A rare white lion cub has been born at Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, zoo officials said on Wednesday.
The male cub was one of two males and one female born on Nov. 21. All three cubs are on display at the zoo with their mother, Ahadi, and aunt, Mfisha.
Zoo director Dennis Pate said the cub is not an albino - instead, a rare recessive gene causes the white coat. White lions originate from Timbavati, an area in Krueger National Park in South Africa. "These weren't intentionally bred to produce a white lion - it's just that this male and female each had this rare gene,"Pate told Reuters. "It's a circumstance that came together to produce this little guy." Pate said a couple of tribes from the Timbavati region believe white lions are the spirits of their ancestors.
The first-time mother is six years old and weighs 335 pounds (152 kg), the zoo said. The father, Mr. Big, is 15 years old, weighs 560 pounds (250 kg) and is currently separated from the females and cubs.
Pate said it is doubtful that the cubs' mother and her sister would allow the male to be with them. "They're so protective of those cubs right now," Pate said."If one gets up, the other goes to sit with the cubs." Pate said four other US zoos have white lions - Toledo, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and the Capron Park Zoo in Attleboro, Massachusetts.