Wednesday 6 Sept was a significant day for all at the Global White Lion Protection Trust (White Lion Trust). This was the day that two very special new white lions arrived at the Tsau Conservancy.
The wild born white lions were donated by Pumba Game Reserve, located in the Eastern Cape. A responsible reserve that has similar objectives to the White Lion Trust, in rescuing and rewilding white lions, re-establishing them in the wild. Natural born white lions are a great rarity, with these being 2 of only 11 that occur in the wild, in their natural habitat.
To minimise the stress on the new white lions they were flown from the Eastern Cape to Thornybush Game Reserve and driven by road for the final hour to the Tsau Conservancy. The White Lion Trust’s lion ecologist, Jason Turner, and trusted wildlife vet, Dr Peter Rogers, were with the lions every step of the way.
The new lions had to be tranquilized for the journey, and due to the cold night temperatures, they were placed in the safety of specialised designed lion crates in the acclimation boma (enclosure) overnight. Dramatically, and unexpectedly, before the lions could be released by Jason and Dr Rogers, both feisty lions ‘released’ themselves by breaking through the roof of the crates! Fortunately, they did not injure themselves, and Dr Rogers moved swiftly away from the crates, with the lions moving into the safety of the boma.The new arrivals are now
The new arrivals are now acclimatising in the acclimation enclosure, and bonding across the fence line with the resident lionesses, Zihra and Nebu. Since the social dynamics of lions is as complex as humans, time is required to establish the hierarchy and bonds between resident and new individuals. The new lions, one male and one female, are the perfect age (4.5 years old) for bonding with the mature resident lionesses (Nebu is 8 years old, and Zihra is 14 years old); ie. being younger they are more likely to be respectful of the mature lions making bonding easier than a group of lions that are all mature.
The first interaction between the new and resident lions only took place 3 days after arrival.
The latest technology, thermal imagery using a FLIR monocular, was used to observe the interaction to minimise the disturbance or interference of the lions. It was unexpectedly peaceful and tranquil! Zihra and Nebu were very curious about the new arrivals, and initially observed them in a very relaxed manner. The young lioness, Gaia, was respectful of the huge and powerful resident lionesses, and wisely approached them cautiously. The young male, Assegaia, typical of a teenager, approached Z and N with absolute confidence, which was met with equal confidence by the matriarchal and formidable Zihra. Some growling and posturing took place, with both lions ultimately showing mutual respect. Assegaia continued to scent-mark and show territorial behaviour in the boma, whilst Gaia held her position respectfully across the fence line from Nebu.
Zihra and Nebu visit the acclimation boma regularly, without angst, or any sense of feeling threatened or competitive. Each time the new and resident lions meet up at the boma fence, it progresses the bonding process. Lions are the only true social big cats, which live in family groups or prides, and therefore tend to bond well in groups.
There is likely to be more incidences of the lions posturing and growling, as they establish the social structure and hierarchy, but the process is very much on track.
Sincere gratitude to Dale and Neale Howarth (Owners of Pumba Game Reserve), Dr Murray Stokoe (Pumba’s vet), Dr Peter Rogers, Keith Bohme (General Airways Charter), and Thornybush Game Reserve (for use of their airstrip and assistance upon arrival).
A special word of thanks goes to the Bateleurs – NPO organisation “Flying for the Environment” – who were prepared to donate the flight to transport the new lions from E Cape to Tsau Conservancy, but unfortunately did not have a large enough plane at the time.
We urgently require your assistance in funding the homecoming of the new Royals.
Below we show the costs that have been incurred in achieving this momentus event…
Chartered flight – R103 810
Veterinary costs – est. R30 000
2 x Radio-tracking collars – R7000
1 x Radio-tracking device / Telemetry – R18 000
Sincere gratitude to longstanding donors and supporters Angela and Udo Neumann, who got the ball rolling by donating R32 000 towards these costs. We still require R126 810 [EURO 7950 / U$9350].
Please help secure the future of these new arrivals, a critical next step towards ensuring the legacy of the white lions in their endemic homelands.