Johannesburg - The birth of three rare white lion cubs at the Drakenstein Lion Park in Paarl, Western Cape, is a Christmas miracle.
The park is a sanctuary for abused and rescued lions, but it does not breed them.
Park owner Paul Hart said that a week before Christmas, Nala, a white lioness, had given birth to a trio of cubs - despite the fact that her mate Brutus had been sterilised.
Brutus and Nala were moved to the park five years ago when Cape Town's Tygerberg Zoo closed down.
“Brutus had been sterilised three years ago. He and Nala had been sexually mature for more than three years without breeding - until now,” Hart said.
Nala had started acting strangely a few days before Christmas. The lioness did not have much of an appetite, and the staff assumed she was ill. Being pregnant with three cubs was the last thing they expected.
The cubs will join the pride of eight white lions in the park.
Hart noted that there were between 400 and 500 white lions in the world, with most of them in Africa.
“Genetic mutation causes the condition of white lions, and because they don't camouflage very well, they don’t survive in the wild,” he said.
However, despite the joy the unexpected cubs had brought, Hart said the sanctuary had no plans to breed more white lions.
They would be re-examining Brutus’s sterilisation to ensure they didn't have another surprise pregnancy.
Hart said Nala and Brutus were both proving to be super first-time parents.
“They are very relaxed around their new cubs and often Brutus is the one babysitting,” he said.