Are there albino lions

White Lion

White lions are a rarity. Their almost snow-white fur and blue eyes are unique in the realm of the African big cats. White lions are not albinos, but owe their coat color to a recessive hereditary gene that both parents carry. In contrast to the albino, which completely lacks the pigment melanin, which is responsible for skin, hair and eye color, in leucism the gene mutation only affects the coat color, which is why white lions do not have red eyes. White lions do not form their own subspecies, but belong to the subspecies Panthera leo krugeri. There is still no information about when the color mutation first occurred.

The extraordinary big cats are only native to South Africa, in the private Timbavati Conservation Reserve founded in 1956. Nowhere else in Africa are there white lions. The reserve borders the Kruger National Park to the south. There are enough prey animals. The White Lion's preferred prey are gazelles and antelopes.

White lions are by no means disadvantaged compared to their sand-colored counterparts in the wild. They too have considerable hunting successes and, like normal lions, quietly stalk their prey.

In the 20th century, tribal chiefs from the Timbavati area reported time and again about white lions, which in South Africa are considered divine. Even today, the shamans and the locals ascribe magical, divine powers to the white lions. But for a long time science considered the stories of the chiefs to be legends. White lions' skins occasionally appeared, and travelers first reported seeing white lions in 1938, but the white lions remained invisible to scientists until the mid-1970s, a phantom, a legend. Then a scientist observing a pride of lions for study made a sensational discovery.


In 1975 the American biologist Chris McBride observed a pride of lions in the Timbavati area. One of the lionesses was pregnant and withdrew to a cave away from the pack to give birth. A few weeks later, in October, the lioness brought her offspring back to the pack. Of the three young animals, two were snow white. A sensation. Chris McBride finally managed to photograph these rare big cats. After he had discovered the two white lion cubs, he had them brought to the zoo in Pretoria because he feared that the white lions would have no chance of survival in nature because they lacked any camouflage when hunting.


In the zoo, the white lion siblings were paired with sand-colored lions to avoid inbreeding. Most of the zoo lions come from these two lines, as well as the white lions that have since been released back into the Timbavati area. Some time later, McBride discovered a white cub in another pride of lions.


Around 1980 to the mid-1990s, a merciless hunt began for the few white lions that inhabited the Timbavati area, until they were extinct. However, some white lions survived in select zoos. The German magicians Siegfried and Roy campaigned for the preservation of the white lions and began a conservation breeding program on their property in Las Vegas in the mid-1980s. In 1996 the Zoo Safaripark Stukenbrock received white lions and introduced the European conservation breeding program.

The Serengetipark in Hodenhagen, in which white lion cubs are born almost every year, also got white lions. In 1992, the Pretoria Zoo, South Africa, and the Philadelphia Zoo, USA, developed a conservation breeding program for the white lions. In 1996 there were only about 20 white lions left in the world. In 2012, the number of white lions was again estimated at around 500 animals.
The Global White Lion Protection Trust strives to preserve the white lions and has been successfully poaching animals in their former territory, the Timbavati Reserve, since 2006. It turned out that the white lions are quite capable of hunting on their own.

Type: lion

Subspecies: Transvaal lion

Superorder: Mammals Laurasiatheria

Order: Carnivora predators

Superfamily: feline Feloidea

Family: Felidae cats

Subfamily: Big Cat Pantherinae

Genus: Panthera

Scientific name: Panthera leo krugeri

Home: South Africa, Kruger National Park

Size: females approx. 0.90 m, males approx. 1.10 m, up to the shoulder

Head-torso length: 1.65 - 1.90 m, tail length approx. 0.80 - 0.95 m

Weight: females 110-140 kg, males 200-260 kg

Age: 15 years in the wild, up to 20 years in captivity

Birth weight: 1200 - 1500 g

Breeding season: all year round

Sexual maturity: females around 2.5 years old, males around 3 years old

Litter size: 1 - 4 young animals

Gestation period: 105-120 days

Profile & descent of the lion >>

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