A rare white lion at Circus Krone, based in Munich, gave birth to four cubs on Wednesday. The cubs were fathered by King Tonga and the mother is Princess, one of the four lionesses in the circus's pride.
A spokesperson for the circus told BBC that the trainer will not name the cubs for a few more weeks, as he wants to get a handle on each cub’s personality first. It was also stated that the cubs won’t be on display anytime soon. The cubs will remain with their mother for a year before they begin to socialize with other lions and begin training. They will not be included in the circus act until they are at least four years old.
White lions aren’t albino; the coloring is from a recessive genetic variation that originated in the Timbavati region in South Africa. While many animals aren’t successful with all-white variants, entire prides with the variation have shown that they can be good hunters, even without the benefit of camouflaged coloring.
Many zoos, wildlife parks, canned hunting services, and circuses use the white lions to help draw crowds, but captive breeding to maintain that genetic variant could very well lead to inbreeding depression with devastating consequences. If the facilities aren’t careful, white lions could end up with deformities and defects as has been seen in white tigers.
According to the Global White Lion Protection Trust, only three white lion prides exist in the wild, though hundreds of the cats are held in captivity. They have successfully introduced white lions back into their endemic habitat over the last decade. This was a massive step, as they had previously been listed as extinct in the wild. Unfortunately, poachers continue to be a threat to their recovery.
[Hat tip: BBC]