History of the White Lion

Pumba Private Game Reserve has been home to a flourishing pride of free-roaming White & Split Lion since 2006. There are less than 500 White Lion in the world.

It is integral for the survival and sustainability of a pride of lions that they are not all white but mixed with the tawny split-gene animals. The white animals are too conspicuous because of their colour and, on their own, are not successful hunters and will not survive without human assistance. The pride has already produced four sets of cubs.

An important part of Pumba’s white lion conservation management plan is to ensure there is no inbreeding. To vary the gene pool of the resident white lion pride, a three-year-old pure white lioness named Nomathemba was brought in for introduction in October 2009. Introducing a new member into an established pride is an extremely sensitive procedure. The dominant male would usually gladly accept the new lioness however, the dominant females might not and could possibly kill the new female if she was not introduced in a controlled manner.

On arrival, Nomathemba was held in a rehabilitation boma for three months where she was able to acclimatize to her environment and get to know the resident pride through the fence of her enclosure. Once Nomathemba was acclimatized, the dominant lioness of the pride was captured and relocated to an enclosure next to Nomathemba's, separated by a sliding gate.

This was the first step in getting the dominant lioness to accept and bond with Nomathemba. Once the two got to know each other through the boma fence and showed signs of bonding, the sliding gate was opened to allow them to have physical contact. This was a critical step in the process. If Nomathemba showed resistance to the dominant lioness, it could lead to a fight to the death. However, as the process was professionally managed and monitored, Nomathemba immediately demonstrated her submissiveness and was accepted. The two females were held together in the boma, whilst the second, most dominant female, was relocated to the adjacent boma.

The same process followed until all three lionesses were feeding together in one boma. The final step for Nomathemba's introduction was to release all three lionesses from the rehabilitation boma into the reserve to join the rest of the pride. The white lion rehabilitation project is one of the Reserve's key biodiversity projects and attracts guests from all over the world. Since the inception of the Reserve’s rehabilitation program, a similar project has commenced in the Timbavati region, where the white lion was originally discovered. These two programs are the only two known in the world where white lions have been reintroduced to roam freely and hunt for themselves.

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