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Great Bend Zoo's white tiger, 'Spirit,' dies
new deh white tiger pic
This photo of Spirit, the white Bengal tiger at Great Bends Brit Spaugh Zoo, was taken by Zoo Director Scott Gregory in 2011. The 15-year-old tiger died in its sleep Thursday night. - photo by Tribune file photo

 To read the 2011 AZA white paper on breeding for white animals, click here.

The white Bengal tiger at Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo has died.
Zoo Director Scott Gregory said the tiger named Spirit died in its sleep Thursday night. A necropsy was performed Friday to determine cause of death, and results should be available from Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in a week or two.
Staff at the zoo were saddened by the loss, and Gregory said he expects the community will also miss Spirit.
“He was one of those tigers that everybody embraces.”
When two Bengal tiger cubs arrived in Great Bend in 1998, they were an instant hit. Mike Cargill, who was zoo director at the time, took the cubs to local schools and civic clubs to introduce them to the community.
Spirit and his litter mate Sunny, a yellow Bengal, came from Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, N.D., Zoo Curator Marge Bowen said.
Spirt periodically received medication for stomach problems and arthritis. “He was one of our most medicated animals,” Gregory said.
That isn’t unusual for white tigers in U.S. zoos. All white tigers in North America are mutations produced through inbreeding that causes a number of defects in addition to the rare pigmentation. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums has banned the inbreeding of animals to cause rare color-morphs, such as white tigers, deer or alligators, by its members zoos since 2008.
Tigers typically live to be about 20 years old, Bowen said. Although Sunny and Spirit were litter mates, the yellow tiger did not have the recessive genes and has not experienced the same degree of health issues as his brother. “The other tiger is doing fine,” she said.