WHANGAREI - A Zion wildlife park executive has hit back at public protests over the decision to shoot the white tiger that killed a keeper this week.

Park staff killed Abu - one of only 120 white tigers left in the world - with a shotgun and a .308 rifle as he fatally mauled Dalu Mncube on Wednesday.

Yesterday, park operations manager Glen Holland said people were wrong to think that the death of white tigers might endanger the population of Bengal tigers.

"I just cannot get over the public of New Zealand saying 'the poor tiger' - it really is just unbelievable," he said.

"Conserving white tigers is for people's pleasure. It is not conservation.

"People may conserve white tigers because they like them but they're purely a mutation and it is nothing to do with conservation of wild tigers ...

"If they died out, it would make absolutely no difference to Bengal tigers."

Mr Holland said white tigers were "a freak, a mutation", rather than a sub-species or an endangered species.

He said the decision to shoot Abu was made in accordance with the park's protocol, and he was confident it was correct.

The tiger was shot during the attack, not afterwards as had been claimed.

"The white tiger population is meaningless. It's really a lot of nonsense," he said.

"The fact that the cat was shot is another whole issue, and if people are upset about that, well, that's a pill they're going to have to swallow."