White Lions

White Lions - Page 1&2: The New Discovery | 3: Conservation Status | 4: White Lion Breeding |
5: A Description Of The White Lion


The new discovery:

For centuries rumors of mysterious white lions (Panthera leo krugeri) had been circulating in South Africa. Legend said the white pelage represented the good to be found in all creatures.

Strong claims of sightings started to surface in 1928. Scattered reports continued over the next 47 years, until confirmation of the colouration came in 1975 when a litter containing two white cubs was seen at Timbavati Game Reserve, adjacent to Kruger National Park.

The discovery came as researcher and conservationist Chris McBride was studying lions at Timbavati. In October, his elder sister and her son visited. While Chris lay in bed sick and feeling sorry for himself, they went out alone with a tracker for the day and spotted lioness 'Tabby' at a kill. With her were three new cubs, one tawny, and two which were as white as polar bears. They were roughly two weeks old.

The white specimens proved to be male and female. The McBride Family named them Temba (Zulu for 'hope') and Tombi ('girl'). The standard-coloured cub was called Vela ('surprise').

Disadvantages for white lions:

Along with the observation of the cubs came the increasing realisation that white lions would be at significant disadvantages in the wild, and this caused great concern.

A white lion cub would certainly attract predators like the hyena, or  have trouble concealing themselves when hunting on the savannah.

The male, Temba, would eventually reach an age when the two dominant males of the pride started to see him as a threat. Temba would then be forced to leave and become nomadic unless he could successfully fight to take over another pride.

Males are big, heavy and slow. This explains why the females do most of the hunting. Add to this the tremendous disadvantage of having no camouflage, and a nomadic Temba would almost certainly not be able to get within range of prey animals.

Like the tiger, the lion is a short distance sprinter and must get within 20-30 metres of an animal prior to attacking. Once in flight all the lion's primary prey species are much faster than the big cat. It was entirely possible Temba would simply starve to death.

Tombi would probably be more fortunate. Lionesses often remain with their pride of birth. However, if she were rejected for any reason then Tombi would also become equally at risk.

At least twice it was necessary for Chris McBride and his assistants to provide food for the pride so the cubs didn't miss out. On one of these occasions the cubs were found in a distinctly emaciated condition.

 (Continued Page 2)

White Lions - Page 1&2: The New Discovery | 3: Conservation Status | 4: White Lion Breeding |
5: A Description Of The White Lion

History of the White Tiger | White Tigers | Albinos | Golden Tabbies | Black Tigers | Maltese (Blue) |
Red, Brown & Orange Tigers | White Lions

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Photography With Thanks To Denise McQuillen
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