When I was a boy white tigers were exceptionally rare. Indeed, from memory, I remember reading something claiming that the only ones in the world were at Bristol Zoo, to which they had been presented by the Maharajah of somewhere or other in the 1920s.
Now they seem to be everywhere.
Either my Boy's Book of Knowledge, that my Auntie Phyllis gave me for a birthday present in about 1966, mislead me or Siegfried and Roy teamed up with the fugitive Josef Mengele somewhere in Bolivia in the 1970s and carried out a series of Boys from Brazil-type big cat breeding experiments. Or possibly there is a third explanation.
However, that is not what I wanted to write about. Beth from Hartland Wildlife Rescue recently sent me a series of pictures (from which I have extracted these five) of some ridiculously cute Chimpanzee/ White tiger cub interaction.
Having lived with Richard Freeman for the best part of a decade, and known him even longer, I have always been conditioned by him to think of chimps as mean, vicious killing machines, the "pilled up hobo with a hammer" of the higher primates. But surprisingly Richard confirmed that such interactions are not uncommon.
The public's view of the common chimpanzee as a cute, cuddly, mischevious little scamp is one of the most egregiously wrong assesments of any animal. Around eight times stronger than a man, armed with savage teeth, and a demented hatred of almost everything and everyone, the chimp is one of the most dangerous and unpredictable animals on earth.
I have worked with over 400 different species of animal and the chimp is the one I trust the least, and one of the very few for which I have an have an active dislike. Some animals will kill you for food or if they think you are a threat. Chimps will kill out of sheer malice and bloodlust. One of a chimp's favourate tricks is to tear a man's testicles off when attacking him.
How odd it was, then, when I found out years ago, that chimps like cats and dogs. Back in my days as a keeper at Twycross Zoo (home of the now huge and vicious PG Tips chimps) I was told by keeper Betty Walsh that chimps love to play with dogs and cats, and are quite gentle with them.
I have seen several film sequences of this occuring and the normally brutal chimps being as gentle as lambs.