White lion triplets have been born at a private zoo in Poland.
The head of the zoo in Borysew, Andrzej Pabich, says that the lions’ mother, 2 ½ year old white lioness Azira, has accepted the cubs and has been patiently feeding and caring for them. Their father, 3 ½ year old Sahim, also a white lion, lives in a neighboring cage. A protective father, Sahim is said to roar at any people who come too close to his family. White lions are especially rare given that they often have defects that prevent giving birth or may be rejected by their mothers. Triplets are rarer still.
"Luckily the birth went all smoothly," Pabich said. "We had doubts whether it would be all OK: won't [she] reject them, will she have milk? But all went luckily well in the end. The mother accepted [the cubs], is feeding them, and is very caring."
White lions are rare, their color the result of a mutation. Fewer than 100 are thought to currently exist—though the addition of triplets is a good start to boosting numbers. They are members of the Kruger subspecies of African lion in South Africa. The Global White Lion Protection Trust claims that there are no more specimens in the wild. The mutation is so rare that they were once thought to be the stuff of legend, and the first photographs of white lions weren't taken until the 1970s, when researcher Chris McBride found specimens in multiple lion prides around South Africa.
The cubs will be allowed to leave their mother and run outdoors beginning in April.
The zoo, which opened in 2008, has animals of 80 species, including white tigers and white camels, and drew 160,000 visitors last year. The zoo will wait until the cubs are older before naming them, but with white tigers, white lions, and white camels, surely they're running short of names like “Snowflake” and “Powder” (or the Polish equivalents thereof). Any suggestions?
Image via Wikimedia Commons