BOOKS—Saving the White Lions: One Woman’s Battle for Africa’s Most Sacred Animal

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July-August 2013:

Saving the White Lions: One Woman’s Battle for Africa’s Most Sacred Animal by Linda Tucker North Atlantic Books  (2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way,   Berkeley,  CA 94704),  2013.   489 pages,  paperback.  $16.95.

In November 1991,  not long after Nelson Mandela was released after serving 27 years in prison for fighting apartheid, South African author Linda Tucker and several friends drove to a favorite childhood haunt of hers in the “middle of the untamed African bushveld,”  as Tucker describes it.  The greatest threat to white lions today is rich American hunters. Instead of finding a white lioness they heard had recently given birth,  they hit a tree stump with their Land Rover, damaging the steering column.  Their radio was also left inoperable.  Snarling lions surrounded them in the darkness. Desperate,  one of the men stood on the vehicle screaming for help.  Out of nowhere a woman in tribal dress with a baby strapped to her back appeared,  accompanied by a small boy and girl,  apparently walking into the jaws of death.  But the mother and children passed unharmed and the lions became silent. Soon they scattered. Tucker returned to her work as a model and advertising executive,  but “no longer enjoyed the thrill of leading fashion trends.”  Eventually she abandoned her career and returned to the bush to find her rescuer,  Maria Khosa,  known as the lion queen of Timbavati.  From Khosa,  who appeared to have been expecting her,  Tucker learned that the white lions of the Timbavati region had almost been hunted to extinction.  Founding the Global White Lion Protection Trust in 2002,  Tucker has worked ever since to save white lions and other animals from hunters,  canned hunt promoters,  and locals who see the lions as livestock predators.    Summarized one local newspaper headline, “White lions return to region: neighbors threaten legal action.”  Trophy hunters pay big money to shoot wild animals,  a form of legalized crime in Tucker’s view.  Despite local efforts to save wildlife,  Tucker charges,  officials are easily bribed to ignore poaching––and South Africa wildlife laws are written to favor ranching,  not conservation,  let alone animal rights. Saving the White Lions was originally published in 2010 as Mystery of the White Lions:  Children of the Sun God. ––Debra J. White

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