Jul 19 2012
Ukrainian zookeepers were shocked to see six snow white lion cubs born in captivity to tawny-colored parents. So how about taking them out of captivity and putting them back into their natural environment, so they can take their rightful places as Kings/Queens of beasts.
(Yeah, yeah, I know, ANOTHER off-topic post which seems to bother a few BNI regulars)
UK Daily Mail These six stunning white cubs are among the rarest lions that exist on the face of the planet. Born in Ukraine two weeks ago, three of them in a safari park and three in a zoo in the coastal city of Yalta, they all share a recessive gene that gives them their unique pure white colour.
They have been brought together to be raised by keepers at the Yalta Zoo. As yet the cubs have no names, but they will be given some in a few months when they grow up White lions are not albinos. Like blue eyes in humans, the animals’ white colour is caused by a recessive gene shared by both parents.
Staff at Yalta Zoo, where the first two female cubs were born, said they weren’t expecting the white cubs, which came from a normal-coloured tawny mother.
Alexander Dyakov, Yalta Zoo’s vet told the International Business Times: ‘We expected that the cubs would be beige or straw-coloured, the natural colour lions, but we were really, really pleasantly surprised.
‘That is, it’s a great rarity for Ukraine, for Europe, for the whole world, white lions are a real rarity. And we have two female lion cubs, absolutely healthy, absolutely strong. We wait for them to grow up and be exhibited.’
The animals are being raised in the zoo director’s office for the time being. The tawny lioness mother didn’t produce enough milk to feed them so zookeepers give them a bottle every two hours.
White lions are native to only the Greater Timbavati region of South Africa, an area characterised by white sandy riverbeds and long grass scorched pale by the sun.
They are regarded as sacred animals by the people of that region, but after Europeans ‘discovered’ them in the Seventies, many were taken from the wild to captive breeding and hunting operations, according to the Global White Lion Protection Trust.
These removals, along with lion culling and trophy hunting of male lions, depleted the gene pool and the animals have been technically extinct in the wild for the past 12 years.
In their natural habitat, white lions are regarded as ‘apex predators’, able to hunt successfully in day and night and take down prey as large as giraffes.
Despite their rarity, white lions are not yet classified as endangered as biologists still regard them as ultimately the same as their tawny equivalents.
The Global White Lion Protection Trust is campaigning for white lions to be recognised as a subspecies of lions, so that they can be protected under international law.
However, the genetic marker that makes white lions unique has not yet been identified by scientists and research into the animals is ongoing.
The trust estimates that there are no more than 300 white lions in existence. In recent years it has reintroduced the animals to a nature reserve within Greater Timbavati in an effort to eventually reintroduce the gene to wild lions.
Here’s a video of two of the cubs: