March 2015: Guests at the Eastern Cape’s Pumba Private Game Reserve (part of Protea Hotels’ luxury brand, African Pride Hotels) were rewarded for their early morning start last Thursday, by catching the first glimpse of the two White Lion Cubs, born at the beginning of March.
Much excitement and awe surrounded this first sighting of the cubs, as Mom carried her cubs from their birth den. At approximately three weeks old, the cubs’ eyes have opened, but they are still unable to walk.
These two little bundles of joy have a number of firsts accredited to them. They are the first litter born to Pumba’s first wild-born white lioness since the introduction of Pumba’s White Lion Rehabilitation and Breeding programme in 2005.
The mother is the offspring of the original white lions brought into the rehabilitation programme, Themba (meaning Faith) and Nomathemba. The father of the new cubs is a five-year old split-gene tawny coloured lion.
The gestation period of a lion is approximately 110 days (just under four months) and the survival rate of a lioness’s first litter is extremely low, which makes the appearance of these two cubs even more special.
Pumba Private Game Reserve is one of only two reserves worldwide, where free-roaming, self-sustaining white lions can be viewed in their natural environment.
The first sighting of pure white lions is believed to have taken place in the Timbavati area in 1975, by Robert McBride, a Zoology PHD Student.
The white lion is not an albino, having normal pigmentation in the eyes and skin. The unusual white colour of their coats is due to a recessive gene.
This article was originally published in the March 20th edition of The Cape Times.