Born Free statement: White tiger cub


Born Free’s Rescue & Care team responds to independent specialist wildlife vet’s assessment of female white tiger cub found in Greece.

An adult white tiger lying down facing the camera
Image above an adult white tiger, not the tiger cub in Greece

On February 28th, 2023, it was reported in the media that a female tiger cub, aged approximately three months old, was found having been abandoned under a bin outside Attica Zoological Park, Greece. The Zoo kindly took the cub in and has been caring for it while working hard to get a full picture of the cub’s health and what could be done to help it.

Likely a victim of captive breeding and the illegal wildlife trade, the tiger cub was said to be in poor body condition and in a critical state. Born Free contacted the zoo’s owner offering assistance in the form of veterinary support from an independent recognised specialist wildlife veterinarian. The veterinary report, CT scans and MRI scans which had been compiled by the zoo’s vet team were shared with us; we then sought advice from our trusted independent specialist wildlife vet who has extensive experience in similar cases and wildlife rehabilitation.

The report provided by the zoo confirms that cub has not received proper care or diet, resulting in a variety of severe and irreversible health issues, not least hind paralysis. The specialist wildlife vet we consulted with told us the metabolic bone disease is so severe, and skeleton so very poorly mineralised, that bones have collapsed on themselves (pathological fractures), and even if the calcium levels in the tiger’s diet were corrected, her bones will remain deformed and dysfunctional for the rest of her life. The spinal deformities in the lumbar (lower back) region were deemed horrendous and clearly explain the paralysis.

The tiger likely will be a lifelong deformed paraplegic, with chronic pain, predisposition to early joint problems (osteoarthritis), and with a hernia (likely due to inbreeding and poor genetics). Tigers are capable of living into their 20s when kept in captivity, so this could mean years of pain for this young cub – although with all the health issues she has, it is difficult to know how long she may live.

Given the terrible condition of this poor cub, and bleak prognosis which would mean a very poor quality of life, the independent vet has advised euthanasia. Born Free agrees that this is the most humane course of action. Even with unlimited financial resources and veterinary expertise, this is the kindest thing when it comes to the welfare of the cub.

Unfortunately, this case serves as a tragic reminder of how captive breeding of wild animals can be highly detrimental to the health of the animals, and why Born Free will continue to campaign for an end to both captive breeding and the illegal wildlife trade.