Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rare white lions from South Africa arrive at Spring Hill refuge


Thursday morning at Jimmy Jablon's wildlife rescue, a red pickup hauling a horse trailer pulled in the drive. In the back were two crates that had started their journey more than a day before in South Africa, then were flown to Amsterdam, then to Miami and picked up by a man who drove them to Spring Hill.

On each crate was a label. "Live Animals," it said, with illustrations of four — a dog, birds, fish and a turtle.

Underneath, in ink somewhere along the way, someone wrote what was inside the box:


"They are supposed to be friendly and hand-raised by the locals," Jablon said before opening the cages.

"We'll find out in a minute."

Jablon slept little Wednesday night, nervous and excited. He had waited four months and cashed in his life insurance policy to get them — a male and female white lion, extremely rare and believed to be extinct in the wild. According to the Global White Lion Protection Trust, white lions are not albinos, but a genetic rarity specific to the Timbavati region of South Africa.

Jablon, who runs Wildlife Rehabilitation of Hernando Florida, has rehabilitated native animals — raccoons, opossums, birds — for most of his life, but has rescued exotic animals in recent years — tigers, lions, cougars, spider monkeys, kinkajous, lemurs, wallabies. His friend Jerry Holly, who runs Micanopy Zoological Preserve, found out about these two white lions for sale and the two men bought them together. Jablon wouldn't say the price.

The lions will live at Jablon's rescue because Holly, who picked up the lions in Miami and drove them to Spring Hill, doesn't deal with big cats. Jablon said he wanted these lions, which are about 16 months old, to help conserve the species and, hopefully, to make some money by selling their cubs to quality zoos. Jablon said his full-time job is taking care of his animals and that the rescue runs on donations, which are scant.

Jablon is leaving the lions alone for the next few days so they can get used to their new home — a 6,000-square-foot enclosure with a pool and toys. They scarfed down the 10 pounds of chicken Jablon gave them. He doesn't know their names yet.

"I'm just so excited they are finally here," he said.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at or (727) 869-6229.

Wildlife Rehabilitation of Hernando Florida

To visit the white lions and the other animals at the Spring Hill rescue — everything from tigers and monkeys to raccoons and opossums — contact owner Jimmy Jablon to set up an appointment. The website is and his number is (352) 279-3600. He can give tours to individuals and large

groups. Tickets are $17.50 for adults, $8.50 for children ages 4 to 10. Kids 3 and younger are free. Jablon said visitors can get personal interaction with the animals. "Make sure you bring your camera," he said.

Rare white lions from South Africa arrive at Spring Hill refuge 05/13/10 [Last modified: Thursday, May 13, 2010 8:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Nearly 1 in 4 Tampa Bay homeowners considered equity rich

    Real Estate

    If your home is worth at least 50 percent more than you owe, you're rich — equity rich that is.

    About one in four Tampa Bay homeowners are considered "equity rich." [Associated Press file photo]
  2. Trump strategist Steve Bannon: No military solution in North Korea


    BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon says there's no military solution to the threat posed by North Korea and its nuclear ambitions, despite the president's recent pledge to answer further aggression with "fire and fury."

    Steve Bannon, chief White House strategist to President Donald Trump, has drawn fire from some of Trump's closest advisers. [Associated Press]
  3. Rays have their chances, but end up with another loss (w/video)

    The Heater

    TORONTO — The litany of games the Rays have given away this season is long enough, arguably too long. So the only way to get to the postseason is make up for some of those losses by grabbing some wins when the opportunity is presented, especially at this time of year when the margin is diminished and the stakes …

    Associated Press
  4. Dunedin man accused of possessing child pornography


    DUNEDIN — A 57-year-old man was arrested Wednesday, accused of intentionally downloading child pornography, the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office said.

    Richard Beal Anger, 57, of Dunedin faces 11 counts of possession of child pornography. [Courtesy of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Pence cuts short Latin America trip and pressures Chile to sever all ties to North Korea


    SANTIAGO, Chile — Vice President Mike Pence is cutting short his Latin America trip by one day to return to Washington for a strategy meeting Friday at Camp David with President Donald Trump and the national security team.

    Vice President Mike Pence urged Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to take a tougher stand against North Korea on Wednesday in Santiago, Chile.