A LION cub that almost died of starvation turns three — and will soon be joined by some female big cats so he can become a father.

Themba the African White Lion is hardly recognisable from the cute little furball that needed to be cradled in people’s arms to keep him alive.

Now the proud beast — who weighs 27st and stands nearly 8ft tall on his hind legs — dwarfs his carers.

He is big enough to want a mate, and later this month two female white lions will be flown to the UK from South Africa in a bid to allow him to father a pride.

Big cat expert Brian Badger, 48, saved Themba in April 2009 when the cub’s mother developed mastitis and could no longer feed him.

He was so close to death that staff took turns to cuddle him so their body heat could keep him warm.

Brian, the General Manager at the Wildlife Heritage Foundation big cat sanctuary in Kent, said: “I’m like a surrogate father to him and he always recognises me.

“He is still playful but he doesn’t like to show it. At night I can hear him crashing around and tossing logs.


Themba the lion and Brian Badger

Grown up … Themba now


“He is still a cub at heart, but as soon as anybody appears he is straight up there on his platform giving it the big ‘I am’.

“He’s a bit like a teenager playing with his toy cars, but as soon somebody comes in he is grumpy and moody!”

When Brian and his staff temporarily took Themba from his mother he weighed less than a kilo.

Brian said: “His mother had two cubs and they were moving less and less. His mother accidently kicked Themba and he just went rolling and looked completely lifeless.

“So we went in and found the cubs were very dehydrated, very thin and incredibly cold.

“Themba was the worse out of the two but slowly the life came back into him.”

Thankfully, both Themba and his sister Izula are now fine.

When Themba’s prospective mates arrive he’ll be given a new purpose-built territory funded by the Wildlife Heritage Foundation’s sanctuary near Ashford.

Brian explains: “His mane is almost fully developed so this is the time when he would be wandering the planes of southern Africa looking for females, so we have gone out and done the matchmaking for him.

“We will move him into a new enclosure when they arrive. It will be a kind of rights-of-succession for him: a Lion King moment.”

The Wildlife Heritage Foundation is a UK-based charity, which works to ensure that the big cat species of the world are protected from extinction. For more info or to make a donation go to www.whf.org.uk

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4248944/Rescued-lion-cub-is-ready-for-some-pride-and-joy.html#ixzz26jsdWbGM