Rare White Lion at Risk of Being Sold and Shot by Hunters: Reports

November 16, 2018 Updated: November 16, 2018

A South African wildlife sanctuary says it is prepared to take legal action against the government over custody of a rare white lion—one of about dozen in the wild—over fears that it would be auctioned off and hunted.

The 3-year-old lion, named Mufasa, is being held at the Rustenburg Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in South Africa, known as Wild for Life.

Police in South Africa handed over the lion to the sanctuary in 2015 after they took it from a person who owned it as a pet. The owner didn’t have the right permits, prompting the police action, Fox News reported.

South Africa’s North West Department of Rural, Environmental and Agricultural Development told the Sunday Times newspaper this month that it’s trying to get Mufasa back from the Rustenburg Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. The department said it planned to move the animal to another sanctuary.

According to the Sunday Times, the department denied Mufasa will be sold.

An official with the Rustenburg Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre said she was told by South African officials on Monday that the animal will be auctioned off to “recover legal costs,” Fox reported.

“In the last few weeks we have seen and read extensively about what happens to lions in the industry,” the sanctuary wrote. “This means there is only one of two options left.”

“Please help us prevent the atrocity of having this beautiful lion condemned to a trophy or a bag of bones,” it added.

A petition to save the animal had nearly 240,000 supporters as of Nov. 16.

The Daily Mail reported the lion is infertile, meaning that it would likely be bought by a hunting company and not a breeder.

“Mufasa was confiscated by law enforcement and handed to a wildlife rehabilitation center to be cared for. The rehab center acquired a second cub Suraya, as a companion for Mufasa. Mufasa and Suraya are now three years old and are inseparable,” said the petition.

“Nature conservation officials refused permission for Mufasa to be relocated to a sanctuary, who offered to care for both Mufasa and Suraya for their natural lives, free of charge. Instead, the rehab center was told telephonically that Mufasa will be auctioned to raise funds for the department,” it added.

The Rustenburg center said it has raised more than $7,600 for a court battle to block a potential auction, the Daily Mail noted.

Several celebrities, including comedian Ricky Gervais, have taken up the animal’s cause.

“Shame on the pathetic sadist who pays the money to shoot this animal, and shame on the snivelling coward who accepts the money too. Both worthless,” he tweeted Oct. 18.

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