MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Jungle Island placed a new “king” and his royal court on display Thursday.
The wildlife park on Watson Island opened its latest exhibit, “Lion’s Den”, which features a white lion, two royal white tigers and two snow tigers.
Visitors can walk right up to the glass for a close-up view of these one-of-a-kind animals. The park already has a similar exhibit that houses the “liger”.
A rare genetic mutation caused by a recessive gene known as the color inhibitor gene gives the white lion its unique coloration which ranges from blonde to near white. They are extremely rare and it is believed that only 300 remain in the world.
White tigers have a certain genetic condition that eliminates the orange color in their skin, which is seen in other tigers. Apart from the absence of the orange color, some white tigers have very pale stripes, which are hardly visible. Such white tigers without the stripes are called ‘snow white’ tigers.
Park curator Dr. Jason Chatfield says these types of animals exist in the wild, but these specific cats were born and raised in captivity.
“They’ve actually all been raised together, they’re actually best friends so to speak so we should have no issues with that, they’re just getting a really nice new home,” he told CBS4′s Natalia Zea.
Managers hope the 5 new cats draw a big crowd by adding to the park’s other tiger and liger exhibit, and all of its other feathered and furry features.
Money concerns have forced park managers to put major expansion plans on hold and Jungle Island has promised to pay off its 2 million dollar federal loan. But Dr. Chatfield says they’ve been planning to bring these new creatures in for years.
“We budgeted for this for several years so obviously we hope it’s a boost.”