Friday 1 August 2008

White Lions in the Midlands UK

White lion cubs West Midland Safari Park, UK - photo by Howard.Gees

There is a lot of news and talk about the recent successful breeding of White Lions in the Midlands UK. They are simply beautiful and congratulations to the people at the West Midland Safari Park, UK. They started their breeding program in 2004 as far as I aware. The cubs are fantastically photogenic.

Yet we must remind ourselves of the reality of the situation regarding white lions generally and the white lions in the Midlands UK.

White coloration for a lion is bad news, making survival harder. But these lions and all white lions don't have to survive anymore as they are all captive (that means every one in the world).

The white coloration is due to a recessive gene that inhibits the formation of color. A recessive gene (the genotype) will not become a phenotype (the appearance) unless there is inbreeding. That is why the genetic mutation was so rarely seen in the wild. The white lion has been extinct in the wild for about 12 years.

Inbreeding is common in purebred domestic cat breeding. Breeders have the same difficulties in maintaining an appearance that is inline with the breed standard and good health as inbreeding can create health issues such as immune system deficiencies (general ill health - inbreeding depression it is called).

White tigers are bred in captivity also. We don't see the genetic defects that some cubs are born with (are these cubs euthanised?). We don't talk about the commercial side of safari parks and "canned hunting" of white lions (allegedly happening in South Africa). See White Siberian Tigers (on this website) and a video on the effects of inbreeding and the reality of behind the image of the White Siberian Tiger. We don't talk so much about the plight of all the wild big cats; they are gradually becoming extinct in the wild reduced to becoming commercial attractions. Is this what we really want?

Look, well done to the West Midland Safari Park but we must all look behind the image, the presentation, because all safari parks are commercial operations. Yes they are involved in a kind of preservation and conservation but it is all in captivity and in my opinion will remain there. It is too late to turn the clock back. This is the sadness behind the joy of seeing these white lion cubs.

Photo published under a Attribution-NoDerivs License (creative commons).

White Lions in the Midlands UK to home page


  1. My goodness these cats are beautiful :) I have never seen a white lion before. This is a beautiful picture.

  2. Cute or What!!! :P


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