Monday, March 8, 2010

Rare white lions arrive in Al Ain zoo

The Gulf Today, 6 Jan 2010

Extremely rare species of two South African white lions have been added to the 4,300-member animal family at the popular zoo in Al AIn.
The African white lions' arrival at the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort (AWPR) has signaled an urgent call to protect the conservation ambassadors from extinction.
The zoo authorities have informed that the public can catch a glimpse of the magnificent creatures from the beginning the first week of January.
A senior official of the AWPR, said, "The white lions were transported to the UAE by a passenger aircraft from Cape Town, South Africa in late November. The 18-month old lions are brother and sister."
Dr Mike Maunder, Chief Officer of Conservation, Collection and Education at the AWPR, said, "The White lions at AWPR help us highlight the plight of the lion in Africa, the loss of the lion in the rest of the world, and the need to conserve species and ecosystems."
"The white lions at the AWPR are not albino, their unique hair and skin pigmentation is caused by the presence of a recessive gene known as chinchilla or color inhibitor. The eyes, paw pads and skin of the white lions retain a bluish hue," he added.
Farshid Mehrdadfar, Animal Collection Manager at the AWPR, said, "The white lions, considered as ambassadors for their wild cousins, at the AWPR are a gift from the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in South Africa. We showcase the essence of the lion as a predator and a carnivore, and talk about the issues related to the conservation of lions throughout Africa and how all of us can help protect the animal, the environment of the animal, and animals in general."
"Since their arrival at the Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort, a highly specialised animal trainer has worked extensively with the white lions to acclimatise them to their new surroundings," he added.
Dr Maunder said that the white lions were first documented in 1972 in the Krueger National Park of South Africa, though legend and folklore suggest the white lions have existed for many ages.
"About 50 years ago the lion population exceeded 450,000 individuals. Only 20,000 lions survive in the wild at present. The wild African lions are now mostly found only in protected African wildlife reserves due to increased hunting, habitat loss and conflict with herdsmen," he explained. "The wild populations of African lions are collapsing and we're losing the African lions that are survived only in a few protected areas. Not long ago the African lion range spread from South Africa to the Atlas Mountains in North Africa, and from Mesopotamia to India," said Dr Maunder.

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