The white lion cub and the white tiger cub are often the major attractions at zoos. You’ll have to go to a zoo to see one because they don’t occur in the wild anymore. They occur at zoos such as Paradise Wildlife Park, UK, because they are money makers and zoo staff closely inbred them to produce cubs with white coats. It is the only way to create a white lion or tiger cub: both parents have to be white and their parents are white etc.. Zoos are mating close relatives because the gene that creates this pale coat is recessive.
This process is against nature. Nature would not allow this because it negatively affects survival. Inbred white lions and tigers can be born with congenital defects that, in the wild, would make survival unlikely.
The original white lions come from the Timbavati region of the Kruger National Park:
All 300-400 white lions in captivity come from these original lions.
The whole family of white lion or white tiger cubs go back to a small gene pool. Although the original white lion pool may be 300-400 lions – a small number from a breeding point of view (read about the 400 Siberian tigers) – the gene pool amongst captive captive white lions at individual zoos is very narrow because the original pool is spread very thinly.
The substantial commercial white lion/tiger edifice is built upon a very small and shallow foundation and believe me the production of white lion or tiger cubs is a very commercial process.
It is a question of commerce versus conservation. Zoos who create white lion cubs justify it by saying it is good for conservation. This is only a justification. These cats can only live in captivity. Is conservation reduced to keeping white lions in cages at zoos? Is that all we are aiming at nowadays? This can’t be conservation.
It seems we have given up trying to conserve wild cats in the wild. We are now at the end of the conservation road in trying to keep the wild cats alive in captivity and cats don’t like captivity. We know that because they don’t breed due to stress. By the way, it isn’t just white lions and tigers that are inbred, almost all wild cat species in captivity are inbred!
That’s the sorry, sad but truthful introduction. I’ll try and answer the question in the title. Well, people like rarity and white lions are rare. That is one reason. Women like the color white and cats. Perhaps they take their children to these places. I don’t know. Don’t forget white lions are a commercial product that are marketed to the masses and the target segment is probably women and their kids. Ultimately the commercial target is children via their mother.
Why is the color white better than the buff color? Actually, white lions are not white at all. Although looking at the newspaper pictures you wouldn’t know it. White cubs are a lighter shade of buff. The newspapers are part of the commercial aspect and exploitation of white lions.
Why are people ignoring the unnatural process of creating white lion cubs? Why are people ignoring the possibility of deformed cubs being created? We never see the deformed ones, do we? If and when they are born, they are probably quietly euthanised. People are just far too concerned about the appearance of cats. They are a pretty object just like a nice new white car.
Even the tabloids understand that people, particularly women like the color white. The Daily Mail has bleached out the lion cubs coat to make it look whiter. The Mail’s primary audience is women in the UK.
Paradise Wildlife Park say they the parents of this charming cub are unrelated and insist they are helping in the conservation of the wild lion.