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Tigers [Lions] Lemurs
All Asiatic [White Lion]            
White Lions
(Panthera leo krugeri)
 
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White Lion

For hundreds 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.

The mortality 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.

Lion Roar Click 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.

Picture of White Lions

Today, one 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 male.

White lions 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 Center.

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.

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