The exciting news is showing no signs of stopping today, as alongside the launch of our incredible new White Lion Conservation Project we have some amazing news to bring you from project site itself!
On the 24th of August, one of the white lion brothers that resides at the project site was released from his safety boma (enclosure) into the vast expanse of his new territory!
Letaba the lion was housed in a safety boma after another lion at the project was cruelly caught in a poacher’s snare and passed away. Living alongside his brother Regeus who was housed in a boma directly next door, the big male lions were cared for by the project until it was deemed safe to release them.
The integration of white and tawny lions to create a strong and healthy population of white lions in the future is something that is at the forefront of the White Lion Conservation Projects aims, and this is exactly what happened upon Letaba’s release.
He was released into a 715 hector area which is already home to two female tawny lions called Khanyisa and Khanyezi with the hope that he would eventually mate with one of the two female lions and begin to form a pride!
Two of the team here at The Great Projects (Connor and Natalie) were lucky enough to be at the project as the release was happening, and here is what Connor had to say about the big day!
“On the release day there was an air of tension as all of the members of staff and volunteers took up their positions to see how well the imposing lion would take to the excitement of a new territory to explore and the possibility of meeting up with the females!
It was incredibly exciting for us, two people who were relatively new to the project and had only been at the site for a few days, but you could really feel the electricity and excitement amongst the staff and in particular Linda Tucker (founder of the project) who had been waiting for this moment for years.
As we drove up to the boma Letaba was in, we could see one of the wildlife rangers Wesley in between the section of double fencing designed to keep these magnificent lions safe. He was carefully wrapping a rope around the outer gate which he would then hold in his truck as he drove away to ensure he opened it safely and didn’t bump into a confused 250kg lion!
Once it was confirmed that everyone was in place and that the female lions were far enough away from the big event, things started to get really exciting. Wesley was given the ok to proceed and he slowly drove his truck away from the gate, rope attached, and it opened. This was the moment everyone had been waiting for. Letabe was finally free to roam and explore his new territory. How would he react? Would he come charging out in an excited burst, or would he run straight to his brother’s enclosure? What happened next was something that only the resident lion expert Jason could predict….
Letabe did not move an inch. All of the lions had been fed the evening before to minimise aggression should they meet, and this meant that Letaba was quite content to continue laying under his tree paying no attention to his newly opened enclosure.
It took one of the ranger’s trucks moving in the background to startle Letaba and only then did he begin to move towards the open gate. Once he realised he could roam outside his boma he did not hesitate. The inquisitive lion initially had a look of bewilderment on his face as he made his way out of the gate, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of his new environment.
Although hesitant at first, Letabe soon got into his commanding stride and walked right past the volunteer and staff trucks. You could hear a pin drop as this beast walked past! His next move showed the caring side of lions as he continued to walk past the trucks and up to his brother Regeus’ enclosure. After communicating with each other for five or so minutes, the two white lions laid down either side of the enclosure fence in a showing of solidarity between brothers.
Before we could ask the question we were all wondering, Jason informed us that Regeus would indeed be released within the next couple of weeks too, and the hope was that the two brothers would form the Akeru pride alongside the two females already in the area. The reason that Letaba was released first was due to the fact that he is the less aggressive of the two lions, and he would be able to act as a peacekeeper should any trouble arise when his brother was released.
It was at this stage that we left Letaba to explore his new territory on his own, and as we drove away we saw him scenting on the trees by rubbing his impressive mane on them. It was clear that Regeus would be in no doubt who was in charge when he joined his brother!
Looking back on the whole experience, it was an incredible thing to witness as this is something that so few people have ever seen; a huge male white lion being released back into this natural and spiritual home. I feel honoured to have witnessed it, and hope that future volunteers get the chance to see something just as amazing!”
As you can see from Connors post, the release went off without a hitch and Letaba is now doing well after having made contact with the girls. Khanyezi is the lucky lioness, and if everything goes well we could be hearing the pitter-patter of white lion cub paws in the Timbavati region for the first time in years!
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