Rare white lion celebrates milestone 20th birthday at zoo — happy birthday, Gracious

It’s always a fun day when zoos celebrate their animals’ birthdays, but one lion has really given them something to celebrate, defying her life expectancy and hitting a milestone birthday.

Gracious, a female white lion who lives at the Cincinnati Zoo, celebrated her 20th birthday yesterday — a big achievement considering the species’ median life expectancy is just 16 years.

Please wish this beautiful old gal a Happy 20th Birthday today! The median life expectancy for this species is 16…

Posted by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on Thursday, April 1, 2021

“Her longevity can be attributed to the special geriatric enrichment, diet, and TLC that she has received from her care team,” the Cincinnati Zoo wrote on Facebook, wishing their lion a happy birthday.

Gracious was born at the zoo on April 1, 2001, one of the four cubs born that year to her mom Prosperity. She was the only female cub.

One of the lion’s caregivers said that Gracious is “very stubborn and can be cantankerous,” but that she can also be a joy to work with.

“She is very smart and I has been easy to train to accept her vaccinations. She loves to eat. Her favorite things are bones.”

Please wish Gracious the white lion a Happy 17th Birthday today! One of Gracious' caregivers tells us more about this…

Posted by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on Sunday, April 1, 2018

“I’m glad that she has enjoyed such a long happy life and wish her many more,” the zookeeper said on her birthday in 2018.

According to WLWT, Gracious’ mother Prosperity also had a long life, living to the age of 22. She died earlier this year. She had been brought to the zoo in 1998 by magicians Siegfriend and Roy.

White lions like Gracious and Prosperity are extremely rare. The zoo says they only occur naturally in the Timbavati region in South Africa, and were last seen there in 1994.

“White lions are a rare color mutation of the African lion,” the zoo wrote. “They are not albinos; they are leucistic, which is lack of dark pigmentation.”

“They get their coloring from a recessive gene known as a color inhibitor. To produce a white lion, both parents must possess the recessive gene.”

We know everyone loves all of our adorable baby animals but let's take some time to appreciate some of the older…

Posted by Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden on Thursday, November 12, 2020

We’re glad this beautiful white lion is doing so well in her old age. We hope she continues to defy her life expectancy and has many more years to come!

Happy birthday, Gracious! 🎂 Share this great news on Facebook!