Friday, September 25, 2015

The Story of White Tigers

The Story of a White Tiger:

This is Kumar. He is an eleven year old white tiger who was brought here with his two siblings from another facility so that they could avoid licensing issues. 

White tigers only exist in captivity as a result of inbreeding, which produces a double recessive gene. The white coloration is caused by a mutation in the SLC45A2 gene, restricting the expression of red and yellow pigments.

 The inbreeding of tigers began in 1951 with Mohan, who was captured from the wild in India, raised and inbred to his daughter leading to the existing population of captive white tigers. The recessive mutation was then discovered to be present in both male Siberian tigers and female Bengal tigers. As a result in the 1970’s many small zoos began breeding these two species to give rise to white tigers. 
However, many white tigers suffer from genetic disabilities including: crossed eyes, spinal problems, deformed kidneys, cleft palate, as well as club footedness. For example, Kim and Kumar at IEAS both have crossed eyes, which are the result of inbreeding that causes the optic nerve to connect to the opposite side of the brain.

This is Kim. She is seven years old and was given to IEAS with her sister Karen by her previous caregiver. As you can see her left eye is severely crossed due to the strong defects associated with inbreeding.

 Some studies suggest that white tigers can survive in the wild, considering they were found in the wild since the 1500’s, but the last white tiger to be found in the wild was shot in 1958. On the other hand, deleterious mutations such as those found in white tigers are highly disadvantageous for survival in the wild considering they do not blend in well in a tropical jungle environment causing them to be killed off. White tigers are also reported to live shorter lives due to their genetic complications, presuming they aren't rejected by their mothers and survive the birthing process. 

In June 2011 the AZA banned the breeding of white tigers, white lions, or king cheetahs and other species that express rare genetic traits due to the high correlation to debilitating genetic and physical issues. Therefore, the nine white tigers at IEAS are advocates for their species as their stories help to educate the public on how natural selection occurs and the large downstream effects that it can have on a population

Happy Birthday Prince!

On this day September 23, 2004 a handsome Prince was born. Prince was rescued from a property with over 300 other animals including our lovely Princess with whom he shares his habitat. He arrived at IEAS in 2011 and since then he has become a beloved part of the IEAS family. He enjoys getting in his pool even on cooler days and playing with his enrichment toys. Prince can usually be caught snuggling with Princess. 

Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and human wildlife conflict tigers, like Prince, are declining in numbers in the wild. Through conservation and education efforts IEAS aims to inform the public about the different ways you can help save magnificent animals such as Prince. 

Happy 11th birthday Prince!!! :)

Friday, September 11, 2015

Meet Mau!

Meet Mau!

Mau is our resident cheetah!  He is almost 12 years old and has been with us since he was only five months old.  Cheetahs are notably the world’s fastest land mammal and the most endangered African cat.

So how do cheetahs reach such high speeds? They have several adaptations that allow them to reach speeds up to 70mph. They have an extremely flexible spine, giving cheetahs the ability to take a longer stride.  Their shoulder blades are not attached to the collarbone, also enabling the shoulders to move more freely. Finally, the hips pivot to permit the back legs to stretch farther apart when the body is fully extended. Unlike other cats, cheetahs have only semi-retractable claws and have harder, less rounded paw pads to allow for better traction, like the cleats of a track shoe. The cheetah’s tail is long and powerful so it can act as a rudder, stabilizing and acting as a counterweight so the cheetah can make sharp, sudden turns. All of these features combined enable cheetahs to have strides up to 23 feet with about four strides a second. Now that’s fast!

Unfortunately, cheetahs face multiple conservation issues in the wild. Habitat loss and fragmentation is a major concern in developing areas of Africa, as is interaction with humans. Livestock owners often unfairly blame cheetahs for the kills made by other large predators, such as hyenas, leopards and lions, resulting in the farmers trapping or shooting the cheetah. Illegal wildlife trading also contributes to a depleted cheetah population because cheetah cubs are being captured from the wild and smuggled out of Africa to become pets. They also face extreme competition from other African predators, who can often overpower a cheetah. Sadly, the result of these factors has been a decreased population, with only about 10,000 cheetahs remaining in the wild.

