White Lion Cub - The rare type of species was born Friday, November21 at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Omaha, Nebraska. The recent birth of the white lion cub has since created a reason for excitement among the animal-loving community, according to officials.
"He looks like a snowball," said Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium Director Dennis Pate to the Omaha World-Herald.
According to Pate, the white lion cub is not an albino but its color may be attributed to a rare recessive gene from each of its parent. He added that only about one in four cubs with those genes manifest them through a white coat.
"These weren't intentionally bred to produce a white lion - it's just that this male and female each had this rare gene," said Pate of the newly-born white lion cub.
"It's a circumstance that came together to produce this little guy," he said.
The litter of cubs which the white lion cub has been a part of includes two males and one female. They are put on display at the zoo, as is their mother lion named Ahadi, and an aunt named Mfisha.
It is the first time Ahadi gave birth to a white lion cub, and even the first time she became a mother at all. Ahadi is six years old.
Mr Big, the 15-year-old father lion of the white lion cub and all the other newborns, have been separated from the rest of the group. Pate said this is because it would be unlikely if the females would allow him near the newborns.
"They're so protective of those cubs right now," said Pate. "If one gets up, the other goes to sit with the cubs."
According to the zoo director, a number of tribes from the region hold high respect for white lions as they consider them the spirits of their ancestors.
An indigenous group called the Shangaan tribe has known about the white lions for centuries. The tribe's medicine men have also traditionally believed them to be animal angels. According to one legend, white lions were the first creatures to be created by the gods and that when life becomes extinct, the roar of the white lions will be the last sound on Earth, according to the Daily Mail.
Apart from the newly born white lion cub in Nebraska, four other zoos in the U.S. have white lions, according to Pate. There are also others held in captivity at zoos in Toledo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and the Capron Park Zoo in Attleboro, Massachusetts, according to the New York Daily News.
The leucism pigment gene is what gave the white lion cub, as in all other white lions, their blue or green-grey eyes instead of brown. The gene is also the reason for their pelt that remains white their entire existence.
The recessive gene of the white lion cub is similar to a human family trait, in that it can lie dormant for generations and suddenly reappear. Therefore, any of males could have fathered the white lion cub. It is also possible for two brown adults to have a litter of white lion cubs. However, they have to be Timbavati lions.
Europeans reportedly discovered white lions first in 1938. However, they did not become well known until the Seventies after naturalist Chris McBride published two books.
The white mutation is believed to have evolved several millennia ago, with some conservationists fearing that white lions could not survive in the wild. According to these experts, their pelt can be a reason for a difficulty to remain camouflaged as they're hunting.
Consequently, almost all of the white lions were sold to zoos if they were not killed yet by big game hunters.
Despite conservationists believing white lions with no lessened ability of surviving in the wild, photos from the Daily Mail prove that the species have the ability to survive and even thrive in the wild.
The threat of their extinction is tragically because of man, however, since they are wanted for the color of their pelts.
Hunters reportedly pay huge sums to slaughter lions, even if hunting them anywhere in Africa is considered illegal. White lions, especially, are considered of higher value.
In South Africa, there is a vile practice which just emerged, known as canned hunting. With this method of hunting, the large cats are captured in the wild as cubs, bred in captivity, and brought up as tourist attractions. These cubs, as in the white lion cub, are bottle-fed and taught not to fear humans. Their remaining days are then spent being petted and photographed by unwitting visitors.
However, when the cubs eventually become too big for the amusement of tourists, the lions are placed into a small enclosure, where they are shot by some foreign "hunter" who wants to hang a lion's head on his wall and brag that he's killed it.
According to the Daily Mail, one American just handed over $165,000, or £105,000 just to kill a "canned" lion.
Despite all the apparent reasons for the decline in their population that led to their rarity, the discovery of the white lion cub, is still a reason for rejoicing.
"The birth of these second generation white cubs to a wild white lioness is fantastic news," said conservationist Linda Tucker, who just reintroduced seven captive white lions into Timbavati. She founded the Global White Lion Protection Trust to campaign for the survival of the extremely rare species, bringing huge hope for the white lions' futures.
Meanwhile, the lioness and her babies, especially the white lion cub at a zoo in Nebraska, will be available for public viewing soon, according to Pate. The little lions, including the white lion cub will reportedly be able to open their eyes in about a week or so.
The white lion cub in Nebraska will reportedly be the first white lion in the western United States, according to Pate.