The white lion is occasionally found in wildlife reserves in South Africa and is a rare colour mutation of the Kruger subspecies of lion (Panthera leo krugeri). It has been perpetuated by selective breeding in zoos around the world. White lions are not yet a separate subspecies and they have been said to be indigenous to the Timbavati region of South Africa for centuries, although the earliest recorded sighting in this region was 1938. Regarded as divine by locals, white lions first came to public attention in the 1970s in Chris McBride's book The White Lions of Timbavati. Up until 2009, when the first pride of white lions was reintroduced to the wild, it was widely believed that the white lion could not survive in the wild. It is for this reason that, now, a large part of the population of white lions are in zoos. Another large part, however, are bred in camps where they are bred almost always for canned hunting trophies. Its a relative of the plain lion
It is hard to determine exactly how many white lions there are today, because they are held in captive breeding and canned hunting operations which don't keep adequate records. Based on available evidence, The Global White Lion Protection Trust estimate there are less than 300 White Lions world-wide.
White lions are not albino lions. Instead, the white color is caused by a recessive gene known as chinchilla or color inhibitor. They vary from blonde through to near white. This coloration, however, does not disadvanatge them in any way. The white lions of The Global White Lion Protection Trust have been reintroduced into their natural habitat and have been hunting and breeding successfully without human intervention for a significant amount of time. White lions of South Africa are currently being bred almost purely for canned hunting trophies, but Linda Tucker, the founder of The Global White Lion Protection Trust and author of 'The Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sun God', and her team are trying to change the South African hunting laws in the favour of the lions.
White lions are not albinos but are leucistic. They have pigment visible in the eyes (which may be the normal hazel or golden color, blue-gray, or green-gray), paw pads and lips. Blue-eyed white lions exist and may be selectively bred. The leucistic trait is due to the chinchilla mutation that inhibits the deposition of pigment along the hair shaft, restricting it to the tips. The less pigment there is along the hair shaft, the paler the lion. As a result "white" lions range from blonde through to near white. The males have pale manes and tail tips instead of the usual dark tawny or black. The Latin name of Panthera leo krugeri is not limited to white lions. It applies to all South African lion subspecies; the prides of which are mostly located in Kruger National Park and nearby game reserves.
White specimens usually have a yellowish-brown or golden eye color which is very similar to their tawny cousins, though some have bluish coloring like the white tiger
The chinchilla mutation, a recessive gene, gives white lions their unusual colors. A similar gene also produces white tigers. White lions can therefore be selectively bred for zoos, animal shows and wildlife park. Such breeding involves inbreeding of close relatives and can result in inbreeding depression (genetic defects, reduced fertility, and physical defects) although this has not yet been recorded in white lions in zoos as it has been in white tigers. According to Tucker, white lions in canned hunt camps have been found to have hind-limb paralysis and serious heart defects, indicating a severe level of inbreeding involved in mass-production although they are rare in the wild. People are concerned about the White Lions mating with other lions of other alleles, because of possible extinction of the white lion. However, this is not valid as the offspring will inherit the white gene and therefore make it possible to produce white offspring in a later generation. Some critics maintain that white lions should not be introduced in to the wild because of the inbreeding that has taken place over zoos and breeding camps. However, ethical reintroduction programs such as The Global White Lion Protection Trust have ensured through the use of scientific methodologies that the lions in their program are not inbred.
· 9 years ago