Timbavati White Lions

The earliest recording of white lions was in the 1930’s and then again in the early 40’s. Just before the dawning of the 60’s, a pride of lions with two white cubs was sighted near Tshokwane in the Kruger National Park, they later vanished. Over a decade later, in 1975, another two white cubs were spotted in the Timbavati Game Reserve, an area sharing a border with the Kruger Park. They fittingly became known as the Timbavati White Lions and their story is documented in a book written by Chris McBride.

The cub duo named Temba and Tombi, respectively meaning ‘hope’ and ‘girl’ in Zulu, had a tawny brother who carried the recessive white gene. Vela and the two others were taken to the National Zoo in Pretoria where Temba went on to sire several cubs. Tombi produced a white cub in the early 80’s and Vela sired a litter of four, of which one was a rare white lion. While it seems these Timbavati White Lions were bountiful breeders and their lineage does carry through to many of the white lions kept in captivity to date, it is sadly documented that there are only an estimated 300 of these majestic creatures left on the entire globe.

Lions

Despite allegations that white lions cannot survive in the wild, some were released into their natural environment in 2006 and proved their capability to live in free-roaming conditions. As they occurred naturally in the past, they integrated with the tawny lions. Significantly, they did not need these ‘normal’ lions to teach them how to hunt either. The last white lion seen in the wild was recorded in 1994, making them now technically extinct in the wild.

Timbavati is the only place on earth that has naturally birthed the critically endangered White Lion. There have been a number of reported sightings in different parts of the Kruger National Park. Given the proximity and the original birthing grounds, perhaps the Timbavati White Lions could occur again at some point in time. These proud creatures are symbols of African pride and should be honoured and protected as such.

Timbavati Game Reserve borders with Kruger National Park, for information on Kruger National Park please click HERE

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