I recently visited The Global White Lion Protection Trust – a Non Profit Organisation which has spent years in establishing a protected area of nearly 5000 acres for White Lions in the heart of their natural endemic habitat. This area, once declared a sacred site by African kings, is now (unfortunately) a commercial lion trophy hunting region in South Africa.
Currently there is no law that protects White Lions from being hunted in the wild, or in cages (Canned Hunting).
While the Global White Lion Protection Trust has campaigned for more than 2 decades that this is a critically endangered animal that needs to have international law protecting it, it has only escalated into the highest income earning trophy imaginable.
Long before the earliest recorded sighting of two near snow-white lion cubs in 1938, the global headlines in 1975 after Chris McBride published his book The White Lions of Timbavati, the ancient Southern African Tsonga spoke of ‘the place where the Star Lions came down’ or legends of the ‘messengers of the Gods’ were told by the Shangaan, long, long before that the Timbavati’s White Lions had been part of prehistoric folklore – familiar to all the biomes, as children of the Sun God, sent to the Earth as gifts.
A lion with a white or light blond coat has always been rare – even in the wild. Scarce, unique and shrouded in mystique – they were the ideal premium products for trade. The king of the animals became a commodity that today mostly exist in zoos and breeding facilities.
A recessive gene gives white lions lions their unusual colours and can therefore be selectively bred, as tailor-made trophies for the flourishing Canned Lion Hunting industry. With a White Lion trophy fetching as much as US$165,000 and the South African Canned Lion Hunting generating over 807 million South African Rand in 2012 alone, it leaves little wonder why more than 160 farms in South Africa practically factory-farm lions and blatantly ignore indications of inbreeding and genetic defects, in attempt to supply the biggest and boldest customers of, as Anton Crone from Africa Geographic so aptly calls it, ‘the greatest wildlife marketing stunt in history’.
A fully-grown, captive-bred lion, is taken from its pen to an enclosed area, where a trophy-hunter stands on the back of a bakkie, ready for his share of the most ‘extraordinary African experience’ and ‘once in a lifetime hunt’. Attracted by the guarantee of success, the trophy-hunter pays a lot of money to be able to aim his rifle as little as 10 meters away from the beast. He likes it easy peasy and doesn’t feel like the dealing with the drama of a lion that refused to become a trophy in one shot.
A Most Extraordinary African Experience …
We are looking forward to welcoming you on South African soil for the best hunting experience. We believe that every trophy hunter in the world should experience the ‘ultimate African adventure’ at least once in their lifetime, and we offer just that – a once in a lifetime hunt! White Lion Safaris caters to all hunters – from novice to expert by offering a series of very affordable safaris.
The current South African Rand (our official currency), compared to the US and European currencies, very much favours the foreign visitor. Combined with our already very reasonable rates, your dream of an African trophy hunting safari is achievable.
The only thing you will ever regret about an African trophy hunting safari, is not having done it!
Quoted above: homepage copy of White Lion Safaris.
The desire to hunt lions dates back to antiquity. Ancient Egyptian lion hunts were reserved for pharaohs, to the kings in ancient Assyria and the Maasai soldiers. Throughout history, the killing of a lion was a sign of bravery and personal achievement, as lions are unpredictable, nimble and fast. Once wounded they are deadly and even the most skilled hunter faces great danger.
If I keep in mind how a canned hunt is conducted and I am not sure it shows either bravery of a hunter or can really be described as the ‘ultimate African adventure’ …
Of the estimated 7,000 lions in the country, it is likely that only 2,000 roam free. Breeding programmes are liberated by profits from these ‘convenient hunts’ and the genetic pool, one lion and one bakkie at a time, can never supply the demands of the market inside that enclosed area.
The White Lion’s natural habitat is at the epicentre of one of the world’s most important natural systems: KRUGER TO CANYON BIOSPHERE, declared by the United Nations as the third largest biosphere region in the world.
A South African woman, Linda Tucker, started the Global White Lion Protection Trust in 2002. She bought 5,000 acres in the Timbavati region of South Africa for the White Lions to remain wild and secure.
White Lions are not albino. A white lion can give birth to a white lion cub, but a tawny lion can too – only as a result of a rare genetic marker unique to this region. The Global White Lion Protection Trust has spent the last 6 years leading international genetic research with seven different countries – which resulted in the land mark discovery of this genetic marker, comparing White Lion genetics with Snow Leopards, tigers, white Kermode Bear as well as domestic cats. Now the organisation is conducting a study on the frequency of occurrence of this rare gene in the greater Kruger Region, which will help have these genetic rarities listed on the Schedule of Threatened and Protected Animals of National Importance and IUCN Red Data List (CITES).
The White Lions are not only of national importance, they are a global heritage. All conservation issues today are global issues – and it is not the decision of private landowners or individual governments, for that matter, to decide whether a species or variant lives or perishes. With many species, including many of the big cats, on the brink of extinction, immediate international conservation measures need to be implemented to ensure their survival. In many cases there are no longer viable populations in the wild and carefully conducted scientific ‘rewilding / reintroduction programs’ are necessary. It is the intention of the Global White Lion Protection Trust that our initiative in re-establishing and having the White Lions protected within their natural distribution range, will act as a precedent to assist related causes to save critically endangered species, subspecies or variants.
– JASON TURNER / MSc Wildlife Management
There are several ways in which you can visit The Global White Lion Protection Trust. Learn more about their scientific, leadership and esoteric workshops here.
The main camp at The Global White Lion Protection Trust is Camp Unicorn. The camp is fully serviced and sleeps fourteen comfortably, the accommodation is comprised of three rondawels with en-suite bathrooms and four rondawels with shared bathroom facilities. A spacious open lounge overlooks the centre-piece fireplace where visitors relax to the sound of crackling fire after a day’s bush activities. Full kitchen facilities are available as well as an eighteen-seater dining area.
Watch the film Daréll produced for The Global White Lion Protection Trust as part of The Good Holiday’s #limpopogoodness campaign and consider the Timbavati, heartland of the white lions, as a #goodholiday destination.
Words and pictures: Daréll Lourens
White Lion Photography: Karen-Jane Dudley