NATURE Looks At Living Legends In “The White Lions”

Ch. 5.1 – Wednesday 5/9 at 7:00 pm & Sunday 5/13 at 10:00 am
Ch. 9.1 – Saturday 5/12 at 8:00 pm

White lions are among the rarest and most treasured animals in the world. Rarer still is their survival in the wild. Their white color stands out in Africa’s wild bush country, increasing their risk of being targeted and killed by rival predators and marauding adult male lions.

Only three white cubs have reached adulthood in the wilds of South Africa since white lions were first documented there in 1975. Now, two white cubs, sisters, have beaten the odds, surviving all the challenges of their youth with the help of two remarkable lionesses – their mother, Matimba, and their aunt, Khanya, a mother with two young tawny cubs of her own.

Without an adult male lion to protect their small pride, Matimba and Khanya must rely solely on their own knowledge, strength and courage to protect their family. NATURE tracks the cubs and their mothers as they struggle to survive all the dangers they are faced with in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

Watch a preview here:

Used primarily for communication and camouflage, color is one of nature’s most dependable defenses. White lions lose the ability to blend in to their surroundings, exposing them to other predators as well as jeopardizing their own ability to hunt. Overcoming their heightened visibility may be the greatest challenge young white cubs face. Often mistaken for albinos, white lions actually do have some pigmentation and dark eyes. They are leucistic animals, produced by the mating of two tawny lions who both carry a recessive gene for white coat color. Their ghostly white color is both a blessing and a curse, earning them a mythical status and a unique vulnerability.

Together, the single mothers teach the cubs to hunt their prey and establish their domain, and to face down hyenas who would steal their kills. The family returns to their home territory when hunting proves difficult and hunger overtakes them. The mothers spot a lame buffalo and teach the cubs exactly how to plan a successful attack.

When they reach the age of two years old, the white cubs are almost fully grown. The pride moves to a new home range, rich in game, and settles in. Then, a new male lion comes calling.

NATURE pioneered a television genre that is now widely emulated in the broadcast industry. Throughout its history, NATURE has brought the natural world to millions of viewers. The series has been consistently among the most-watched primetime series on public television.

Celebrating its 30th season, NATURE is a production of THIRTEEN in association with WNET, the parent company of THIRTEEN and WLIW21, New York’s public television stations and operator of NJTV. is the award-winning web companion to NATURE featuring streaming episodes, filmmaker interviews, teacher’s guides, and more.

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