South African Newborn Lion Cubs Playfully Delight in Easter Eggs, Sparking Adoration .

Charming Cubs: South African Newborn Lion Cubs Playfully Delight in Easter Eggs, Sparking Adoration .b

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You have heard of the Easter Bunny but these rare white lion cubs are giving an African twist on the spring bank holiday.

Just four days old, the sleepy eyed cubs are seen rolling around these colourful Easter eggs with handler, Kirsty Trusler, at the Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Ms Trusler, 24, from Lancaster, is responsible for caring for the rare white lion cubs who are two of just 50 in their native country of South Africa.

The two rare cubs were bred at Johannesburg’s Lion Park which specialises in white lions

White Lions are not albinos, but a genetic rarity unique to the Timbavati region. Like blue eyes in humans, the animals’ white colour is caused by a recessive gene shared by both parents.

The earliest recorded sighting of white lions in the Timbavati region was in 1938. However, the oral records of African elders indicate that these unique animals survived in this region for many centuries.

Since their discovery white lions have been hunted, and forcibly removed from their natural endemic habitat.

The baby white lions are cared for by Kirsty Trusler (left) at Johannesburg’s Lion Park in South Africa

The white lion species is endangered because their light coats make it harder for them to camouflage

The last white lion was seen in the wild in 1994, after which time they were technically extinct in the wild.

The survival of white lions has been attributed by some to their very whiteness meaning they lack the camouflage of the tawny lions.

The Johannesburg Lion Park has specialised in breeding programmes designed to discourage the inter-breeding of the white lion and have agreements with other white lion breeders to ensure genetic integrity.

White lions are native to only the Greater Timbavati region of South Africa, an area characterised by white sandy riverbeds and long grass scorched pale by the sun.

They are regarded as sacred animals by the people of that region, but after Europeans ‘discovered’ them in the 1970s, many were taken from the wild to captive breeding and hunting operations.

These removals, along with lion culling and trophy hunting of male lions, depleted the gene pool and the animals have been technically extinct in the wild for the past 19 years.

Snuggle up: The four-day-old white lion cubs are two of just 50 white lions in South AfricaIn their natural habitat, white lions are regarded as ‘apex predators’, able to hunt successfully in day and night and take down prey as large as giraffes.

Despite their rarity, white lions are not yet classified as endangered because biologists still regard them as ultimately the same as their tawny equivalents.

The Global White Lion Protection Trust is campaigning for white lions to be recognised as a subspecies of lions, so that they can be protected under international law.

However, the genetic marker that makes white lions unique has not yet been identified by scientists and research into the animals is ongoing.

The trust estimates that there are no more than 300 white lions in existence. In recent years it has reintroduced the animals to a nature reserve within Greater Timbavati in an effort to eventually reintroduce the gene to wild lions.

 

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