White lions are among the rarest and most treasured animals in the world. Rarer still is their survival in the wild. Their white color stands out in Africa’s wild bush country, increasing their risk of being targeted and killed by rival predators and marauding adult male lions.
Used primarily for communication and camouflage, color is one of nature’s most dependable defenses. White lions lose the ability to blend in to their surroundings, exposing them to other predators as well as jeopardizing their own ability to hunt. Overcoming their heightened visibility may be the greatest challenge young white cubs face. Often mistaken for albinos, white lions actually do have some pigmentation and dark eyes. They are leucistic animals, produced by the mating of two tawny lions that both carry a recessive gene for white coat color. Their ghostly white color is both a blessing and a curse, earning them a mythical status and a unique vulnerability.
Only three white cubs have reached adulthood in the wilds of South Africa since white lions were first documented there in 1975. Now, two white cubs, sisters, have beaten the odds, surviving all the challenges of their youth with the help of two remarkable lionesses—their mother, Matimba, and their aunt, Khanya. Without an adult male lion to protect their small pride, Matimba and Khanya must rely solely on their own knowledge, strength and courage to protect their family.
Follow Nature as it tracks these two white cubs as they struggle to survive the dangers they are faced with in South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The White Lions premiered May 9, 2012.