All photos: Attila Kisbenedek/AFP/Getty Images
Nala, an 8-week old white lion cub, drinks milk from a bottle on June 3 at her new home in Abony, Hungary. She and her brother, Mombasa, were born on April 1 in northern Italy, but were recently brought to a private zoo located 90 kilometers east of Budapest.
White lions are not albino animals. These exquisite big cats are the result of a recessive leucistic gene that only occurs in the African lion subspecies native to the Timbavati region of South Africa. In their natural endemic range, local communities revere and regard white lions as sacred and lucky.
Although these fair-colored kitties occur in the wild, many of the ones found in zoos, wildlife parks and exotic animal shows were likely the result of selective breeding. Sadly, this is sometimes accomplished through inbreeding, which can result in major birth defects and fertility issues down the road.
White lions may be rare and unique, but reduced pigmentation caused by leucism is a condition that appears in countless animals, including the mysterious white tiger.
Mombasa and Nala pose for a photo while settling into their new home.
A caretaker cuddles with Mombasa.
Mombasa and Nala wrestle at their new home.
A caretaker cuddles with a very playful Mombasa.