The below text is taken from the Global WHite Lion Protection Trusts Website:
"More elusive than the African leopard, rarer than the legendary Snow Leopard of the Himalayas, and as white as the polar bear of the Alaska, rumours of the existence of pure White Lions have lived in the African Oral Tradition for centuries. But there is only one place on earth were they have materialised: the Timbavati region, bordering the Kruger National Park of South Africa.
To the African elders, used to looking for spiritual signs in nature, the White Lions' arrival was the fulfilment of ancient prophecy that identified these majestic creatures as angelic messengers from God. Identified as a sacred site b y African Kings for many hundreds of years, the name "Tsimba-vaati" in the ancient Shangaan language means "the place where star-lions came down from the heavens". Born to the golden lion prides that roam the vast Timbavati region, the African elders explained their mysterious white colour in spiritual terms, meaning purity and enlightenment, beyond all racial connotations. White is sunlight, all the colours of the spectrum in one - beyond colour, creed, race or gender. The White Lions are a magnificent icon for South Africa's rainbow nation, and a unifying symbol across world cultures.
Prized for their rarity, the White Lions were artificially removed from their natural habitat into captive breeding/hunting programs in South Africa, and sent to zoos and circuses around the globe, most famously Siegfried a nd Roy's magic act in Las Vegas.
Tragically, all White Lions today are in captivity. After their forced removals from their sacred homelands, they have been extinct in the wild for over 12 years.
After studying the ancient knowledge of the White Lions with African elders from all cultures for over ten years, author and conservationist, Linda Tucker, went on to found the Global White Lion Protection Trust in 2002. The mission of the Trust is not only to protect the lions themselves, which are at great risk from aggressive speed-breeding programs and trophy hunting, but also to protect the indigenous knowledge that holds them sacred.
At last, after many years of battle, the primary objective of the Global White Lion Protection Trust has been achieved: to return these unique animals to the ancestral land that is their birthright." - www.whitelions.org
I work closely with the GWLT to help them raise awareness of the plight of the White lions in South Africa, and indeed the world over. The white lions are currently seen as "White Gold" and breeders and hunting farms take advantage of the ignorance of the general public in order to breed and sell these lions for huge profit.
At the moment in South Africa there are TOO many lions in captivity- both white and tawny. Breeders convince people that they are continuing the species by breeding the rare white lion, when all they are being bred for is to be sold on for trophy hunting or for zoos. Cubs are taken from their mothers at birth for two reasons- one, to hand rear the cubs, so that they are easily handled and familiar with people- two, so that the mothers will come in oestrus again and be able to produce another litter. In the wild lions only breed every two years, in captivity they are forced to have a litter every 6 months. The conditions of the breeding camps are horrific.
Linda Tucker and the Global White lion protection trust are running the first successful re-introduction of white lions into the wild.