pumba white lion

Temba, right, bonds with Nomatemba, his long-time female companion. Image: Geoffrey Howarth

Pumba game reserve says goodbye to iconic white lion Temba

Temba, beloved founding father of the famous white lion pride at Pumba Private Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape, has died.

pumba white lion

Temba, right, bonds with Nomatemba, his long-time female companion. Image: Geoffrey Howarth

Temba, the most famous white lion at Pumba Private Game Reserve, died shortly after midnight on Sunday.

The reserve said its rangers and staff were extremely sad about the death of Temba, a lion synonymous with conservation efforts at Pumba.

Temba launched Pumba’s white lion conservation bid

Temba was introduced onto the reserve in 2005 as a 16-month-old together with two split-gene tawny lionesses, Ntombi and Vela. The dream was to establish the first free-roaming pride of white and tawny-coloured lions in the world.

The efforts were seen by many as futile. Sceptics suggested white lions could not survive in the wild due to hunting and social difficulties. It was also not known why white lions had disappeared from the wild in Timbavati, where they were first discovered in 1967.

Temba proved all the critics wrong. He fathered two litters, five cubs in all, of white lions with his later-introduced white female, Nomatemba. He became grandfather to another 12 cubs, tawny and white, through the successful introduction of both white and split-gene tawny lions at Pumba.

White lion Temba reached ripe old age of 16

Temba reached 16½ years of age before his death on Sunday. His age is a major feat for this free-roaming, self-sufficient lion that began hunting just three weeks after being released onto the reserve.

Even at his advanced age, he was seen feeding alongside the dominant male, his son. He was also kept company by all of the generations of lions at Pumba throughout the last few years.

But Temba’s age caught up with him this past weekend and Pumba’s conservation team monitored him closely as he rested under a large, shady tree at the edge of a plain. Shortly before he died, he was joined by Nomatemba, his long-time companion, sitting quietly next to him.

White lions thriving at Pumba

Dale Howarth, one of Pumba’s founders, had always dreamed of establishing a self-sufficient, free-roaming, fully wilded pride of white and tawny lions. Temba was the founder of this dream turned reality.

“We are extremely sad to see Temba go, but so grateful and honoured to have seen him create a legacy of such a great stature,” the reserve said in a statement.

“As long as Pumba is around and for years after, Temba will be remembered as the true king of an extraordinary pride of lions which continues to thrive.”