Important historical time-lines for the White Lion Reintroduction Project:
The White Lion Reintroduction Project was 'officially' birthed in 2001 with the publishing of Linda Tucker's book "Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sungod", and was the result of 10 years of research and first-hand experience of the White Lions' natural history and mythological origins.
Sequence of project phases:
1990 - 2001 - Researching and publishing of Linda Tucker's book: Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sungod;
1997 - Commence the ongoing awareness raising activities in respect of protecting the White Lions and conserving traditional knowledge systems that regard them as sacred. This includes actively highlighting malpractices in respect of the canned hunting of White Lions. 'Canned hunting' refers to the removal of endangered animals from the wild into captivity where they are hand-reared to be shot as trophies.
2002 - The rescue of an iconic White Lioness, Marah - born on the 25th of December - from a canned hunting camp in Bethlehem in the Free State province of South Africa. She is believed to be of particular importance by the indigenous elders. Her mother was a wild lioness removed from Timbavati. The significance of her birth was prophesied by Maria Khosa two years prior;
2002 - Founding of the Global White Lion Protection Trust - a non-profit organisation;
2003 - Acquisition of a piece of reserve land (600 hectares), identified by indigenous elders as the 'heart of the sacred heritage lands' in the TImbavati region;
2004 - Reintroducing Marah and her three cubs into their endemic habitat in the newly acquired reserve land;
2005 - Rescuing a male White Lion with the 'purest genetic integrity' from a canned hunting camp and including him in the Reintroduction project. He was due to be trophy hunted before Linda Tucker intervened;
2005 - Establishing a formal association with indigenous communities in re-claiming the natural and spiritual homelands of the White Lions;
2006 - Dialoguing with present land-owners regarding the expansion of the project to include neighbouring lands into a conservancy for the protection of the White Lions.
2006 - Coordinating public participation meetings with local land-owners with a view to changing the hardened pro-hunting ethos of the region;
2007 - Initiating the Shangaan community craft development project. An initial 50 women to be trained, building out to 100, 250 and 500 community members;
2007 - Exploring challenges associated with reclaiming the sacred heritage lands of the White lions (direct discussions with the South African government, the Commissioner of Land Restitution in the region and present land-owners)
2007 - Exploring investment / grant funding opportunities to fund the community participation aspects of the project;
2007 - Engaging strategic partner, Open Africa, to explore opportunities and logistics relating to the establishment of the White Lion Eco-Cultural Route in the region;
2007 - Acquiring legal guidance (through legal firm, Deneys Reitz) as well as the SARS (South African Revenue Services) Legal Department on the structure of a company which will acquire the land reserve earmarked for project expansion;
2007 - Partnering Dr Apelo Colerado, an advisor to the Global White Lion Protection Trust, to engage the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network to coordinate the forum for the Global Council of Indigenous Elders;
2007 - Engaging the Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa (CONTRALESA) to offer project advisory support and to assist in the collation of oral story-telling records from across South Africa, to be included in the national archive of indigenous oral traditions at the White Lion Heritage Centre;
2007 - Engaging the South African Government, through Parliament and the Department of Environment and Tourism, to help protect the endangered White Lion of the Timbavati through a moratorium on canned hunting of White Lions and new legislation.
2007 - Incorporation of additional adjacent land, which has been acquired specifically to support the White Lion Community Conservation Project by USA based Ms Sheryl Leach.
Key Project Activities for 2008:
2008 - Presentation to the South African Government Select Committee for Land and Environmental Affairs (A committee of the National Council of Provinces) regarding the need to update and refine legistation to protect White Lions
2008 - Engage the South African Heritage Resource Agency (SAHRA) regarding protective status for White Lion land
2008 - Acquire additional reserve land for the expansion of the endemic White Lion territory for their protection in perpetuity. Finalise discussions for funding of land acquisition.
2008 - Set up a company to facilitate the cultural eco-tourist aspects of the Eco-Cultural Route.
2008 - Undertake environmental impact and biodiversity studies for the construction of the White Lion Heritage Centre;
2008 - Engage enviro-architects for the construction of the Heritage Centre - finalise architectural plans;
2008 - Engage the IDC and other funders to invest in the White Lion Heritage Centre.
2008 - Formalise the partnership with Open Africa to initiate the first formal components of the White Lion Eco-Cultural Route. This includes collaborating on promotional aspects for local and international tourists.
2008 - Acquire funding (R100 000.00) for the community craft project.
2008 - Collaborate with community stakeholders to establish a second Cultural Village as a "bed-n-breakfast" and cultural exhibition centre. Assist community to source funding for this project.
2008 - Work with local government agencies to promote the Eco-Cultural Route in the region.
2008 - Continue to work with the South African government to obtain "National Heritage Site" status for the White Lion conservancy reserve area.
2008 - Continue to work with the South African government to change legislation pertaining to canned hunting and to support government in the promulgation of new legislation to protect the White Lions as a national treasure
2008 - Initiate a formal study through identified tertiary institutions to gather oral tradition records for the White Lion archive of totem animal story-telling records. Where appropriate, interview and record relevant indigenous 'story tellers' directly.
2008 - Pursue an international partnership for a feature film on the White Lions of the Timbavati through USA based Ms Sheryl Leach, one of the project's key financial investors.
2008 - Continue to work towards CITES listing. This includes establishing the scientific 'genetic marker' for the White Lions. Also continue to work towards listing the White Lions on the IUCN listing.
2008 - Ensure the factual and scientific information pertaining to the White Lions is responsibly disseminated through various media channels, including the National Geographic documentary currently in production through South African wild-life film company, Aquavision.
2008 - Engage the Worldwide Indigenous Science Network through Dr Apela Colerado to establish the White Lion forum for the Global Council of Indigenous Elders. Engage CONTRALESA to participate in a planned 12-day gathering to discuss indigenous approaches to wildlife and indigenous cultural preservation.