19 October 2018

Roaring celebrations as Canberra’s white lion duo turn eleven

| Glynis Quinlan
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Jake and Mischka open presents to celebrate their eleventh birthdays. Photo: Supplied.

What animal is rare in the wild, is among the most popular at Canberra’s zoo and has just turned eleven?

There is not one but two answers to this question in the form of white lion duo, Jake and Mischka.

The South African-born brother and sister celebrated their eleventh birthdays at the National Zoo & Aquarium on Friday (October 19) with something everyone loves – big presents!

However, they didn’t receive new skateboards, toys or games on the special day but something they like much better – meat treats.

The lions made quick work out of opening their specially-wrapped boxes and were soon devouring their delicious delicacies.

The popular lion duo have turned eleven. Photo: Supplied.

We don’t know what happened afterwards, but a ‘roaring’ party would seem appropriate.

Jake and Mischka are among the favourite animals for visitors to the zoo and are iconic to Jamala Wildlife Lodge where they are the centrepiece of the dining experience.

White lions, Jake and Mischka relax, eat and snooze next to diners in the Rainforest Cave (who are reflected in the glass). Photo by Glynis Quinlan.

The lions watch over the lodge’s guests as they dine in the Rainforest Cave – separated only by glass.

The beautiful lions came to the National Zoo & Aquarium at around nine months of age and their playful antics have always proved a huge hit with visitors.

“Jake’s regal presence and beauty really does attract the attention from our visitors and kids love to watch Mischka’s playfulness and ball skills when she runs around the enclosure with the soccer balls in Zoocation and school visits,” explained zoo operations manager Renee Osterloh.

White lions Jake and Mischka are popular with visitors. Photo supplied.

White Lions are rare in the wild but small numbers are found in some wildlife reserves in South Africa.

In contrast to common beliefs, 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.

Therefore, strictly speaking, we should not call them ‘white lions’ but instead ‘blonde’ lions.

This matters little to Jake and Mischka, however, just so long as they can keep on playing.

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