Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The White Lions of Mama Tau

On the way back from our safari weekend last week we went to Mama Tau in Lephalale (Ellisras) to the white lion breeding project. We drove in a open jeep, but this time they had bars around them to protect us from the lions. And I was glad we had those!! Because we came REALLY close to the lions, at some point we could almost touch them by just sticking out our hands... BUT we didn't do that!! Because the lions get only fed on Tuesdays, so once a week, and it was MONDAY! So you can imagine they must have been quite HUNGRY!!

A big male...

But also a pretty big female...

A cosy family.

Lions are one of the most impressive wild animals I find, they look so cool and relaxed, but they are always on their guard, and you can see that. As soon as we came closer the head and the ears go up, but then they relax again, but believe me they keep an eye on YOU!!

This time we came as close to the animals as 3feet/1 meter, that is close!! I didn't even need to use my zoom lens on my camera!! I honestly could have touched the animals so close were we, but of course I did not DARE!! I am sure I would have had problems with typing by then... hard to update your blog with 1 arm!

Some males exceeding 250 kg (550 lb) in weight, it is the second-largest living cat after the tiger.

The myth of the White Lions has been prevalent in the African folklore for centuries. As per the legend, the white lions would be born every 100 years bringing joy and happiness to all who witnessed them. All of a sudden, two white lion cubs in a litter of three were found in 1975 and in 1976 another cub was found close by in Timbavati. The white lions are rarer than the snow leopards of the Himalayas and the only place where have materialized after centuries in the Timbavati region which is on the border of the Kruger National Park in South Africa.

Timbavati is a 200 square mile area that is present in the Lowveld of Northern Province in Africa, about 350 miles north east of Johannesburg. The most distinct feature of Timbatvati is that humans have not impacted it in anyway since the beginning of time.

Here a yawn of a lion that I was so close to, no need for zooming in.... look at his big mouth!!

The Africans have always turned to the nature for spiritual signs. The arrival of the white lions marked the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that identified these majestic creatures as messengers from God. Timbavati has been identified as a sacred site by the African kings fir centuries and the name of the place in the ancient Shangaan language means, ‘the place where the star lions came down from the heavens’. The Africans explain the mysterious white color of the lions as ‘purity and enlightenment’ in spiritual terms. To them the white lions represent pure sunlight, beyond all color, creed, gender or race. The white lions are a part of the magnificent icon for South Africa.

The characteristics of a lion is determined by genes, and it was found that white lions are the offspring of two lions who both carry the "autosomal recessive gene". It doesn't mean all their cubs will be white, but if they don't both carry this gene, there's no chance the cubs could be white.This also means a white female can't produce white cubs unless the male she mates with also carries the recessive gene (and vice versa).

White lions are not albinos but are leucistic. They have pigment visible in the eyes (which may be the normal hazel or golden color, blue-gray, or green-gray), paw pads and lips. Blue-eyed white lions exist and may be selectively bred. The leucistic trait is due to the chinchilla mutation that inhibits the deposition of pigment along the hair shaft, restricting it to the tips. The less pigment there is along the hair shaft, the paler the lion. As a result "white" lions range from blonde through to near white. The males have pale manes and tail tips instead of the usual dark tawny or black.

Very impressive to see them THAT close!!
Have you seen lions that close without a gate or cage in between you??
Mireille xx


Flyss said...

Definitely havn't seen them that close without a cage, what amazing pictures! It must be so great to see them in the wild (rather than in a zoo!) x

Annie said...

Mireille, I love love love lions!! I am so fascinated by wild animals and especially big cats. I love to watch National Geographic Wild channel all the time! I can't believe how close you were. How cool! SOMEDAY, I have to come and visit you.

Mireille said...

Yes Annie, you should!! It is such a great experience living in Africa and seeing all those animals so close up. It really is a thrill!!


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