The Global White Lion Protection Trust is a leading non-profit organisation with a community-based conservation mission to protect the critically endangered White Lions as a global heritage for future generations. For two decades, the organisation has successfully implemented the White Lion Protection Plan™ – a 10 point strategy to ensure the survival of the White Lions against formidable odds, including legalized trophy hunting and illegal poaching. The survival strategy has included the implementation of a long-term scientific reintroduction program to restore the White Lions to their endemic range, and the acquisition of large tracks of heritage lands as a Protected Area for this rare and iconic animal, regarded as the King of Kings by African tribal elders.
Some key questions answered:
1. What is the conservation value of the White Lions?
These critically endangered animals urgently need protection not only for conservation reasons, but for important cultural reasons as well. The White Lions are the key to preserving the entire Kruger-to-Canyon Biosphere, a vast eco-system which has been declared a biosphere region by the UN, in fact the third largest biosphere in the world. The White Lions conservation importance is that they hold the key to protecting the wild lion population of this region, including the Kruger genetic pool, which is under great threat at the present time. Equally important is the White Lions cultural significance in that they hold the key to the socio-economic revival of the low-income communities in this region, whose cultural pride and purpose is directly linked to the survival of this living heritage.
2. Why is the White Lion regarded as “Africa’s most sacred animal”?
African wisdom keepers from many different cultures believe the White Lion to be the King of Kings, sometimes referred to as “the firstborn of God’s Creatures”.
They also understand them to be “Starlions”, and the only place on earth where this rare genetic strain of Panthera Leo has been born by natural occurrence is in the greater Timbavati region, a wildlands game area neighboring South Africa’s Kruger National Park. In the ancient Tsonga language, the word Tsimba-vati means “The Place where the Starlions came down.”
Furthermore, the African myths and legends surrounding these magnificent animals reveal fascinating links with Ancient Egyptian beliefs and rituals, in which the Pharaoh himself was understood to be a Lion, with stellar origins.
This mystery linking the White Lions to ancient Egypt deepens when one considers that the land of Timbavati (the birthplace of the White Lions) aligns geographically exactly with Giza (the resting place of the Great Sphinx), along the exact same Nile Meridian. So the mystery of the White Lions is directly connected with the Sphinx, humankind’s greatest lion riddle.
It is a profound mystery, with many deep consequences. Ultimately, the White Lions are not only an African legacy but are associated with other prophetic animals on other continents, such as the White Buffalo prophecies of Native America.
These legendary aspects of the White Lions were first documented by conservationist Linda Tucker, Founder and CEO of the Global White Lion Protection Trust, in her book Mystery of the White Lions (Hay House).
3. How did so many white lions end up in zoos?
Since their discovery by Europeans in the 60s, the White Lions have been artificially removed from their ancestral lands, where records show they were flourishing in the wild. They were put into zoos and circuses around the globe and into cages in South Africa, where they are being bred to be killed.
Tragically, while the White Lions are regarded as the most sacred animals on the African continent by African elders, they were exploited as the highest income earning trophies by international trophy hunting syndicates, zoos and circuses around the world because they have the greatest “visitor value” of any animal. Despite the ongoing efforts of the Global White Lion Protection Trust to have the White Lions declared a protected animal of national importance in South Africa, no legislation has been enforced to ensure the survival of this critically endangered heritage.
Today, White Lions may be hunted to extinction in the wilds of their natural endemic habitat of the greater Timbavati region, and they may be tamed and killed in cages, a wide spread malpractice known as “Canned Lion Hunting”, which is still legal in South Africa today.
Many members of the public are unaware that they are supporting the cruelty towards these rare and endangered animals by paying to handle cubs in captive breeding centers, which these same commercial operations later shoot these same tamed animals as trophies.
