The Supermodel’s Star Lions

It’s one of the rarest sightings in the animal kingdom and it happens naturally only in one place in the world, the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve. For centuries, it has been considered a sacred site by the African kings and the name means “the place where something sacred came down to the earth from the heavens”. Symbols of purity and light, one woman’s path lead her on a passionate journey of conservation to protect the king of kings, the White Lion.

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Image Courtesy: whitelions.org

Africa is the land of storytelling, immersed in legend, mysticism and magic. Linda Tucker, a model and advertising executive turned conservationist and author, is one of these remarkable tales of fated African experience. Her expeditions on safari lead her to this new life path and it all began on a night game drive.

The Land Rover she was travelling in got stuck in the mud and had come across a pride of somewhat angry tawny lions. Tawny refers to the golden coloured lions, or the more common species. With the vehicles surrounded, a little fearful and with an earful of mighty roars, a woman appeared out of the darkness.

At first, Linda had wondered if she was hallucinating, but a local woman approached and got into the vehicle and an eery calm settled over the lions. Maria Khosa was a Shangaan priestess known as the Lion Queen and she had helped to aid the safe return of the group.

After Linda’s profound encounter, the proverbial call of the wild was strong enough for her to leave her concrete jungle life behind and start the Global White Lion Trust.  Her conservational work, her spiritual experiences and her love for these white pelted felines is chronicled in her book, Mystery of the White Lions: Children of the Sun God.

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Image: Courtesy starlionjourneys.org

Gravely endangered, there are a minuscule amount roaming free in the Timbavati Region in South Africa. The trust manages the Tsau White Lion Heartland, a protected wilderness area, and also works to protect the indigenous Tsonga and Sepedi cultures that celebrate the White Lion as part of the sacred heritage. Emerging from African legend in 1928 into the realm of fact, sightings were recorded and they were revered by local tribesmen as the spirits of deceased kings and chiefs.

The White Lion is a very distinctive species and they are result of a very rare genetic code that some golden lions carry. This genetic code was discovered by scientific research in 1997 and is a markup that dates back hundreds of thousands of years. Their biggest threat is the notorious canned trophy hunting industry and commercial traders that regard these incredible creatures as high income commodities.

The story of the white lions is a fascination and for a few blessed few, a sighting on safari is not only a privilege but a raw and strikingly unforgettable insight into Africa. Nature’s power is evident in the piercingly blue eyes of these animals. To learn more about Linda Tucker, her work, the “royal family” at Timbavati and how you can help make a difference for their future, click here http://www.whitelionshomeland.org

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