Scientific Breakthrough: Correcting Misinformation about the White Lions
There continues to be widespread misinformation about the White Lions, which has both legitimised and facilitated their ongoing persecution – in the wild, as well as in captivity. With this in mind, we are pleased to share with you Jason A. Turner’s long-awaited PhD study – a culmination of decades of primary research in the field, and five intensive years of study based out of Leiden University, Netherlands, which explores the ecology of the White Lions.
The research conducted for this groundbreaking PhD study helps counter their exploitation, and provides a crucial foundation for further scientific research into the behaviour of these magnificient heritage animals, whose cultural importance equals their ecological role within the greater
Part 1 of this PhD is titled “Effects of a colour variant on hunting behaviour: the white lion in South Africa” – a republication of a previous study shared by Jason in 2015. The study on the hunting behaviour of White Lions showed that the rewilded White Lions within the Global White Lion Protection Trust’s heritage lands bordering the Timbavati region hunted as successfully as wild tawny lions studied in the same wildlife area, and in other Private Nature Reserves in the greater Kruger region. These findings dispelled the misperception that White Lions are not able to hunt for themselves or survive in their natural habitat.
Jason has spent a large part of the last 5 years splitting his time between Leiden University and Johannesburg while working on this publication. The Global White Lion Protection Trust is pleased to draw on his expertise as an independent consultant on lion ecology, and is looking forward to further pioneering efforts on the scientific frontline.
Part 2 of his PhD is titled “Home range and movement patterns of reintroduced White Lions (Panthera leo melanochaita) in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve, South Africa.” This study explores the territorial behaviour and movements of White Lions, which has been found to be similar to that of wild tawny lions.These findings were for both the founder pride, consisting of all White Lions, and the Tsau Pride of white and tawny lions, indicating that White Lions adapt to their environment and display natural territorial behaviour.
Despite their rarity and cultural importance, there has been a notable gap in the scientific research of White Lions, which has facilitated their rampant exploitation. Groundbreaking studies such as Jason’s are of great assistance in the correction of widespread misinformation, and will help us ensure greater protection of this rare genetic phenotype, whose ongoing occurrence in this region of origin, despite a long history of forcible removals from their natural habitat, is testimony of their resilience.
The third published paper in this groundbreaking series is titled, “Assessing the social cohesion of a translocated pride of White Lions integrated with wild tawny lions in South Africa” which draws upon social network analysis to assess its findings.
In this scientific study, the social behaviour of White Lions was compared to that of wild tawny lions. The Tsau Pride, consisting of reintroduced white and tawny lions was found to be much more socially bonded than the wild prides to which it was compared. It was also found that strong social bonds between pride members is essential for successful reintroduction to their natural habitat.
The research conducted for this groundbreaking PhD study helps to counter their exploitation, and provides a crucial foundation for further scientific research into the behaviour of these magnificent heritage animals, whose cultural importance equals their ecological role within the greater ecosystem.
We invite you to join us in congratulating Jason on this monumental moment, which is a culmination of decades of work and research into this much misunderstood species. We are proud to have Jason provide his expert consultancy on lion ecology to the Global White Lion Protection Trust, and look forward to sharing further pioneering research that he and other scientific experts conduct in the future.