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Hollywild introduces white lion, joins international breeding program

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Monday, March 30, 2015

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Mandela, with clear blue eyes, was captive born and hand raised at the Ukutula Research and Education Facility in South Africa.
 

Jim Fair

Mandela, with clear blue eyes, was captive born and hand raised at the Ukutula Research and Education Facility in South Africa.

 



Enlarge photo

Mandela, 5, weighs more than 600 pounds and will be fed, on the average, 15 pounds of meat daily.
 
 
 
 

Jim Fair

Mandela, 5, weighs more than 600 pounds and will be fed, on the average, 15 pounds of meat daily.

 

 

 

 



Enlarge photo

Mandela arrived at Hollywild on March 10 and is continuing to mark his territory.
 

Jim Fair

Mandela arrived at Hollywild on March 10 and is continuing to mark his territory.

 

 

Mandela, a rare white lion, was introduced at Hollywild Animal Park today.

The newest addition also marks the park's entry into an international breeding program designed to secure population of white lions and species diversity for the future.

Mandela, five-year-old, arrived at Hollywild on March 10 with a 9-year-old lioness, “Icis” (meaning divine).

Mandela is named after the South African leader Nelson Mandela. “Nelson Mandela was one man who changed the world, leaving a legacy that will live forever. His life was dedicated to educating others and showing them how to make the most of the resources they have,” David Meeks, executive director at Hollywood, said.

“It is our hope that Mandela will be one lion whose life leaves a legacy. His unique qualities will be preserved and shared for generations to come, impacting and promoting positive change in how humans serve as stewards of our environment and the world we all share.”

The newest addition to the Hollywild family is a rare Timbavati white lion (Panthera leo krugeri).

Mandela’s lineage traces back to the small pocket population of white lions discovered in the 1970’s in the Timbavati Reserve in Kruger National Park in South Africa. It is believed that there are less than 300 in existence and they are rarely seen.

Their light colored fur is said by some to represent the “goodness of all creatures.” Their white coloration is due to Leucism, a recessive gene shared by both of a white cat’s brown parents. The extremely rare pairing of the recessive gene in offspring makes the fur lack pigmentation. The lack of pigmentation can range from stark, bright white to a blonde color, such as Mandela’s.

Ukutula, means “the place of quiet,” and is a specialized conservation center in South Africa. The center’s staff has been part of a 7-year genetic study of the Timbavati lions working with researchers at Pretoria University.

Mandela and his half-brother, “Michael,” have come to the United States to expand a strong genetic line of lions that carry and pass on the rare white genes. Michael is in residence at Tiger World in Rockwell, N.C.

Both Michael and Mandela are true recessive gene carriers where both of their parents were normal dominant brown-colored lions. Both lions’ offspring will be tracked and reported back to the researchers at Ukutula who monitor the international breeding effort.

“If not for this intentional and responsible program, the white lion would quickly disappear,” Meeks said. “By working with the Ukutala program, we are making an impact in the sustainability of these amazing animals for the future.”

Did you know?

• Mandela was born Jan. 25, 2010 and weighs more than 600 pounds.

• Icis was born and reared at Tiger World Conservation and Education Center in N.C., and is a “brown” normal color variation lioness.

• Both of Mandela’s parents “Felix” and “Jenny,” were Timbavati Lions that were the “brown” normal color variation. Both carried the white recessive gene.

• A resolution was presented to Hollywild Executive Director David Meeks by Rep. Donna Hicks and signed by the Spartanburg County Delegation in support of park’s 40-plus year impact.

• Kobe, 7, a male, is also reared at Hollywild in a separate habitat from Mandela and Icis.

• Hollywood opens to the public Wednesday through August. Visit here for more information or call 864-472-2038.

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