NZ girl loves rare time with white lion cubs

Waikato Times – Saturday, 10 February 2007

Now that nine-year-old Lucy Coombes has cuddled a white lion cub her mother is worried the family will acquire more pets.

The Hukanui School student won a competition to hang out with two rare white lions and Northland’s Craig Busch – also known as the Lionman – who are in Hamilton for the Small Block Expo at Claudelands Events Centre, which ends tomorrow.

For about 10 minutes yesterday the young animal lover got to hold Themba, who was in the city with his brother Thambo, his father Aduma and mother Imula.

The pair were born in Whangarei eight weeks ago. Just 136 live in captivity worldwide.

The South African species has been extinct in the wild for 20 years.

Lucy got a day off school with her sister Grace, 7, for the experience and said she loved all animals, but the cubs were pretty special.

“They’re cute and look at their fur,” Lucy said.

Themba didn’t move much in Lucy’s arms and was a big softie, she said.

Lucy’s mum Nicky said although the family already had two dogs and a goat, her daughter was saving for a palomino horse.

Mrs Coombes enrolled Lucy in a holiday programme where children adopt and care for a horse for three days.

“I’d sort of hoped that would put her off it (getting a horse), but she loved it and with this (visit), it’ll probably happen.”

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