Luckily here at the sanctuary, Mau leads a good life.  He can be found roaming around his habitat or lounging in the shade.  Please come out and enjoy a tour where you can learn all about our animals and hopefully you can catch a glimpse of Mau!

How Well Do You Know Your Tigers?

Historically, there were 9 sub-species of tigers. The Caspian, Bali and Javan are now extinct; The South China and Indochinese are genetically extinct; and the remaining sub-species in the wild today are Amur (Siberian), Bengal, Malayan, and Sumatran which are declining rapidly in the wild. Here at the Sanctuary we have primarily Bengal tigers, but also one Siberian!

Siberian tigers are the biggest of all the sub-species. They are the largest and heaviest member of the entire cat family to be exact! Body length can be upwards of 10-12 feet and can weigh around 600 pounds. Siberian coats are notably thick and a pale golden color, with black stripes and white underbellies.

Our resident Siberian tiger is Caesar! He is currently 18 years old and has been at IEAS for a little over 17 years. You can read his full story here:


Bengal tigers are smaller than Siberians, with a body length of 5-6 feet and weighing around 400 pounds. Their coats are usually a thinner pale yellow color, with black stripes on their bodies.

Here is one of our orange Bengal tiger residents, Khera! Khera is currently 21 years old. Her full story is here:

Come on down to IEAS for a tour so you can meet these two wonderful cats and test your identification skills! You'll get to see them as well as many of our other Bengal tigers! They are certainly looking forward to meeting you!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Why Do Sanctuaries Exist?

So what happens to these animals that are in the news, plus the many others that don't make the headlines but are abandoned by irresponsible individuals or organizations that obtain an exotic animal for egotistical or financial reasons without concern for its future care? Well, THAT IS WHY WE EXIST.

Big John, one of our current residents, was brought to us after the Fish and Wildlife services confiscated him and other animals from a Spanish circus. These animals were being kept in deplorable conditions. The tigers, including Big John, were hot, hungry, and thirsty. When he was brought to us, we had no place to put him or the other tigers. While they were being kept temporarily near Brownsville, TX, IEAS worked non-stop to get a habitat ready for these tigers. Thankfully, with the help of the local community and other organizations, enough money was raised to build a habitat for all of the new residents. Big John went from being in a cramped trailer into a 15,000 square foot habitat.

Big John enjoying his pool.
These animals are shuffled off to us, some other sanctuary or suffer a much more dire fate if such facilities aren't available.

Nakita, another resident we have, was abandoned just outside the sanctuary gates during a midnight winter storm. Keepers discovered her the next morning around 6:00am shivering, wet, and scared. She was brought immediately to the veterinary clinic where it took staff almost an hour to open up the crate she was put in. There was no where at the time for her to go so she stayed at the veterinary clinic. During her first month there, the staff worked non-stop to turn our last available habitat into a suitable place that would meet all of her needs so she could live a happy, healthy life.

Nakita exploring her habitat.

One of the saddest things we have to do is turn down many animals that need homes on an almost weekly basis because we don't have the funding to care for more animals and build new habitats without endangering the future well-being of our existing inhabitants to whom we owe the most. Unfortunately, unless there is media attention and great sympathy, most people aren't willing to donate the necessary funds to insure the endowment of the animal.

There are many was to help our Sanctuary:
  • Come join us for a guided tour. Each adult donation feeds 4 cats for one day.
  • We are constantly in need of things around the sanctuary that are on our Wish List.
  • Adopt one of our animals, such as Nakita or Big John. You can even come to the Sanctuary to visit your adopted feline. =^-^=
  • You can also help us by giving your time through volunteering.
Those are only a few ways to help the animals here at the International Exotic Sanctuary. To see more please visit our How To Help page.

If you are interested in hearing what were are all about and learning about all of our residents, come join us during our tours. They are everyday at 11:00am and there is a second tour on Saturdays at 3:00pm.