The White Lions at the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve
White Lions are real lions with a special gene. This gene affects the hair colour and the colour of the pads. Sometimes the colour of the nose and the eyes are also different. The gene inhibits the amount of pigment in the hair shaft. White lions have a colour range from blonde through to a bright white. This is a short story about the first White Lions released to the wilderness at the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve.
While this gene is recessive it appears again after several generations. Today White Lions are not wild anymore. There live in zoos or breeding stations around the world. It was a vision from Dr. Gaston Savoi to reintroduce White Lions into the wilderness. And the perfect spot to realise it was the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve with 54000 hectare Karoo wilderness.
What a long term project with no experience before? The team with years of wildlife knowledge decided to introduce a breeding pair first. If they minimize all contact with humans the new generations of cubs will grow up in the wilderness. The vision could come true.
And really the first cubs were born in 2004. Three cubs and they are all male. Step by step they were released into fenced areas of the reserve. The males grow up and learnt how to live in the wilderness and most important how to hunt their own game. What a first step and the next were following.
Sanbona Wildlife Reserve is also home of wild tawny lions. So it was possible to integrate the three male White Lions into a group with two tawny females. Together their shown all the social lion behaviours like playing, grooming and more hunting skills. The coalition of the brothers also patrols their territory. And so it happened that the next generation of White Lions were born and grow up.
The years are coming and going and today there are still White Lions at the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve. Visit the White Lion Lodge and enjoy the hospitality in the lodge and the wilderness around. And maybe you will see the White Lions on one of your game drives.