POLL: Should the inter-breeding of lions and tigers be banned?

  • 795

A coalition of US conservation groups has launched an attempt to outlaw the of so-called frankencats, where big cats such as tigers and lions are crossed with each other to create unusual and often unhealthy specimens.

A petition filed with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Friday calls for an end to the “inhumane” interbreeding of large felines, claiming that the practice clashes with federal animal welfare laws because of the increased probability of resulting health problems such as cancer, cleft palates, arthritis and depression.

Pairing a male with a female creates a tigon, while a male and a female produces a liger. Some breeders, such as Oklahoma-based Joe Schreibvogel, who also goes by the title Joe Exotic, have taken this a step further by breeding liligers, the offspring of a male lion and a female liger, and tiligers, the result of breeding a male and a female liger.

Kenny, an inbred white tiger. Photograph: Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge

Research has shown this cross-breeding can heighten the risk of various ailments. Tigons can experience dwarfism while gigantism is known to occur in ligers. Hercules, a liger who resides at the Myrtle Beach Safari wildlife reserve in South Carolina, was named the world’s largest living cat in 2014, weighing 922lb.

White tigers occur when two Bengal tigers that carry a recessive gene that influences coat colour are bred together. White Bengal tigers have also been crossed with Siberian tigers in order to create a larger animal, which can be affected by even more inherited health problems.

The offspring are prone to becoming cross-eyed, as well as facing other maladies, due to their genetic past. Scientists have found a single gene is responsible for all white tigers, with severe inbreeding occurring since white tigers were virtually wiped out in India. Almost all white tigers in the US can be traced back to an individual tiger.

These striking big cats have become popular as pets for various celebrities, such as the former basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, who owns two white tigers on a Florida farm. The magicians Siegfried and Roy have made white tigers famous as part of their act and have funded the breeding of the animals. In 2015, two white tiger cubs, called Justice and Liberty, died from kidney failure while being raised by the magicians’ not-for-profit organization.

The magicians Siegfried and Roy have made white tigers and white lions famous as part of their act and have funded the breeding of the animals. Photograph: Getty Images

However, most cross-bred large cats in the US are kept in private , often for the amusement of passing tourists beside roads. Roadside have blossomed since the 1950s, with more than 3,000 of these unaccredited facilities now dotted across the country.

“These disreputable zoos breed tigers with lions to provide a novelty for tourists in order to make money,” said Carney Anne Nasser, a campaigner at Peta, one of eight animal welfare groups behind the USDA petition. “This kind of breeding virtually guarantees health problems. There’s no conservation purpose to it and it should be banned. There is a big cat crisis in the US.”

The USDA does not regulate the actual breeding of animals, with its oversight focused on areas such as veterinary care and the handling of animals. The conservation groups behind the petition want the agency to broaden its definition of animal welfare to include breeding that produces animals at risk of defects and illness.

It’s estimated that there are now more tigers in captivity in the US – at about 5,000 – than the worldwide wild population of the animal. Most US-based big cats are in small private zoos or housed by exotic pet owners.

The Association of Zoos & Aquariums, which accredits zoos, advises against intentional inbreeding as it is “clearly linked with various abnormal, debilitating and, at times, lethal external and internal conditions and characteristics”.

The AZA has also noted its concern that zoo visitors are often very interested in seeing the offspring of this sort of breeding, which perpetuates the practice.

“Even among today’s frequently well-informed and educated zoo visitors, the interest in seeing white tigers, white lions, white alligators, or king continues often in preference over the ‘normal’ looking individuals of the same species,” the AZA policy position states.

“Of greater concern, in some cases, there exists the misconception that these unusual color morphs, or other phenotypic aberrations, may represent a separate in need of conservation.”

Once the USDA receives a petition to alter its rules, the regulator will assess it and, with input from a period of public comment, decide whether it has merit.

This article was first published by The Guardian on 19 May 2017.

We invite you to share your opinion whether the inter-breeding of lions and tigers should be banned? Please vote and leave your comments at the bottom of this page.

Should the inter-breeding of lions and tigers be banned?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...

Thank you for voting.

In the event that you voted to ban the inter-breeding of lions and tigers please sign the petition: Demand Siegfried and Roy Stop Breeding Animals

Thank you for your support.

Editorial Comment: The purpose of this poll is to highlight important wildlife conservation issues and to encourage discussion on ways to stop . By leaving a comment and sharing this post you can help to raise awareness. Thank you for your support.


Subscribe to our FREE Newsletter




Founder and Executive Editor

Share this post with your friends

  • 795

Facebook Comments

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
Adelina Jaudal


Tracy Whitcomb


Patricia Mazzoni


Kalyan Bhattacharyya

There is no question of even considering interbreeding two diffeent species like the lion and tiger leave along the voting. Its time the policies are made by intelligent people and not stupids with no knowledge of biologycal sciences, evolution and species.Regarding trade of tiger parts in India, Tiger is the National animal in India and poaching and trading in tiger parts is strictly prohibited by law

Sandra Stringfellow

Shared. YES inter-breeding of lions & tigers should be banned.

Helene-Carole Soucy

Yes! It should be banned!

Glen Labranche


Judy Johnson


Linda Elmas


Phyllis Crawford


JazzyJoslynn Lamar


Anne Grice

One intelligent answer to this is YES and this should be illegal under international law! Humans do not have the right to destroy species jsut because of power, stupidity or money!

Mary Cervantes


Carol Clark

do no isn’t there something biblical not to and if it hurts the. you know we have a labradoodle

Tierra Chapman

Nothing good can come from creating a market for these animals who pay the ultimate price with their lives. These cross bred atrocities become ‘cash cows’ for the breeders who are too lazy to get real jobs, and they become the trinkets for those inane enough to shell out the money. Both breeders and buyers are driven by the same spiritually impotent, low-life pathology – greed and a blatant disregard for Nature as is. There is no excuse for any form of animal abuse, and this inane version needs to be prevented before more animals suffer at the inferior hands… Read more »

M Leybra
M Leybra

Siegfried & Roy is still interbreeding animals, what about Joe Schreibvogel, etc., etc.? USDA has a long way to go reg. using their authority to protect these animals from human exploitation, people keeping them as ‘pets’ & breeding mutants.

Abhijit Ganguli

Without a doubt. It’s a crime.

Robert Piller

Should be positively banned!!!

Michele Jankelow

OMG! What horrors man goes to on his continued assault on animals!

Ken Mason

yes, please outlaw this horrible practice