigh 250lbs.
While they can run at speeds exceeding 37 mph, they tire easily and need about 18 hours of sleep a day - and have a lifespan of between 10-17 years.
Bengal tigers are native to India, but thanks to incessant poaching and loss of habitat, there are now hardly any left in the wild. The majority of the remaining population can now be found in zoos or at captive breeding programs such as the one at the Cango Wildlife Resort. Hopefully, some day we can get the population back to a level high enough, to allow these magnificent animals to return to their natural habitat.