White lions are native only to the Timbavati region of South Africa. They are not albinos; instead, their white color is due to a recessive trait from a lesser mutation in the same gene that creates albinism. White lions range in color from blond to nearly white. White lions have pigment visible in their eyes, which can be hazel, blue-gray or green-gray.
White lions can be bred for zoos, wildlife parks and animal shows using selective breeding. Since this breeding involves inbreeding, it can lead to reduced fertility, genetic defects and physical defects.
White lions were recorded as being sighted for the first time in 1938 in the Timbavati region, where locals regard them as being divine. White lions have been hunted for trophies. The Global White Lion Protection Trust started reintroducing white lions into their ancestral homeland in 2004. To date, three prides have been successfully reintroduced.
Some think that white lions are genetically inferior to tawny-colored lions or that they cannot survive in the wild due to their lack of camouflage; however, neither of these ideas has been scientifically tested. White lions are categorized under the Panthera leo species classification; however, efforts are being made to give them a more specific sub-species classification.