An African Green Lion?

Posted by: Nick Redfern on November 19th, 2012

Dr. Karl Shuker tells us:

“…as very briefly mentioned in C.A.W. Guggisberg’s book Simba: The Life of the Lion (1961) and subsequently recalled in my own book Mystery Cats of the World (1989), what was claimed to be a bona fide green lion was allegedly spied on one occasion by a prospector in the forests of western Uganda. Could it have been an individual covered in greenish slime from a stagnant, alga-choked pool in which it had recently bathed? Possibly, although Guggisberg took a rather more pragmatic view: ‘[It] no doubt emerged from a whisky bottle!’ Whatever the answer, this is not the only green-furred big cat on record from Africa.”

Indeed, Karl tells a fascinating story of other such oddly colored cats…

Nick Redfern About Nick Redfern
Punk music fan, Tennents Super and Carlsberg Special Brew beer fan, horror film fan, chocolate fan, like to wear black clothes, like to stay up late. Work as a writer.

13 Responses to “An African Green Lion?”

  1. PhotoExpert responds:

    Well, one’s eyes can deceive them. On the other hand, there is a possibility of seeing a green lion. How? Maybe algae as described here.

    I have actually seen a green lioness one time. While at a local zoo, I took a photo of a lion. This was back in the days of film. When I received my negatives and proofs, the lioness was indeed green. I had photographed her walking over grass. And some types of grass can be pretty reflective around 18%-26% reflective. She was low enough to the ground, that she picked up the reflected light from the grass and she was indeed green in color.

    While photographing the scene I did not notice the green color because I had to keep my camera focused on her through the small viewfinder. She was walking towards me and I was shooting through thick glass. She must have hit a spot at just the right angle.

    My point is, that if the conditions were just right, like with the lioness I was photographing, the lion spotted by the prospector could have indeed appeared green. He would not be lying. In fact, he would be telling the truth.

    It makes sense too because the article says it was spotted in the forests of western Uganda. He would not have seen it if it were deep enough in the forest. I imagine it gets thick really fast. He probably spotted it in an open area where the forest just ends. Plenty of green foliage there to reflect the green hue onto the lion’s fur, thus making it appear green.

    I believe this account because there is a rational and simple explanation. When compared to the data and eyewitness testimony, it makes perfect sense. What could have been an extraordinary claim is explained by ordinary optical physics.

  2. corrick responds:

    Not sure why Karl would even write about this. He knows full well there are no mammals with green fur and why.

    PhotoExpert’s personal anecdote is a good one. Alga, light reflection, etc, but no mammal has green fur.

  3. karlshuker responds:

    I write about it, Chris, because it is interesting, and because, if you’d read it carefully, you’d have seen that there was a real mystery needing a solution – the origin of Heuvelmans’s claimed green leopard in his extensive cryptozoological checklist. And also because sometimes a highly unusual article like that one of mine can elicit some unexpected but fascinating responses – not yours, but definitely PhotoExpert’s, which I was delighted to read. Lastly, yes there are some naturally (as opposed to alga-associated) green mammals, most notably a species of green squirrel and also a green possum. For details, check out a much earlier ShukerNature post of mine.


  4. karlshuker responds:

    Further to my previous response, I should add that in the article Chris Orrick links to, the author entirely overlooks the notable fact that not all mammals are preyed upon by other mammals. Arboreal rodents and marsupials are often preyed upon by birds of prey, which needless to say have excellent colour vision, rendering camouflage vital if such mammals are to avoid predation by these avian killers. Here, therefore, is reason enough for some arboreal rodents and marsupials to be green, and sure enough, as I’ve already noted in my previous response, there is a green squirrel and a green possum. Even the vervet monkey has olive-coloured fur (hence its alternative name of green monkey). No green mammals? Think again.

  5. corrick responds:

    Not certain we have any argument here, only a misunderstanding.

    The green ringtail possum from Australia has a greenish tint. But in reality the fur is olive grey, and grizzled with silver, yellow and black hairs, which only make it appear green just like the Green bush squirrel from Cameroon. And the upper part of the face of vervet monkeys can appear green, but is caused by the banding together of individual hairs with black and yellow strands.

    Under a microscope, naturally green or blue mammal fur has never been found, ever. As an optical illusion to the human eye? Certainly. Caused by external elements such as alga? Of course. But naturally ocuring? Never.

    All I’m saying is 2012 science says there are no truly green leopards, lions or blue tigers. That other factors are involved that might make them appear green or blue to the human eye I have no dispute.

  6. karlshuker responds:

    Chris, you seem to be missing a fundamental point here, one that reveals you to be a hypocrite as far as green mammals are concerned. You state that the green hue of naturally green-looking mammals (the green squirrel and possum I referred to in earlier responses here) is due to an optical illusion caused by the mingling together of hairs of other hues that when seen together yield a green appearance, and not to a green pigment. Yes of course, but so what? By that same definition, green amphibians are not green either (their greenness is due to varying combinations of other pigments and refraction of those pigments, not to the presence of a green pigment), nor are green birds green (their green hue is generated by the reflection of green light from ridges on their external surface, not from the presence of green pigment). You referred me via a link in your first response to a paper on green animals. If you’d read that paper carefully yourself, you’d have read the following excerpt from it:

    “As I started researching this a bit more, I was astounded to discover that frogs, birds, and others in the tetrapod, or four-legged, world can’t make green pigment, either! Or blue, for that matter. It turns out that all color variation that we see in tetrapod animals is the result of different combinations of patterns of deposition and refraction of the same two types of pigments: black and yellow-red. A chameleon’s color changes because of rapid shape changes in refractory cells in its skin, not by rapid production or release of an actual pigment. Frogs are green because of the pattern of refraction of blue light by special cells in their skin, which blends with their yellow pigment.

