City of Joburg

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo

Johannesburg Zoo


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He may appear lean and shabby but Letaba the White Lion, a resident of the Johannesburg Zoo, is in “excellent health”, despite serious concerns raised by members of the public.

Associate Veterinarian Dr Kresen Pillay says the zoo was contacted by a National Inspector at the Wildlife Protection Unit of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) inquiring about Letaba’s health status after a member of the public raised concerns about him appearing “underfed”.
“Despite his physical appearance, Letaba is in excellent health, with a great appetite,” comments Dr Pillay.
He says Letaba’s “appetite is extremely healthy and he is fed 1.5 times more food than the equivalent-aged male lion”.

He explains that white lions carry a recessive gene that gives them their appearance. But as a result of inbreeding for profit operations, genetic defects are often present in white lions.

“Letaba shows a scoliosis and kyphosis deformation of his spine. However, he has had several health G-checks to assess the degree of deformation as well as obtain benchmark radiographs for future monitoring and receives ongoing care by the zoo staff.

“Letaba has also been assessed for pain and discomfort and has not shown any signs of this and is currently on joint supplements and daily monitoring,” says Dr Pillay.

“We will continue to treat him with the outmost care and give him the greatest quality of life,” says Dr Pillay.

Letaba’s distinctive coat and lackadaisical stride has made him a firm favourite with visitors to the Johannesburg Zoo following his arrival at the zoo in August 2014. He was born with sisters Sabi and Jubba at a private game farm in April 2014. The trio were later donated to the Johannesburg Zoo.

Sabi and Jubba do not carry the recessive gene that gives Letaba his colour coat.