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 breeding of white lions:

In 1993, white lions were first seen in the U.S.A. when Philadelphia Zoo placed on display two females obtained from the Johannesburg Zoological Gardens. The exhibit also contains two tawny-coloured lions which carry the white gene.

Through a 1995 alliance with the Johannesburg Zoo, Sarmoti, an all white female, and Shaka, a heterozygous male, joined the breeding programme of Las Vegas partnership Siegfried and Roy. At this time there were less than 10 white lions recorded worldwide. By September 1996 the number of white lions under the care of Siegfried and Roy had increased to seven. Included in these was the first white male lion cub to be born in the western hemisphere.

The breeding of white lions in various zoos around the world must be handled very carefully. White tigers and white lions may originate from different parts of the world, but they share a common problem. Both have been extensively inbred to their own close relatives in an attempt to reproduce the unusual white coats. As with the white tiger, the SSP for the African Lion actively discourages breeding to specifically reproduce the white pelage.

Fortunately there is more than one genetic strain of the white lion. In 1977 the Johannesburg Zoo  caught a heterozygous male. He originated from a different pride than Chris McBride's three cubs and when mated with his own daughters the offspring was white. The bloodline of these lions is now represented at zoos in Philadelphia, Toronto, China, Germany and Japan.

In a big step towards ensuring genetic viability, representatives of the various strains are now being brought together by the Zoological Animal Reproduction Center. This facility now holds a pair of whites (different lines) and 5 heteros (also 2 lines). They are aggressively working towards breeding these and getting new genetic material infused into the white lion lines.

Risks of genetic pollution:

At the present time, and unlike the genetically confused white tigers, nearly all white lions are of a known subspecies, that of Panthera leo krugeri. At this time there is no genetic pollution amongst the group. In general, the same cannot be said for most of the standard-coloured captive African lion population.

Some risk of genetic pollution to the white lion exists if a zoo chooses to house a lion of mixed heritage with a white specimen. This has already occurred at one facility where, after a birth control implant under the abdomen failed to perform properly, the lioness gave birth two years running. This situation may be less than desirable, but as with humans no 100% effective birth control product for cats has yet been invented.

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

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Photography With Thanks To Art Slack (Photo 1)
Denise McQuillen (Photo 2)
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