News24

Limpopo celebrates white lion

2009-09-24 17:59

Hoedspruit - A Limpopo town celebrated the mystical white lion on Heritage Day.

Hoedspruit has hosted the Maruleng White Lion Day event at the Sepeke cultural village on Thursday.

"With white lions only being born naturally in this one region, foreign and local tourists have a rare opportunity to see a unique animal," said manager of the Maruleng local municipality, Refilwe Ramothwala.

"The white lions are so rare and endangered that there are only a few in their natural wild habitat."

The municipality has hosted the event in collaboration with the Global White Lion Protection Trust, under the theme "Conserving our living white lion heritage beyond 2010".

Global White Lions Protection Trust communications manager, Wendy Strauss, said that they did this for the sake of the lions.

"We are the conservation organisation and we see the white lions as the symbol of the African heritage," she said.

'Keeper of the Lions'

White lions are currently only found at Timbavati private game reserve and in the southern Kruger National Park.

In 1991, Linda Tucker was travelling with her husband in Timbavati when their car broke down at night. White lions surrounded them and would have killed Tucker and her husband if it weren't for Maria Khosa.

Khosa, a traditional healer, also known as the Lion Queen of Timbavati, communicated with the lions and calmed them down.

When Khosa told Tucker that she bore the ancient title "Keeper of the Lions", Tucker realised it was her destiny to protect the white lions.

Strauss said white lions have a long history, the first European sighting of them being in 1937 by Joyce Mostert.

The Shangaan people had, however, known about them for 400 years already when Queen Numbi reigned in the region now known as Timbavati.

Queen Numbi and her people saw a star falling to the ground. When they approached the spot where it fell they found it was a shining ball of metal, brighter than the sun. Its light swallowed Queen Numbi, an old, weak woman, and strange beings welcomed her. When she emerged, her youth and health had been restored.

The star only remained for a few days and then returned to the sky. Since then, animals with deformities have been born in the area, cattle with two heads, white impala and green-eyed leopards and lions.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Tucker said the white lions are not albinos and vary in colour from blonde to near-white and even red.

The public, government officials, traditional leaders and business people and NGO had been invited to the attend the celebration.

Local schools performed dramas, dance and sing songs to celebrate the white lions.