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Africa Geographic Travel

There’s been quite a stir in game-viewing circles in Kruger National Park lately. And a little white lion cub is at the thick of it all. This ‘new’ white lion of Kruger was first spotted in July 2014 (supposedly about 3-4 months old at the time). 

white lion cub

Our head guide, Simon, is known for his lucky sightings. His patience and perseverance paid off recently when he managed to spot the cub for himself. This fascinating white lion cub belongs to the ‘Satara Pride’ – comprising 11 lionesses and a coalition of five male lions. So far, it’s been mostly seen on the S100 and S41 roads to the east.

Exciting new reports have claimed that a second white cub has been born to the Satara Pride.

white lion cub

Are they albino?

Actually, no. Albino refers to a total lack of pigment, in which case, they’d have the typical red eyes. Rather, they’re leucistic which means they have a reduced amount of pigmentation – resulting in white coats with blue or tawny eyes. White cubs only occur if both parents are carriers of the recessive ‘white’ gene. It’s quite normal to see both white and tawny cubs in one litter – it depends only on the dominant gene.

white lion cub

Ancient Timbavati origins

According to traditional African oral history, white lions have been seen in the Timbavati area (bordering onto the Kruger National Park) for centuries. It’s said that a special white lion cub was born during Queen Numbi’s reign, over 400 years ago, in an event heralded by a star that fell to Earth. In the 1970s, white lion were once again ‘discovered’ and became the focus of several books, most notably Chris McBride’s “The White Lions of the Timbavati”, which was published in 1977.

white lion cub

Now you see them. Now you don’t

The incidence of white lion seems to become dormant, only to re-emerge years later. During the 1990s, they basically became extinct in the wild, only reappearing in 2006 with two white cubs born to a tawny lioness in the northern Timbavati. They were the first white lions seen in almost 13 years. Since then, there have been only 16 births in five different prides.

Discovering ‘new’ white lions in Kruger National Park, some distance from their Timbavati origins is quite normal; reflecting the natural dispersal of lions away from the area of their birth.

white lion cub

Survival of the fittest. Or whitest?

Some conservationists believed that white lion would not survive in the wild, and many were relocated to zoos and breeding farms. The latest evidence shows that they can adapt surprisingly well and those that make it to adulthood become successful hunters. Some even say that their whiteness works in their favour – some of their prey don’t recognise them as lion, making their task that much easier.

According to the White Lion Protection Trust there are now 13 white lions living ‘free’ in game reserves.

The sighting of a white lion is always a rare and rewarding experience and one you won’t easily forget.

white lion cub

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Wild Wings Safaris

Wild Wings Safaris is a specialist African safari operator and Kruger Park ground operator, with offices in the UK and South Africa. We offer tailor-made safaris and custom wildlife tours throughout Southern and East Africa. Member of ABTA and SATSA.