Wildlife Report – December 2009

By Patrick O’Brien on January 1, 2010

One of the most breath-taking sightings for any guide is to witness a white lion in the wild.

This exceptionally rare sighting can only happen in one place in the world and that is in Timbavati Private Nature Reserve in South Africa.

I was privileged to see white lion cubs in the Timbavati about 4 years ago. However, both white cubs died due to a reason unknown to us. At the time of death I suspect that the cubs were only 8 weeks old.

They are so defenseless at that age no wonder that it is not uncommon that only 30% of cubs will survive the first 12 months.

My second sighting happened on the 2nd of Dec 2009. I would have never thought that I would be so lucky to see white lions again in my life

Yesterday myself and numerous guides from our neighboring lodges were blessed to see two white lions cubs on Kings Camp’s property.
White lions. By Patrick O'Brien
White lions. By Patrick O'Brien
This sighting was called-in very early in the morning. I was very close and was the second vehicle to approach the sighting. The sighting was just incredible. The pride consists of 3 adult females and 4 cubs of approximately 8-9 months old. Two of the cubs are white and the other two as my tracker Albert would put it are just “plain”. Meaning they are the normal tawny colour.

The pride was feeding on giraffe they took down a few hours after the rain and should last them few more days. Hopefully the pride will stick around for next few days offering us more sightings. It might just become a more frequent sighting from now on at Kings Camp.
White lions. By Patrick O'Brien
White lions. By Patrick O'Brien
History of the White Lions.
Timbavati Game Reserve lies to the north of the Sabi Sand Game Reserve on the western edge of Kruger National Park In South Africa.

Established in 1956 by like-minded game farmers, the Reserve covers 680 square kilometers. There are no fences separating the Timbavati from the Kruger National Park, so lion, elephant, cheetah buffalo and other species roam freely between the two.

Timbavati is famous for their White Lion sightings first spotted in the mid-1970s they became the subject of much interest and debate.

The story of the White Lions of the Timbavati has been told by several people, most notable of whom was Chris McBride, who published two books about the phenomenon:

The famous white lions of the Timbavati were first sighted by Cyril McBride‘s daughter Lanice van den Heever in October of 1975. McBride relied heavily on the expertise and knowledge of two local trackers, Jack Mathebula and Mandaban Hlongo, in his efforts to track the white cubs. These men had grown up in the bush and had intimate knowledge of the behavior of lions. Though no White lions have been spotted in the Timbavati for many years. The last adult white lionesses was killed in a territorial take over in 1991

Since then no white lions were seen again until 2005 when pictures of two white cubs were published in a local newspaper. The cubs were seen in the on a property in Klaserie Game Reserve west of Timbavati game Reserve.

Since then there have been a total of 8 confirmed different litters that have been seen in the Timbavati and Klaserie game Reserve since 2005 until today. Most of the white did not make it past the first year.

During the winter month of 2009 another confirmed sighting of white cubs were called in and photograph in Klaserie. Then the cubs appeared to be 4-5 months old.

Then on the 2nd of December 2009 one of the local guides during a morning drive found a pride of lions feeding from a fresh giraffe carcass on Kings Camp property. I wasted no time and arrived 5 minutes later at the sighting. Much to my amassment I could not believe what I saw that morning.

Finally white lions.

All we hope now is that the white cubs will survive past there first year. Then only I would believe that the probability of making to sub-adult status is increased tremendously.

That is all for this month dear friends. We hope and trust you had a wonderful New Year. We would also like to wish you all the best for 2010.

Patrick O‘Brien. Head Guide
Email: mail@Mandevo-wildlifephotography

6 thoughts on “Wildlife Report – December 2009

  1. Thanks u so much for the historical background. So hope we will see these beauties in August. As ususal, luv your pics, Patrick.

  2. Wow Patrick. I just saw 3 magnificent male brother white lions in Las Vegas at Zigfried and Roys’ habitat. I know it’s hard to imagine but they have an amazing enclosure, are rotated every day and look amazingly happy but to see the white lion cubs in the wild…I must book soon and make my way back to Kings Camp to see some of these magnificent sightings. Again magical words and pics. Thank you. Karen

  3. Your website with your gorgeous pictures and educational narrative is such a beautiful gift each time we open it! We’re instantly transported back to our time at King’s Camp and all the priceless memories!

    Bob and Katie Bishop

    Tulsa, Oklahoma

  4. Thank you so much for posting the beautiful photographs Patrick. We had some amazing lion sitings when we were there in August, but seeing white lion cubs must have been incredible. I hope you have the chance to enjoy future sitings of these magnificant cubs.


  5. Just so gorgeous and what an amazing sighting. Lions are always special but these in particular are incredible. One day we will travel back to your very special part of the world. Heather and Steve Perth WA

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