The White Lion Conservation Project in South Africa is home to a total of 10 lions, and we wanted to take the chance to introduce you to them today! You may remember that last year Letaba the powerful male white lion was released to form the Akeru pride along with two female tawny lions, but it is not just this pride of lions which are calling the project home. Let’s meet the feline faction!
In the African root language from which his name comes, Letaba means “First Ray of Sunshine” and when you see this beautiful lion up close you will soon know why this name was chosen. Letaba was the lion some of you may remember from our story last year where he was released from his safety enclosure into the vast expanse of his new territory. He is now doing well alongside his twin brother, and the pride is performing strongly.
After being born on the 15.11.2003, Letaba became a founding member of the White Lion Project along with his brother Regeus, sister Zihra, and mother Marah. Almost from birth Letaba displayed the qualities of a lion leader, and since his introduction to the two female lionesses in the pride he has really come into his own and is now enjoying life with his new family.
The twin brother of Letaba, Regeus’ name means “First ray of sunlight” but unlike his sibling Regeus’ name originates from Latin roots! Born in Johannesburg Zoo, this white lion may share a birthday with his twin but that is where the similarities end.
Regeus has a much more relaxed persona than his brother, and whilst in the past he was a little outgoing and boisterous, he is now much calmer and has been known to enjoy cleaning himself after a meal rather than chase the female lions like the rather lustful Letaba does!
Khanyiza is one of the most fearsome and powerful lionesses at the project, and her no nonsense approach makes her an incredible hunter. Khanyiza has been known to take down buffalo on her own, and she’s even adept at climbing trees so watch out for this if you become a lion volunteer!
Born in 2005, Khanyiza grew up with her biological sister Nyeleti until the latter unfortunately passed away in 2013 leaving Khanyiza with a hole in her life. This was until her new “sister” appeared at the project….
In July 2015 two young wild tawny lionesses came into the conservancy under the fence from a neighbouring reserve and were immediately inducted into the White Lion family. Khanyezi and Enomsile were both caught in cage traps on separate nights so that they could be given veterinary assistance, but unfortunately the pesticide that was being used on a neighbouring farm proved too much for Enomsile’s lungs and she passed away despite the vets best efforts.
Khanyezi now lives alongside Khanyiza and the two male white lions at the project site, and has found a safe home to live out the rest of her days. Khanyezi’s appearance at the project came as a welcome relief to Khanyiza and the two lionesses now thoroughly enjoy each other’s company.
Zukhara’s name means “Great spirit of the sun” and this rough and ready lion certainly lives up to his billing. He displays a lot of courage when defending his territory, and is dedicated in his commitment to lioness Cleopatra. Zukhara looks very similar to his brother Matsieng, but he can be distinguished by his constant scruffiness!
Zukhara and Matsieng posing for the camera with a jackal in the background.
This “Star Warrior” was born on the 18.02.2008, and he is similar to his brother Zukhara in many ways. Matsieng lives up to his warrior status through his vehement defending of his territory, but he does not let this stand in the way of his romancing of the lioness Tswalu and his impenetrable bond with his brother. Matsieng is something of a lady’s man in the world of lions though, and he is always immaculately groomed and cleaned unlike his scruffy brother!
Cleopatra joined the pride in 2015 after she was donated by a neighbouring reserve, but this was only after multiple attempts by herself to break into the White Lion Project grounds to be with Mandla (a lion who has sadly now passed away.) Cleopatra has been known to prefer her own company at times, often retreating into solitude away from the other members of her pride, but she spends just as much time alongside the three other magnificent lions that make up this pride.
Tswalu is a very tough lioness, and she hails from the harsh Kalahari Desert. In May 2013 she and her sister Kalahari were transported from their home in the Northern Cape and after a few days spent acclimatising to their new surroundings, both lionesses went their separate ways. Unfortunately Kalahari died of a stomach injury in September 2013 (it is thought that this came from the horn of a prey animal on a hunt that went wrong.)
However, Tswalu integrated well with her new pride, and in December 2015 she even gave birth to three tawny cubs, but unfortunately none of them survived to adulthood.
One of the three triplets born on the 15.11.2003, Zihra is the sister to both Letaba and Regeus. This beautiful white lioness is the matriarch, and she was the one to lead her brothers out of their holding boma on Easter Friday 2006. She is an incredible specimen, and she currently resides with her daughter Nebu in a separate area of the White Lion Projects land. Unfortunately for the wildebeest and zebra in this area, this mother/daughter team are at the peak of their physical powers!
As mentioned, Nebu is the daughter of Zihra and after being born on 18.02.2008, it was clear that she was going to grow into the confident lioness she is today, even if she is not quite as feisty as her mother! She adores Zihra, and both have been known to enjoy playing together or even testing their skills by climbing the nearest tree, so watch out for this if you become a white lion volunteer!
Whilst the idea behind this blog was to introduce you to the lions at the White Lion Conservation Project, you will never truly get to experience the majesty of these big cats until you see them up close and in person! If you want to become a volunteer and learn more about these beautiful animals then head over to the Global White Lion Protection Trust's website. There are only 13 white lions remaining in the wild, so the time to act is now, and your work as a volunteer will prove invaluable for the conservation efforts of the white lion.
Picture credit goes to the Global White Lion Protection Trust.
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