Battle royal looms over rare king of jungle

By Melanie-ann Feris Time of article published Apr 16, 2001

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A right royal battle is taking place about the ownership of the king of the beasts. Zeus, a lion with rare white-lion genes, is at the centre of the legal wrangle.

Marius Prinsloo, who owns the Camorhi Game Lodge in the Free State, has owned Zeus for the past five years.

He said he received the lion from the Johannesburg Zoo on the understanding that he would supply the zoo with a lion with different genes.

"No one knew he had white genes. It happened by coincidence that we found out when his offspring were born."

Prinsloo said the zoo did not get back to him about the lion he owed them as, at that stage, the pens at the zoo were too small to properly accommodate them.

"So I did not bother to contact the zoo," he said.

"But since AngloGold gave them money to revamp the pen, they want the lion back," he said.

In the four years Zeus has been at the game lodge, he has produced 10 offspring.

The Johannesburg Zoo went to court and has received an urgent order allowing them to receive temporary ownership of the lion. Prinsloo has until April 21 to contest the order.

Dr Lesley Rasmussen, manager of veterinary services and animal collection for the zoo, said, however, that Prinsloo had not signed a breeding loan agreement before he took the lion.

"When we called to inquire about the lion he told us it had died, but we subsequently heard this was not so.

"He had tried to sell one of the offspring over the Internet. We usually claim half the offspring with our breeding loan agreements. We have received no offspring, and we now want to know when offspring are born.

"But when we contacted him he claimed it (the cub) was not from our lion," Rasmussen said.

It is estimated there are fewer than 50 white lions in the world.

Rasmussen said the last white lion sold in the United States went for about R800 000.

"We're glad we'll have Zeus back. We regard him as ours."

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