White Lions occur naturally only in the Greater Timbavati area, part of the UNESCO-protected Kruger to Canyons Biosphere in Southern Africa. Extinct in the wild for decades, the White Lions' return has long been predicted by African elders. Sadly, these exceptionally rare, indescribably serene animals mainly live in captivity, often within the confines of canned hunting camps, which breed valuable predators to be shot at close range by wealthy trophy hunters. Currently, there are only nine adult White Lions in the wild, reintroduced and managed by the Global White Lion Protection Trust, established by Linda Tucker in 2002.
In October 2015, I interviewed an extraordinary woman who shares my passion for social and environmental consciousness. Nette Hargreaves is a blogger and author with a love for stories that encourage children to understand their emotions and keep their innate magic alive. Over coffee, she shares her experience of visiting Timbavati to see the White Lions. Here's what she had to say about meeting these magnificent predators up close and personal:
"Slowly striding ahead of our open-top Land Rover is a White Lion. In the fading light, he paces from one side of the dusty bush road to the other, before pausing to call to his brother. To hear a lion roar at close range almost defies description. The sound reverberates through our vehicle and into the surrounding bushveld. A lion's call emanates from the very centre of its being, dwarfing the orchestra of the wild before fading into a series of low guttural sounds. At the southern tip of Africa, dusk turns to dark almost without warning, and as the lion brothers begin their night patrol, we conclude our first game drive and return to the campfire. Our party of eight women is enjoying a private retreat at the Global White Lion Protection Trust where our time is filled with twice-daily game drives, observing nature, wildlife and the majestic White Lions.
It is hard to capture precisely how these lions differ from their tawny cousins. Both are powerful apex predators. Yet there is something beyond the colour of their coats that exalts the White Lions. Their halcyon presence is almost transcendent. African shamans like Credo Mutwa deem them to be divine beings bearing messages of peace and conservation.
Personally, I gain these key lessons from witnessing the White Lions in their natural habitat:
The first thing I notice during our explorations into White Lion territory is that these animals are fully present and possess the unwavering ability to be utterly focused. A game warden regales us with a story of a lioness crouching motionless for two solid days, blending into the landscape, imperceptible to grazing game. Her reward comes when an unsuspecting wildebeest leaps straight over her, allowing her to take down her prey in mid-air with minimal effort.
Conversely, we watch the young males of the Tula Tsau pride ambling in the morning sun before plumping down in complete relaxation, recuperating from the night's hunt. It is obvious that these magnificent creatures are not slave to internal chatter suggesting they don't deserve to rest until after they clean up the bones, wipe the blood off their manes and attend to the multitude of tasks we like to amass on our to-do lists. Lions do not expand one ounce of energy on inessential matters. Clearly immune to our Duracell-Bunny-mentality, they instinctively know that rest is essential to survival.
Trust In Enough
Lions can go a week or more without eating. They accept the natural rhythm of feast and famine by gorging themselves after each kill. They then rest, knowing the next meal is coming - if they put in the effort. After all, a juicy antelope isn't going to drop into their waiting mouths. Clearly lions don't fall into the trap of believing in manifestation without simultaneously taking inspired action.
This is a tough one, especially for women. Societal conditioning tells us to attend to everyone's needs before our own, gracefully balancing home, business and bedroom. In nature, everyone is part of the pecking order. A lioness restricts her cubs from a carcass until she has filled her own belly, lest she lose the strength to hunt for herself and her young. In human terms, self-care is a learned skill. It takes guts to put on your own oxygen mask first but in the long run, everyone benefits.
Yet coming through as clearly as any personal insights is the message of conversation. Lions have no natural predators, therefore their only threat comes from humans encroaching on their territory or hunting them for so-called sport. The White Lions draw our attention to how intricately everything in life is connected - from the plant life that nourishes grazing animals to the predators that hunt them for sustenance. In nature, a microelement out of place can upset the balance of the larger ecosystem.
Instead of feeling paralyzed by the ominous threat to our natural resources, I decide to focus on what I can do. Firstly, I make reconnecting to nature a priority. This means taking time out to be in nature and reviewing the sustainability of my consumer habits. Tucker reassures us that 'human nature and Mother Nature are intrinsically connected. By changing ourselves, we alter our environment'. Even the smallest effort can support us in regaining a sense of harmony and connection with the Earth that nourishes us, and inspire those around us to do the same. No effort is too small to matter."
If you felt as inspired as I do by the wisdom of the White Lions, I encourage you to make a contribution today in support of the White Lion Trust who are doing incredible work in their guardianship of these precious creatures.