White Lions are exceedingly rare and especially so in the wild. Several zoos, “safari parks” and circuses around the world house White Lions, but these are often horribly inbred. These lions are not albinos, instead being the result of a mating between two lions carrying a recessive gene for white (leucistic) fur instead of the usual tawny colouration. Naturally White Lions are only ever found, from time to time, in South Africa’s Lowveld, where the Kruger National Park and a few renowned private nature reserves are situated. As far as wild White Lions are concerned, at present, there are known to be two young white cubs in the same pride that roam around Orpen in western Kruger and the adjacent Timbavati reserve, and a single young male born to a pride near Satara and fairly wide-roaming since he and his brothers were ejected from their natal pride.
It is this latter individual that we came across on the 3rd of January 2020, the final full day of our Satara Summer. Having fairly often visited the Kruger National Park my entire life, it was always my, hitherto unfulfilled, wish to see a truly WILD White Lion, so you will appreciate just how excited we were at this opportunity! It was an exceedingly hot day, and on hot days lions are seldom very active. So we sat for hours in our vehicle in the blazing sun, waiting, hoping, that he might get up, and move around just a little, so that we can get more than just a glimpse. He obliged, for a minute or two only, to move from the large tree where he was lying with his three brothers to a smaller shrub a few meters away. That was it. He didn’t move again until we had to leave to get back to camp before the gates closed. But we were thrilled and grateful for the chance to see such an enigmatic animal.
While they can not be considered wild, there is a pride of White Lions on view at the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve near Johannesburg.