A privately owned zoo in Borysew in central Poland has a new addition - three very tiny and fluffy white lion cubs which were born on January 28. They are set to become a major attraction as there are believed to be less than 100 white lions in the world.
The cubs are not albinos. Mother Azira and father Sahim are both white lions. Their rare color is a mutation of the Kruger subspecies of African lion.
At the moment the three are a far cry from the fierce animals they will become. They only want to sleep, eat, and get cuddles from their mother. Tentatively, they try to take their first steps, but mother Azira is vigilant and does not want to leave her litter unprotected for too long.
"We can see that the mother hides them in order to protect them, so we cannot find them and harm them. And the male lion, the father, is close and she feels safe. He is next door in the cage because he did not want to take off and leave her alone with her cubs," Zoo owner Andrzej Pabich told Reuters.
The sex of the cubs is still a mystery even for the carers. As the birth took place naturally, the veterinarians and carers wanted to interfere in the initial development of cubs as little as possible.
White lions are native only to the Greater Timbavati region of South Africa. They are regarded as sacred animals by the people of that region. Many were taken from the wild to captive breeding and hunting operations, according to the Global White Lion Protection Trust.
"There are about 90, maybe 100 in the world, That's why it is such a rarity," Pabich said. "Therefore, it is very important that the mother adopts and feeds her cubs. Because in general 40 - 50 percent of white lions are adopted because there very often is a problem with a lion mother raising her cubs."
The genetic marker that makes white lions unique has not yet been identified by scientists and research into the animals is ongoing.
White lions are not the only rare species that can be seen and studied at the zoo. There are also white tigers and white wolves.