Why Are White Lion Cubs So Popular?

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:

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All 300-400 white lions in captivity come from these original lions.

White lion cubs are popular
White lion cubs are popular. I am claiming fair use in publishing these pictures here. The one on the left (Times) is copyright Alex Smale and on the right the photograher is not credited by the Daily Mai but is the same photographer.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

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.

White lion compared to buff lion
White lion compared to buff lion. Photos wikimedia commons via Flickr for the buff lion (by yaaaay) and by Stano Novak for white lion.

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.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

6 thoughts on “Why Are White Lion Cubs So Popular?”

  1. yes,that was 10 years ago.hopefully they have stopped that type of abuse by now,but i still have’nt returned to the zoo after seeing that.

  2. Gosh this is so depressing. I hate to think of all the off-shoots and deformed or ‘failed’ babies that are born into this world only to die. It’s the pinnacle of consumerist cruelty and I am without words over the whole matter. I’d love to have a talk with the so called conservationists and hear them claim they are doing a decent thing. They probably believe themselves.

    Isn’t breeding with such a high risk of unhealthy babies something that should basically be illegal? I wonder how few people know how inbred they are. I can say for myself that if I didn’t read POC I would not know that most ‘wild’/big cats in zoos are inbred. It’s horrible. What makes me incredibly angry and sad is the thought of a poor baby being born unhealthy. This is not something the mama should have to go through and must be emotionally very difficult – and the poor babies – the ones who survive to end up being gorped at and probably bred with thier own family. Yuk. How miserable is humanity. How can people still take kids to zoos. I won’t set foot in one. I don’t think it’s right to take children to the zoo. They get the wrong idea of what the animals are and possibly they are emotionally traumatized by seeing unhappy trapped animals for the more aware kids. It’s heartbreaking that cats are bred in any shape size or form. Who are we to breed – why does culture think that animals are tools for consumption on every level right down to taking baby lions away from their mamas so kids can be photographed with them in shopping malls.

    I would throw a hissy fit if I ran into one of those situations. Same goes for travelling circuses with animals. It’s time for the whole thing to stop. And I have not even begun to talk about the meat trade and farm animals.

    I can hardly think with the images of those poor little baby lions in cages surrounded by humans and without their mamas. How could those miserable people do such a thing to such beautiful creatures. I hope they all rot. I hope that it becomes illegal.

    1. I hate to think of all the off-shoots and deformed or ‘failed’ babies that are born into this world only to die.

      Yes, we don’t know. Breeding lions is the same as breeding purebred cats. There will be failures and we don’t know what happens to them. We can guess. I remember a breeder telling me about another breeder who drowned kittens that were not to her liking. She said it wasn’t really killing them because they were newborn. Horror.

      Congenital defects in white tigers and lions are well known and sterility in inbred wild cats species of all kinds is also well documented. There are 400 Siberian tigers in the wild but the effective breeding population is 14 due to sterility.

      Isn’t breeding with such a high risk of unhealthy babies something that should basically be illegal?

      Yes, but zoos do as they please it seems to me. There seems little in the way of controls. I sense there is a air of desperation amongst zoo keepers in trying to keep wild cat captive populations alive (avoiding sterility) because the only way to do it is to capture a wild cat in the wild and put it in a zoo to increase the gene pool but that is madness and anti-conservation.

      How can people still take kids to zoos

      Kids are deceived aren’t they? All they see is the sweet veneer of a pretty white lion cub. They don’t know all the stuff that goes on behind the public front.

      The long term prognosis for wild cats, captive and in the wild, is very poor and it is all due to humans.

    2. the first and last time that I went to a zoo(well sort of),was at the long island game farm in the town of manorville n.y.,I was absolutely shocked by the way the tigers were beat with a whip to perform tricks for the crowd.I could not even watch the rest of the show.I shook my head and left.I don’t beleive any animal should be treated that way to perform tricks(which is un-natural to begin with)for a crowd for a zoo to profit.I would rather watch a tiger doing nothing but relaxing under a tree in a more natural enviornment.

      1. Well said. Lions should be under trees relaxing in the wild. They are pretty efficient hunters and have lots of time to sleep. Apparently the lion sleeps more than any other cat! Zoos are an admission of failure by the human race to look after the planet properly.

      2. That’s horrible and disturbing. I didn’t know they whipped them – not even in the circus anymore I thought. That’s awful and I would be very shocked by it and I would leave too. I can’t believe people just consume that kind of thing without a giving it a second thought.

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