The National Zoo & Aquarium and Jamala Wildlife Lodge today celebrated the 13th birthday of brother and sister white lion duo, Jake and Mischka.
The pair ripped open their birthday presents this morning, with the keepers spoiling them with some of their favourite things, including a ball for Mischka.
“As you can see, they’ve had a great time to rip in and celebrate,” said Zoo wildlife and grounds manager Bec Scott.
The white lions arrived at Canberra’s National Zoo from South Africa in 2008, just after their first birthday.
At the age of 13, they would be nearing the end of their lifespan in the wild, however Jake and Mischka have reached middle age for lions in captivity.
“Mid-to-late teens is a normal lifespan for a lion, but at the zoo, lots of lions tend to live beyond their mid-20s,” Ms Scott said.
While white lions are rare in the wild, small numbers are found in some wildlife reserves in South Africa.
“White lions are considered extinct in the wild, and we have them here at the zoo to help educate people on conservation and the impact that humans have on white lions,” Ms Scott said.
White lions are not a separate subspecies to African Lions, and they are not albinos. They have a condition known as leucism, caused by a recessive gene.
It is simply a reduction in the colour pigments of the skin and, strictly speaking, they’d be more correctly referred to as ‘blonde’ lions.
It was a delight for Jake and Mischka to be able to celebrate with the public during what’s been a disrupted year at the Zoo that has caused stress for both the staff and animals.
The outdoor venue was heavily affected by the bushfire smoke at the beginning of the year before COVID shut the facility down between 25 March and 30 May.
Ms Scott said the closure was difficult for all the animals who loved being visited, with the increase in visitors brought on by the warmer weather welcomed by all.
“We have noticed an increase in visitors and also with Zoo members,” Ms Scott said. “With smoke at the beginning of the year and people locked away, we’re certainly seeing members getting back out to the Zoo.”