Adventures of a Dutch vet
living and working in the African bush.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
No babies please!
White lions are stunning animals. Their white colour is caused by a recessive gen, a colour inhibition gene. When both parents carry this gen (they don't have to be white themselves, because the tabby gen is dominant) and give it to their offspring, the lighter colour can express itself. Their colour varies from blonde to near-white. They are not albino, as most people think.
The Timbavati region, next the Kruger National Park, is the only place where white lions were ever seen in the wild. The first recorded sighings were in 1938. The local people see white lions as sacred and Timbavati as sacred ground. Chris McBride was the first to take white lions cubs from Timbevati into captivity in the 1970's, because he thought that they would not be able to survive in the wild. He also wrote a book about these special lions. This worldwide attention made white lions popular and high in demand. For example the famous American magicians Siegfried and Roy have a pride of 38 white lions. Sadly hunting white lions is also popular in South Africa. Captive breeding started to supply this market and unfortunately they are often inbred to increase the chances to see this mutation in their offspring. There are estimated 500 white lions worldwide, but all in captivity. The Global White Lion Protection Trust released white lions back into Timbavati and they are hunting and breeding naturally.
A vasectomie is an option to avoid further breeding of captive male lions. A piece of the ductus deferens on both sides (the sperm rurns through these tubes from both testikels) are ligated and removed, so that the sperm can't run through. Because the testikels are still present, the male feels exactly the same as before the surgery and also keeps his stunning manes. Two male white lions, unfortunately offspring of a father-daughter crossing, had to get this surgery done to avoid further inbreeding. We took 18 international students as part of our chemical immobilization course to assist, so plenty of hands!
The vasectomies went very well and both lions were 100% fine immediately after the operation.