Please find below our latest Press Release:
Charities denounce inbred white lion programme at Paradise Wildlife Park.
Two leading animal protection charities, the Captive Animals’ Protection Society and LionAid, have criticised a major UK zoo for its continued programme of inbreeding big cats to create unusually-coloured animals. Spokespeople for the two organisations say that there are “serious animal welfare implications” for white lions bred at Hertfordshire-based Paradise Wildlife Park and that the animals “serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever in conservation terms”.
Paradise Wildlife Park in Hertfordshire is promoting a competition to name a new white lion cub born there recently and is using the competition as a fundraiser over the Easter period. In addition, the Park is earning considerable funds by allowing members of the public to “cuddle” the new cub for a fee of £999 for two people. Such intimate public interactions are highly controversial as the cub has to be separated from her mother, is likely stressful, has no benefit at all to the cub and is purely a money-making scheme.
The park claims that white lions are “regarded as god-like entities in African folklore [and] it is believed their majestic coats serve as a representation of the good found in all creatures. Any person lucky enough to gaze upon this rare gift will be blessed with health, happiness and luck”. Unfortunately for the animals, there is nothing “lucky” about being a white lion due to the process of perpetual inbreeding required to produce their unusual colouring.
Said Dr Pieter Kat of LionAid:
“All white lions are derived from a single small population discovered near Kruger National Park in South Africa. The white coat colour is caused by a recessive gene and the animals are known as leucistic. Leucism is seen among mammals, fish, reptiles and birds, but is only expressed in homozygous recessives. White lions are therefore by definition inbred, and since they all derive from one small founder population, progressive inbreeding can be expected to lead to a number of aberrant disorders like skeletal deformities, immune system deficiencies, digestive problems and neurologic conditions. In South Africa, lion breeders intentionally inbreed lions expressing the white coat colour for trophy hunting and for international sales and a number of zoos around the world have bought them. Because white lions are purposely inbred, zoos should not have them in their collections. They might be “cute” but contribute nothing to increasingly urgent conservation needs of their tawny relatives in the wild.”
Even zoo industry body the British and Irish Association of Zoos and Aquaria is opposed to the breeding of these animals, stating in a published paper on the issue that: “severe in-breeding has resulted in a number of congenital disorders and abnormalities, which may severely impact on the health and welfare of these animals”. Despite this, BIAZA allows both Paradise Wildlife Park and West Midland Safari Park to retain membership to the association even though the parks persist in keeping and breeding the white lions.
Paradise Wildlife Park well knows the consequences of inbreeding. Two white lions were sourced from South Africa as cubs in 2006. The female, Nala, died in 2007 aged 2-3yrs due to skeletal deformities. Male Thabo died in 2010 aged 5-6yrs from undisclosed causes.
Undeterred by BIAZA’s statements on purchasing, keeping and breeding white lions, Paradise Wildlife Park seems committed to ensuring a regular supply. Two cubs were born at Paradise in 2009 before the birth of the new cub this year. In addition, Paradise’s sister park Wildlife Heritage Foundation in Kent specifically imported two more white lion females from South Africa in May 2012 to breed with Thabo’s son, Themba.
Said Liz Tyson, Director of CAPS:
“Notwithstanding our overall opposition to zoos, it is appalling that businesses such as Paradise Wildlife Park and West Midland Safari Park continue to breed these animals despite the well-recognised welfare concerns. This is a clear example of putting profit before the most basic needs of the big cats. The white lions might look beautiful but this offers no justification for this continued practice”.
At the end of the last year, the two charities exposed West Midland Safari Park for supplying inbred white lion cubs to a notorious circus trainer, who then sent the animals to a travelling circus in Japan. The news caused widespread outrage amongst animal lovers around the UK.
Picture credit: http://bit.ly/16rnONE
If you have not already signed up to our mailing list, you can add your name here and keep up to date with our ongoing work and, most importantly, financially support us to conserve the remaining fragile lion populations. Thank you.