Captive slaughter (“Canned Hunting”) of lions and other endangered animals has now reached shocking proportions in South Africa. There are more lions in cages in South Africa than in the wild, many suffering from malnutrition and genetic malformations as a consequence of the brutal speed-breeding activities that have been taking place for commercial exploitation of our wildlife. These animals can never return to the wild, as their genetics are compromised. If these captive malpractices continue, the result will destroy the species of Panthera Leo, with unimaginable consequences for wildlife.
4. Are white lions albinos?
No. There is a lot of misinformation circulated about the White Lions.
In 1997, a scientific study by geneticists, Krookshank and Robinson, proved that the White Lions are not albinos, but rather their unique colouring is the result of a rare genetic marker, which sets them apart from Panthera Leo as a species. However, it took another two decades before science discovered the exact genetic code behind this genetic marker. My organisation, the Global White Lion Protection Trust, led this genetic study in collaboration with geneticists from several different countries including the UK, the States, Namibia, Korea and Canada, involving research on Snow Leopards, Tigers, White Bears and White Lions. In 2012, after great investment in time and resources, we finally made this watershed genetic discovery.
The Genetic Marker is the genetic code that will enable us to lead the campaign to have the White Lions declared a protected sub-species or critically endangered sub-population according to international legislation (CITES and IUCN RED DATA LISTING).
Further factual inaccuracies about White Lions include: 1) that they can’t survive in the wild and 2) that they can’t hunt for themselves for lack of camouflage. These claims are untrue, and are being circulated by people keeping White Lions in captivity, to justify their actions. Scientific records (such as Robinson and de Vos 1981) show White Lions were surviving perfectly well in the wild until humans interfered and artificially removed them from their natural habitat. The Global White Lion Protection Trust’s scientific reintroduction program of White Lions back to their natural endemic habitat has established that they are apex predators in their natural ecosystem, perfectly capable of camouflaging themselves and hunting self-sufficiently in their natural habitat.
How will your community-upliftment programs aid conservation of the White Lions as a living heritage?
Today, there is still no national and international law protecting this rare animal. The risk to South Africa’s lion population is directly linked to the rhino-poaching onslaught, with a comparative study of numbers showing that Panthera Leo at greater risk of extinction than rhino, and the White Lions on the brink.
As a committed long-term strategy, our “Eco-Cubs” educational programs are creating a generation of wildlife-guardians in a poverty stricken area where many of our schools are facing a 60% orphan rate, and where poaching is a livelihood. Alternative livelihoods are created through our craft-development and other dedicated programs, with community leaders emerging who are fiercely protecting the White Lion in the wild as this country’s unique living heritage.
The WLT has also established an annual White Lion Leadership Academy, which is equipping future grass-roots leaders to take pride in their living heritage, and find purpose in the service of humanity and our planet. Through this multi-layered approach, the WLT generates awareness of the shared cultural heritage links between the people of the region and their White Lion heritage, encouraging direct responsibility for the White Lions’ continued protection and conservation, as well as equipping communities with effective leadership skills and sustainable living methods.
Interview with Linda Tucker
Why did you write your newly published book, Saving the White Lions?
“I’ve dedicated my life to protecting the White Lions, and I want to inspire others to take up important causes in their lives. Saving the White Lions (North Atlantic 2013) is the story of my life with the White Lions, and how I’ve had to face, and overcome, so many challenges in trying to protect these magnificent creatures. It’s intended to empower other people to follow their lion-hearts, and make a meaningful difference in the world. It’s a quick exciting read. It also shows my support for what the African elders’ belief systems.
“This is my second book on the subject. My first book (Mystery of the White Lions, Hayhouse 2010) first came out in 2001, and took ten years to research, as I was working with a number of different African elders from a number of different cultures, and needed to ensure that the information being entrusted to me was accurate. The book a magical record of the myths and legends behind these iconic animals, and the meaning behind their arrival in our times.”
The Global White Lion Protection Trust is a registered non-profit organisation, which relies on public donations for its long-term community-based conservation work.
www.whitelions.org Tel: 015 793 0657