A white Bengal tiger has become the first of its
kind to exist in the wild today after
being born without stripes.

The six-month-old cub is so rare it is thought
there are fewer than 20 tigers like her
alive in the world - all in captivity.

The tiger, which has been named Fareeda, was born to two
white Bengal tigers. However, while Fareeda's brother
Shahir and sister Sitarah all bear the typical black
tiger stripes, Fareeda is a one in a hundred
chance of being born without.

Fareeda, who was hand-reared by keepers at Cango
Wildlife Ranch, near Cape Town, South Africa, is
part of a unique breeding programme to keep
the White Bengal species alive.

Keepers at the ranch were delighted when Fareeda and
her siblings were born on Christmas Day last year,
but even more surprised to see Fareeda's
rare lack of markings.

Odette Claassen, 52, from the ranch said the keepers
had to wait six months before they could be
sure she definitely did not have stripes.

She said: "Some cubs develop them in their first few
months but after six months it's clear that Fareeda is
truly one of the rarest of her kind. When she was born
she had noticeably pale colour and it did cause
a stir of excitement amongst the staff."

"But we knew there was the possibility of the cub's very light
black and ginger stripes darkening over time existed.
Most white Bengal tigers are bred in the US from a single
male captured in the 1950s, but Fareeda is the first to
be born in Africa, which is very special. She has
a lovely nature and loves playing with her
brothers and sisters, although she has nipped
me a few times when she wants a feed."

White Bengal tigers are not albino, they have
distinctive blue eyes and used to be found in
Northern India before they died out.

"My hope is that one day Fareeda and her kind
can be returned to their native habitat and
that is why it is so important to educate
people about tigers and keeping the
breeding programmes going."

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