White lion brother and sister arrive at Middle Eastern park

January 06, 2010 17:43 PM

UAE’s Al Ain Park Aims To Help Save White Lions

ABU DHABI, Jan 6 (Bernama) — The recent arrival of two white lions at the United Arab Emirates’ Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort will hopefully raise an awareness of protecting the endangered species, according to Emirates news agency (WAM) quoting a report in “The National”.

The brother and sister lions are among the last of such kind, and the park is calling the pair “conservation ambassadors”.

It is believed that there have been 450,000 lions in the wild 50 years ago, but the number has dwindled to about 20,000. There are only a few white lions in captivity and they are believed to be extinct in the wild.

“We are trying to 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,” said Farshid Mehrdadfar, the park’s animal collection manager.

Not long ago the African and Asiatic lions ranged from South Africa to the Atlas Mountains in North Africa, and from Mesopotamia to India.

“Wild populations of African lions are collapsing,” said Dr Mike Maunder, the chief conservation, collection, and education officer, adding, “We fear that wild lions will only survive in a few protected areas.”

The Asiatic lion is now found only in one small reserve in India.

The 18-month-old lions were a gift from the Sanbona Wildlife Reserve in South Africa. They were flown on a passenger plane from South Africa to Dubai less than two months ago.

Since their arrival at Al Ain, Bridget Tighe, a trainer, has been working extensively to help acclimate the lions to their new surroundings.

“I was hand-feeding them and enforcing gentle behaviour with them, forming a bond so they trust me and know that I am not a threat to them,” she said.

Once they began coming around I started basic training, teaching them to follow commands that allow me to care for them properly like being able to inspect their paws and check their health… Although the female remains slightly nervous, the male now lets the trainer to touch his tail, even sticking it through his cage so she can tend to a wound on it.”




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