When a white tiger at the Safari Zoological Park in Caney, KS gave birth to three cubs, zoo officials were hopeful that there would be three additions to the rare breed of tigers; however, according to park owner Tom Harvey, the mother tiger stopped caring for her newborns after one day, and they were left wandering around, trying to find their birth mother.
Zoo caregivers decided to try to let the three cubs nurse from Harvey's Golden Retreiver that had recently weaned her own puppies. Harvey explains that though it is unusual for a dog to nurse tigers, it does happen.
The timing was perfect for Isabella, the Golden Retriever, to help with the abandoned tigers. "The mother doesn't know the difference," Harvey says. "The adopted mother licks, cleans and feeds the cubs."
The Safari Zoological Park specializes in endangered species. Along with the rare white tigers, there are ring-tailed lemurs, leopards, cougars and baboons. The facility currently has seven white tigers and two orange tigers. Exotic white tigers are tigers with a genetic condition that nearly eliminates pigment in the normally orange fur, although they still have dark stripes. The eyes are normally blue and they have a pink nose. White tigers are not considered a separate breed and can breed with an orange one, although all of the resulting offspring will be orange.
According to the Harveys, Isabella is blissfully ignorant of just how unusual her mothering skills are; however, she may be aware of all the extra attention she's getting — not to mention all the extra goodies in her bowl. "I've been feeding her," says Allie Harvey. "She knows she's getting a lot of extra food. She's been eating eggs, cheese, rice and dog food. So she's happy about that."