Two endangered white lions met after being rescued from the circus and have since welcomed two cubs into the world.
The new members of the species, named Nala and Simba after lead characters in The Lion King, were born on July 28 after their parents were rescued by the Caresse de Tigre sanctuary in France.
They weigh around six pounds each and currently live in the sanctuary with the owners, two former circus performers who take in big cats who are born in captivity and mistreated.
One of the owners, Klimond Brigitte, shared a video of the cubs playing with some of their other pets:
Posted by Klimond Brigitte on Monday, August 12, 2019
According to Metropoles, Caresse de Tigre occupies around 300 hectares of forested area in the town of La Mailleraye-sur-Seine, on the banks of the Seine River in northeastern France.
White lions are in a sub-category of endangered species as they are currently listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN Red List. National Geographic explain there are four categories of endangered species; vulnerable, endangered, critically endangered and extinct in the wild.
White lions are native to South Africa but as of 2018 there were only 11 left in the wild, according to whitelions.org. It’s unclear exactly how many white lions there are in captivity but in 2018 it was estimated there were less than 300 worldwide.
National Geographic report Leslie Lyons, a feline geneticist at the University of Missouri, explained a known genetic mutation can create a white lion, though they are technically lighter brown rather than truly white. They’re not to be confused with albino lions, which are unable to produce any kind of pigment.
Craig Packer, director of the Lion Research Center at the University of Minnesota, added the gene which creates white lions is ‘like blue eyes in a population of Caucasians. A few people have them, but most don’t’.
The two newborn cubs will stay together for a while before going their separate ways. Simba is reportedly expected to join an animal shelter in France, while Nala is set to go to a park in England.
Speaking to a French newscast, as per Metropoles, Klimonde said the cubs’ parents would never have met without the help of the sanctuary.
The owners of the two lions wanted to sell them to a circus. We had to raise five thousand euros to pay for them, and now they belong to us.
Welcome to the world, Nala and Simba!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.