(Panthera leo krugeri)
of years rumors circulated that white lions inhabited South Africa.
It was not until 1975 that actual sightings confirmed this mysterious
cat's existence. A litter containing two white lions (male &
female) and their normal tawny colored sister was spotted at the
Timbavati Game Reserve next to Kruger National Park. It was estimated
that they were about eight weeks old. The following year another
white lion cub was seen living amongst another pride. Unfortunately
she disappeared and was presumed dead.
rate amongst wild lions is extremely high. Even when the best
environmental conditions are present, such as adequate food and
water. In this respect, the white lions were at an even greater
disadvantage. In addition to the fact that it would be nearly
impossible for them to sneak up on unsuspecting prey; the white
lions themselves became targets of predatory hyenas. Once the
male infant reached sexual maturity he would certainly be forced
to leave the pride to find his own. Since female lions do the
majority of the hunting, odds were not good for his survival if
he remained nomadic without the support of a pride. His sister
had slightly better chances due to the fact that female lionesses
usually remain in the pride in which they were born. However,
there were also good chances that she could be rejected by her
own pride as well. If this were to occur she also would most likely
perish. For this reason both the male and female lion cubs along
with their normal sister were captured and transported to the
National Zoo in Pretoria, Africa.
Here to hear the Roar
While in Pretoria,
the female white lion produced several cubs and recently died
in 1996. Her brother was never successfully bred and has also
died. Their normal color phased sister was sold to an unknown
destination and was also genetically valuable because she carried
the white gene. The genetic combination required to create white
lions in the wild is now believed to be totally eliminated.
heterozygous male lion lives in the National Zoo in Pretoria.
This individual is tawny in coloration, but does posses the gene
for white coloring. If properly mated, he could produce white
lion cubs. Another two heterozygous males also live in a private
reserve in Africa. The Zoological Animal Reproduction Center located
in Indiana houses two white female lionesses and one heterozygous
were first seen in the United States in 1993. The Philadelphia
Zoo received two white females and two tawny-colored males carrying
the white gene on public display. These animals were obtained
from the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens in Africa. In 1995, The
Johannesburg Zoo sent over another white female and a heterozygous
male to the
private breeding facility of Siegfried and Roy in Las Vegas. Siegfried
and Roy had considerable success, increasing the genetic pool
with seven white lion births by 1996. This included the first
white male lion born in the western hemisphere.
As with the
white tigers, the SSP (Species Survival Program) coordinators
strongly discourage the inbreading of lions solely for the purpose
of creating white coats. Luckily there is more then one genetic
strain of white lion to pool from, unlike that of the white tiger.
Today, the bloodlines are represented worldwide in zoos from Africa,
Japan, Germany, USA and Canada. In an attempt to ensure genetic
purity, individuals representing each strain are being brought
together under one roof at the Zoological Animal reproduction
From a conservation
perspective, one must remember that the white lion is not a separate
subspecies of lion. It is a very rare color variation of the African
lion (Panthera leo krugeri). If it is to be protected then the
entire African lion population needs to be protected! Not just
the prides living in and around the Timbavati Game Reserve.