Toronto Zoo Displaying Inbred White Lions

A pair of young, cuddly looking white lions made their debut at the Toronto Zoo on Friday.

A male and a female cub were on display while a third lion, a female, is expected to become part of the exhibition later in the year.

The lions are native to the Timbavati region of South Africa, and came to Toronto thanks to a breeding program there. They are extremely rare and their white colour is a result of a genetic rarity endemic to the region.

“People just love to see them,” said the zoo’s conservation director Dr. Bill Rapley. “With their white colour, they’re like the spirit bear.”

The two lions on display Friday are nine and 10 months old and it’s hoped the zoo will be able to breed them when they reach maturity.

“The cubs will be spectacular,” said Rapley. “People will love them.”

The lions are not yet named and the zoo is considering holding a public naming contest.



Photograph by: Tyler Anderson, Postmedia News , Vancouver Sun

The rare white lion cubs that made their debut at the Toronto Zoo on Friday are still unnamed, but most definitely popular.

A 10-month-old male and nine-month-old female were welcomed to their new home by a horde of admirers, including schoolchildren and members of the media.

members of the media. A third cub, another female, is recovering from minor surgery to correct an alignment problem with her front legs, and will make her debut in the coming weeks.

Part of a new permanent display, the white lions possess a rare gene that inhibits colour. They are native to the Timbavati region in South Africa, north of Swaziland.

The last time the Toronto Zoo brought in a white lioness was almost 15 years ago. The lioness, Nokanda, had to be put down last August when she developed cancerous tumours.

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Note:  White lions are the product of inbreeding and the American Zoological Association advises member zoos to NOT breed white lions, white tigers or king cheetah because the only way to do so is through severe inbreeding.