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The Global White Lion Protection Trust


For Lions, Land, and People


The White Lion Trust was founded in 2002 after ten years of intensive collaborative research on the cultural and conservation importance of the legendary White Lions. It’s headquarters are situated in the heart of White Lion ancestral territories, at the epi-centre of the United Nations declared Kruger-to-Canyons Biosphere.

Here, the White Lion Trust has secured a protected area of 4,400 hectares to ensure the survival of the critically endangered White Lion in the wilds of their endemic heartlands. The White Lion Trust’s core team comprises 40 permanent personnel accommodated on the ground, including a 10-strong dedicated anti-poaching security team. However, our strategic LionHearted Leadership Model influences the lives and livelihoods of many thousands in the neighbouring communities, and world-wide.

The White Lion Trust is a leader in community-based conservation, combining indigenous knowledge and modern scientific methods. With a strong track record spanning two decades, our registered non-profit organisation has implemented a highly effective LionHearted partnership strategy in the living ecology, economy and culture of our region, as well as internationally, to create a better future for all.


Our White Lion Protection Plan™ to ensure White Lion survival has included the attainment of three separate bloodlines of the highest genetic integrity, and the reintroduction of these genetic rarities into their endemic habitat. This strategy extends to strengthening the genetic pool for Panthera Leo, in general, in the K2C, currently at serious risk of a population crash. Despite ongoing forced removals from their natural system, White Lions continue to recur here – testimony of their resilience and conservation value. [link to Conservation]

Our scientific commitment to ensure the success of White Lion conservation has included ten years of research of White Lion predation in their endemic habitat, and the drafting of scientific papers, such as The Case of the White Lion (2014). Our modern scientific methods work in reverence for Nature and respectful collaboration with indigenous knowledge systems. In this way, science becomes reconcilable with the ‘sacred science’ associated with indigenous cultures’ beliefs around the White Lions. [Read More]

Our initiative has led successful collaborative efforts in DNA research with geneticists from seven different international countries, comparing White Lions with Snow Leopards, Tigers, and the “Spirit Bear” of British Columbia. This collaboration achieved the watershed discovery of the White Lion ‘Genetic Marker’ in 2013. The next step in the White Lion Protection Plan™ is to identify the frequency of occurrence of this unique gene in the K2C, and thereby have Panthera Leo in this critical ecosystem protected by national and international legislation and the White Lions CITES and IUCN Red Data Book. [link to Genetic discovery]

Our strategy to ensure a White Lion Protected Area has included the procurement of three different title deeds of strategic ancestral heritage lands comprising 4,400 acres, and more land identified, with the aim of protecting the primary river corridor supplying the ecosystem.

Our strategy to ensure a cultural and economic revival in community stakeholders has included directing eco-cultural tourism in support of the local living economy; creating jobs; developing art and craft; and other opportunities in support the fabric of traditional living, known as Ubuntu. The White Lion Trust has initiated and developed an eco-cultural route, with activation points known as ‘StarLion Centres’ on a Lion Starmap, and are in the founding stages of developing a StarLion Heritage Centre in a community-based partnership with tribal/traditional communities.

Our commitment to preserve cultural knowledge about these legendary animals has included the recording keeping and documentation of indigenous oral knowledge. The epicentre of the K2C is known as ‘Timbavati’, which in the ancient Tsonga language means, the ‘Place where the StarLions came down.’ In support of the deep cultural beliefs, the Protected Area secured by the White Lion Trust is known as Tsau, meaning ‘StarLion’ in original Koisan languages. The importance of the White Lions as a sacred heritage has been recognised cross-culturally, and is supported by indigenous leaders from around the globe. Linda Tucker’s publication of definitive works on the White Lions: Mystery of the White Lions (2001) and Saving the White Lions (2013) is based on more than 2 decades of collaborative research with indigenous elders.

Our strategy to protect the White Lions’ ancestral territories has included pursuing all procedures with governmental bodies towards declaring the White Lion sacred heritage lands a National Heritage Site in collaboration with local communities and SAHRA, South Africa’s Heritage Resource Association. Internationally, the White Lion Trust has been pursuing “sacred site” status through Sacred Sites International, and with the support of indigenous leaders from other continents.

Our pledge to activate and nurture LionHearted Leadership has led to the launch of successful eco-educational initiatives: firstly, the StarLion Eco-Cubs program (since 2005), which presented to Nelson Mandela in 2007, and secondly, White Lion Leadership™ Academy (since 2012), attended by local community members and students from around the globe. In addition, our student intern program (since 2006) has welcomed more than 1000 students who join our LionHearted team for a life-changing experience. [Read More]

Our commitment to ensure appropriate legislative protection for the White Lions, has included engagement in legislative processes at local, national and international levels, with two presentations to South African Parliament (2007), submissions of legislative documents, and an address at British Parliament (2013).

Our commitment to raising awareness about the White Lions and the crisis surrounding Panthera Leo in general has included many international awareness campaigns, with presentations at eleven world congresses on sustainable utilisation and related issues, and a resolution to protect White Lions passed by delegates from 54 countries at the World Wilderness Congress (Mexico 2009).

Our awareness-raising initiatives include co-operative management with other international NGOs including IFAW, LionAid and CACH. In 15 March 2014 we helped mobilize a Global March for Lions in which 62 cities participated around the world and nearly 2 Million signatures were collected by AVAAZ calling for an end to captive breeding/captive killing and the lion bones trade.

Our conservation and cultural initiatives have generated international media attention, with coverage in over 320 magazine and newspaper articles (many cover stories), including an exclusive interview with Linda Tucker in Forbes (2013); 25 TV interviews, including Reuters and CBS; 22 TV documentaries; as well as full length broadcasts on National Geographic (Return of the White Lion), Animal Planet, 60 Minutes, 50/50, and full length Japanese documentaries on scientific NHK scientific channel.

Our collaborative approach includes constant engagement with the South African government, local and international communities, traditional authorities, corporate entities, scientific bodies, and individual benefactors, to conserve and protect these rare and iconic animals as a global heritage of profound conservation and cultural value. Our LionHearted Leadership approach welcomes close partnerships with other powerful NGOs, both local and international, including, Wildlands Wilderness Foundation (South Africa’s leading environmental organisation), and Corelight (US based).

Our commitment to leadership principles and good governance, is underwritten by wide-ranging support from national and international donors forms the mainstay of our income, and our books are audited by Deloitte & Touche.


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