Lions used to naturally occur all throughout South Africa but due mainly to hunting and other human associated behaviours, they are now largely restricted to protected areas. Lions can now be found in the greater Kruger National Park and the surrounding farms and reserves that border the park, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi in KwaZulu/Natal.
For any species to survive, genetic diversity is essential for survival but in some reserves in South Africa there is evidence of inbreeding, which reduces genetic diversity. Inbreeding has been shown to not only impact on reproductive success but also increases the susceptibility to disease.
In large, open wildlife systems, such as the Greater Kruger National Park, young males leave their prides to find new mating partners and in doing so prevent inbreeding. The main reason that conservation genetics is important is because it involves conserving the maximum genetic diversity which in turn preserves the evolutionary potential of the species. If a population does not have the necessary genetic diversity it needs, it runs the risk of not being able to adapt and survive environmental changes.
Genetic analysis jas been conducted on the lions of the Timbavati by Dr Desire Dalton and Susan Miller. Their analysis found that the lion population in the Timbavati has a high genetic diversity and the risk of inbreeding is low, due largely to the high number of lions available in the Greater Kruger National Park open system.
The Timbavati Private Nature reserve is the only reserve in the world where white lions occur naturally. These beautiful lions have intrigued people for many years with some believing they have mythical powers. Many also assume that these lions are albinos but this this not the case. You can read more about the genetic makeup of White Lions here.
Today, on World Lion Day, we take a look back on some of the Legends of the Timbavati.
Our beautiful Blue Eyes white lioness. Her territory extended through Kambaku Lodges. We were privileged enough to follow her journey from a young cub through to a very confident and successful lioness.
Unfortunately she met her end whilst defending her cubs against two male lions during a pride take over.
Black Dam, a big male lion who owned the territory which makes up our area of Timbavati. He successfully defended his territory on his own for almost two years, which in this area is no mean feat, given that most territories are owned by coalitions of two or more males.
Unfortunately he was mortally wounded in a buffalo hunt. Isn’t he absolutely magnificent.
The life of a lion cub is tough. This little one got a short glimpse of what life held in store for him. Unfortunately this young male cub did not make it to maturity.
Younger sister to Blue Eyes – another stunning white lioness with hazelnut eyes. We also had the pleasure of watching her grow from a cub into a beautiful lioness.
She was unfortunately killed by rogue males who surprised the pride on a buffalo kill. It was a devastating loss of a very promising lioness.
Another legend of the Timbavati known as the Timbavati male. He was one of the areas dominant males for many years with many war stories, evident by the scars on his face.
This was one of the last images we have of him before he disappeared!!