The White Lion Breeding Project on Elandela Private Game Reserve is a unique and singular project of special importance to viably introduce a rare group of felines, of exceptional beauty, back into their habitat of origin.
The “White Lion” is neither specie, nor sub specie in their own right, but a genetic mutation which is only found in the lions of the Timbavati River area in North-Eastern South Africa. These lions possess a recessive gene which inhibits the formation of color. These lions characteristically boast a very light hair color – practically white! This is according to the natural occurrence of recessive genes inherited from the parents carrying the gene. This characteristic is completely different to the common trait of albinism, which could be found amongst lions from all habitats. Albinism, which is also an inherited trait, is a total or partial lack of pigment – therefore the typical pinkish skin clearly noticed around the eyes and even the iris of such animals. In stark contrast our White Lions do not display the signs of albinism, but of leucositism. The pigment inhibiting color can be seen in the eyes – which could vary from the normal yellow to a shade of creamy white, even bluish in tone. Typically the tail tips are white, not black.
The existence of White Lions in the wild was, scientifically speaking, in doubt until their discovery in 1975 – the famous White Lions of the Timbavati – close to South Africa’s Kruger National Park. From the onset, investigations proved that White Lions integrated fully and functionally in the pride, notwithstanding a color which differed distinctly from their environment. From here a few dozen White Lions were exported to Zoos over the world, and a few groups were bred in breeding projects in South Africa.
All these White Lions fall under the sub specie “ Pantera Leo Krugeri” or Transvaal Lion. This sub specie is characterized by being the largest and heaviest lion in the wild – males weighing up to 250kg. and females up to 180kg. The heaviest recorded weight being a male of 313kg! These muscular predators were designed to hunt, with muscular hind legs to project the beast forward onto its prey like a coiled spring. The huge front paws have retractable claws to hook and tear its prey, whilst the long fangs cut and slice through windpipe and jugular alike. The killing technique usually revolves around asphyxiation of the prey. All antelopes from warthogs to buffalos and even young hippos and elephants fall within the prey spectrum of the White Lion!
January 2012 marked the end of the first phase which started ten years ago with the desire to have white lions freely roaming the 4000 hectare Elandela Reserve! January 2012 saw the beginning of the final phase with the first group of Wild White Lions making their first kill on Elandela Reserve - the largest White Lion private reserve in the area where all White Lions originate from! All White Lions in captivity originate from the same gene pool and therefore exist in controlled environments. The Elandela aim, however, is to offer our guests the exclusive opportunity to experience close proximity to our White Lion pride in their natural habitat. From the onset of this demanding task, Rocco and Yvonne Gioia realized that each individual lion has a different character and disposition. Furthermore, it would be unwise to rehabilitate a pride of white lions that were contaminated by bad human habits. Our project to release White Lions to fend for themselves, first had to pass the arduous and slow scrutiny of the Department of Environment, but our application eventually culminated in the official documentation to enable the release of lions on the Reserve! This was the first step. Elandela then selected and purchased two breeding pairs of White Lions from a superior gene pool. The plan was to create conditions for their offspring to grow up without human involvement or interaction.
Right now this first group of 2 year old White Lions, bred on Elandela Reserve, is free to roam without fear or familiarity of human presence. The result of years of objective care, without incident or crisis, are wild White Lions acting as such, but allowing close proximity of game drive vehicles from whence our guests can admire and photograph one of the very few successful totally Wild White Lion prides in the wild!
Our visitors enjoy the sighting of these snowy animals as one of the highlights of their visit to South Africa! This is indeed a dream come true for Yvonne and Rocco – come share the experience of seeing a seldom seen sight with us!!
Exclusive, Unique To Elandela Private Reserve And Luxury Lodge, Walking Safari To View
The Elandela White Lions!
The entire Elandela experience revolves around the passion Rocco and Yvonne Gioia have for the animals on Elandela Private Reserve. In so doing they have recognized a distinct yearning amongst some of the guests of Elandela Lodge to experience the true reality of the fast disappearing old African wilderness. The African wilderness, where the lion was the king and humans trembled at his roar. The African wilderness where the lion feared no man and smelt no exhaust fumes. The African wilderness where the appearance of a White Lion was marveled at as a special encounter for a privileged few. For those who want to photograph a lion on foot and not from a game drive 4 x 4, for those who would rather catch a glimpse of the huge white cat in the undergrowth than a full view from the high seat of the game viewer – for these connoisseurs of bare emotion Elandela Private Reserve and Luxury Lodge offer Walking Safaris to view the Wild White Lion pride of Elandela Lodge on foot!!
This Walking Safari to view such a scarce predator – a Wild White Lion – is only possible because of the respectful, careful and tactful way every approach is made! The Wild White Lions of Elandela have never been interfered with or aggravated by humans – they go about their daily task of hunting on the Elandela Private Game Reserve as they did thousands of years ago! All walking safaris are done not only with your safety in mind but also with specific intent not to interfere in any way with the doings of any lion. On this basis any walking safari can be terminated immediately by the relevant guide. To encounter such a rare predator on foot must rank as one of the greatest African wildlife experiences available today and only adult, physically fit guests who understand the fragility of the encounter need apply.
The opportunity to do a walking safari with the intention to view the Elandela White Lions is exclusive to Elandela Lodge guests and only upon individual prequalification. The Safari entails finding the area where the lion pride is by vehicle and then approaching them on foot, accompanied by 2 armed and qualified guides. For the prequalification necessary for your individual application to succeed please contact
.The White Lion walking safari leaves Elandela at 10h00 and returns at 17h00. Cost is R 2000 per person per safari irrespective of the duration thereof. All proceeds go to the Elandela ”White Lion Breeding Program”.