Baghdad Zoo Gives Glimpse Of Rare White Lion As It Reaches First Birthday

Baghdad Zoo Gives Glimpse Of Rare White Lion As It Reaches First Birthday

 A Baghdad zoo is nurturing a one-year old white lion, which are very rare in both nature and zoos.

White lions are a genetic mutation unique to the Timbavati and Kruger National Park areas of southern Africa and became technically extinct for at least 12 years before being reintroduced to the wild by the Global White Lion Protection Trust in 2004.

To help protect the white lion, the Al Zawra zoo did not allow any filming of the male cub before its first birthday. Its mother is now pregnant with another cub, which the zoo expects to carry the same genetic mutation.

"This has happened for the first time in Iraq - the birth of a white lion. Of course, it is a genetic mutation which can occur in recessive genes with the melanin pigment, which is different from albinism, which occurs even in people," Zoo Veterinarian Haider Malik said.

Natural births of white lions in their ancestral breeding grounds have been recorded by the Trust since 2006, but they say the majority of the rare breed, about 300 worldwide, are born and kept in captivity, in zoos, reserves or private parks.

The zoo, whose animal population was decimated during the 2003 war, currently allows visitors to see the white lion cub for a maximum of two hours a day.

"Visitors are always asking to see the white lion. I only let it out for two hours a day, so that it will not be harmed or injured, until it is three-years old. Then, we will let it out for more time to be seen by visitors," big cat keeper Seif Taufiq said.

There are no plans to release the cub to the wild.