1. They are not albino lions; they're a genetic rarity only found in the Timbavati region.
2. The genetic marker that makes them unique has yet to be identified. Hence they're still classified under the general species Panthera leo.
3. Earliest recorded sightings was in 1938. However oral records of African elders indicates they have been in the region for many centuries.
4. The white lion gene is carried by tawny lions, hence white cubs occur in many prides within the region.
5. Due to their unique features, the white lion was hunted almost to extinction & the last white lion sighted in the wild was in 1994.
6. Currently there is NO LAW protecting the existence of white lions.
These creatures are revered by the local communities in their endemic region. Often described as a gift from god, these animals are rarely sighted in the while due to hunting by humans; Linda Tucker, author of the book Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sun God mentioned that when her book was published in 2001, a white lion can fetch a sum of R250 000. In 2003, that price increased to a whopping R1.65 million.
Human greed & obsession has led to rampant in-breeding, which in turn caused the weakening of the gene, rendering offspring vulnerable to diseases & deformations. It is a common assumption that the creature can no longer survive in the wild; yet observations of wild specimens proved that the white lions are effective hunters, often able to bring down an impala kill independently of the pride.
Several zoos have taken the initiative to protect these beautiful animals & the numbers have been steadily growing. The WLT, a NGO, has successfully reintroduced white lions into the wild & observation showed that they are surviving well. An application to include the white lions in the IUCN's red list of endangered species failed because the white lion has yet to be considered as a separate species from the tawny lion, due to the fact that white lions have been born to prides of tawny lions.
It is imperative for more people to join efforts in protecting these creatures & decoding their unique gene to allow for better conservation before they are wiped out from this planet. Do donate to the WLT & show your support to save this rare species!