Saving the White Lion

A few weeks ago, two white lion cubs were born in a Belgrade Zoo and are reported to be in great health.  A zoo volunteer reports that they will not, however, be staying there long.  This is due to both the popularity of the rare cubs and the exchange program in which the Belgrade Zoo participates.

White lions are not albino. Their coloring is a recessive trait that results from a less potent mutation in the same gene that causes albinism. Their condition, technically referred to as leucism, is characterized by reduced production of all pigments, not just melanin (as in albinism). White tigers are so colored because of a similar mutation.

Their white or light blonde coat makes these lions quite striking and has accorded them significant spiritual importance in Africa. Although the first recorded sighting of one of these big cats was not until 1938, they are thought to be indigenous to the Timbavati region of South Africa. Zulu shamans believe these cats come from the stars and inhabit Earth to fulfill a special purpose as messengers from God.  The white lions are a sacred animal in South Africa and have come to be regarded as guardians of the land.

Sadly, the presence of the white lions in their native habitat has dwindled because of the commercial demand from zoos and circuses. In addition, the cats are often used in camps where tourists go to pay to hunt various exotic African species.

One woman is fighting to protect these remarkable cats. In 2002, Linda Tucker purchased 5,000 acres of land in Timbavati, home to several white lions, and started the Global White Lion Protection Trust (WLT). Today, several lion ecologists live on the property to ensure the health of the animals and discourage poaching.  This approach seems to be working, as three small prides are thriving on the WLT land.   To watch a video of the white lion cubs in Serbia, click here.   Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset   Linda-Story-2


The Ongoing Debate Over Captive Belugas

The Georgia Aquarium has recently drafted a proposal to NMFS (National Marine Fisheries Service) requesting permission to import 18 beluga whales previously captured in the Sakhalin Bay region of the Okhotsk Sea in Russia. The aquarium needs a MMPA (Marine Mammal Protection Act) Permit in order to move forward with its intentions to publicly display the animals. As of May, a decision has not been reached and the animals remain in Russia at the Utrish Marine Mammal Research Station.

Those who are against allowing the import of the cetaceans cite the following reasons:

  • The capture of the whales was inhumane
  • The removal of 18 belugas from the Okhotsk Sea could potentially disrupt a clan, or matriline, as the female-led groups of belugas are known
  • Belugas are used to swimming over vast stretches of sea
  • The social structure of an aquarium is unnatural
  • These animals are intelligent, emotional, and the sounds of equipment (like filters) are damaging to the whales due to their highly developed sense of hearing

Beluga whales, or “sea canaries,” are known for their high-pitched whistles and striking white color. These talkative cetaceans live in the Arctic, not venturing further south than Alaska, but traversing the globe latitudinally. Belugas uses sonar to detect prey. 

Although the NMFS requires humaneness, the term is rather loose and up to interpretation. One NMFS official defined humane as “the method that involves the least possible degree of pain and suffering practicable.” However, the least possible degree practicable may still mean unhappiness for the belugas. It is observed that the life expectancy of belugas shortens in captivity. The question is whether a humane way to hold these special animals in captivity even exists. 

Here is a link to the petition against the Georgia Aquarium.


Orphaned Polar Bear Cub Rescued

After a hunter shot Kali’s mother for sport in Alaska, he realized the bear he had just killed was a mother and set about tracking the cub. When the hunter found Kali, he dropped him off at a police station, where he was later sent to the Alaska Zoo.

Unfortunately, although the zoo released adorable footage of Kali, it could not accommodate the little cub, who at this point was three months old and weighed 19 pounds. After taking care of him for several weeks, the zoo in Alaska arranged to send Kali to the Buffalo Zoo in New York.

Zookeepers at the Buffalo Zoo hope to put Kali in an enclosure with another polar bear cub named Luna. Kali and Luna will be slowly introduced and, if all goes well, will soon be playing together.