    The colors of bird feathers are also generated by light refraction but by a different mechanism. The surface of feathers has microscopic ridges that form ordered tracks, much like the surface of a CD. The spacing of the ridges and the size and orientation of the pigment granules they contain determine the feathers’ brilliant greens and blues (see links in reference 2). Tiny air pockets in feathers can add to color variation in birds.”

    So the green mammals that do exist are no less (or more) green than the green amphibians and green birds. There may not be as many of them, but those that do exist warrant their green status just as much as the next green frog or green finch, for instance, that you encounter. So please, no more “there are no green mammals” – green is very much in the eye of the beholder, even if it isn’t in the skin of the beheld.

    As for your remark re blue tigers: the son of Harry Caldwell, who wrote about his two separate sightings of blue tigers in his book Blue Tiger (1925), wrote in a book of his own of how he sometimes saw clumps of blue fur along the trails left by this remarkable big cats when he was accompanying his father tracking them. I would love to know whether any such samples were ever collected and, if so, where they are now. Genetically, the occurrence of a blue tiger would be nothing difficult to explain – pelts of blue lynxes and blue bobcats already exist, and as many mutant colours in cats are genetically homologous between species, it is therefore likely that the same mutant allele combination (‘blue dilution’) responsible for this shade in domestic cats as well as in the afore-mentioned lynxes and bobcats would also yield a blue tiger, with a polygenic effect creating its black stripes.

  7. Alamo responds:

    Lions turn green with envy after glancing upon the magnificence of his beard…

    He is THE most interesting man in Cryptozoology…

  8. corrick responds:

    Calm down. Can’t argue with any of your points.
    All I wanted to point out was that people shouldn’t think that any mammal truly has green hair. Or blue hair. That’s all.

  9. karlshuker responds:

    Then may I calmly – and politely – ask why you, Chris, made the following abrasive, dogmatic comment in the first place? “Not sure why Karl would even write about this. He knows full well there are no mammals with green fur and why.” If you’d read my article properly, you’d know that this was not the focus of it at all. Instead, the whole point of my article – the reason why I “would even write about this” – was to communicate my investigation of an intriguing little crypto-mystery that had been in print and therefore in full view for years yet had not previously attracted any comment from anyone who had read it. Namely, Heuvelmans’s extraordinary inclusion of green leopards in his cryptozoological checklist. What was his original, primary source for such a claim? And why did green leopards not even appear in his own book that he gave in his checklist as a secondary source for this claim? Now, as I duly revealed in my article, we finally appear to have an answer to these questions. To this end, the question of why the leopards were green – whether green-furred, alga-covered, or any other explanation – was irrelevant to me. What I was interested in was uncovering the origin of Heuvelmans’s claim that green leopards had been reported. And now I think I have done. End of story.

  10. PhotoExpert responds:

    Karl–Glad you enjoyed my response. I actually had not heard of the story of the green lion. So I was glad you wrote about it. As a crypto-enthusiast, I am always interested in new stories or even older ones that I have not heard before. This was one of them. I for one, am glad you wrote about it.

    And you are correct, sometimes things sound very strange. Sometimes we think there is no plausible explanation. They remain a mystery for years until someone researches the topic or gives a credible explanation. When that happens, these impossible stories become highly probable. And we even find answers. When I read this, it reminded me of the time I printed a photo of the green lion. I was thinking to myself, man, I have a lot of color correction and tint correction to perform on this otherwise great photograph. When I showed the proof to a couple of friends, without me saying a word, they would respond, “Great lion photo but why is it green”. When I read your article, I was immediately reminded of that photo.

    As for other posters here at Cryptomundo. I think people mean well. Sometimes, when posting, we can not hear the reflection in their voice when they write things. Corrick is an alright person in my book. He adds a lot to posts and plainly speaks his mind. In other words, he is a good egg. It’s just from his plain speaking, he sometimes seems antagonistic but in reality, that is not the case. He does not mean to be hostile. It is not intentional at all. It just seems passive aggressive.

    When I first read a couple of his posts, I was thinking the same thing you were thinking. I was thinking, corrick is a little abrasive. But over time, I realized that this is just his writing style. He gets right to the point of what he wants to say, not thinking about directing it at anyone in particular, just getting to different facts. I almost took something he wrote personally, but after reading some of his responses, I figured out it was not directed at me in the first place but to someone else or nobody at all.

    I can tell by his additional responses he was truly unaware of and surprised that his comments were upsetting to you. I would not take it personally or read too much into it. And if corrick did not think your article was worthy of a response, he would not have given them any of his time. Bottom line, it was a good article and I for one, am glad you brought it up.

    Corrick–Thanks for the comment and I hope I did not overstep my bounds in playing mediator. I know you are perfectly capable of speaking for yourself.

  11. karlshuker responds:

    Thanks for the kind words re my article, PhotoExpert, and once again for posting your original response re your green lion photo, which fascinated me as I had never encountered anything like that before. Indeed, I only wish that I’d known about your experience when I was still writing my new book on magical, mythological, and mystery cats, because I would very much have liked to include it in the green lion/leopard section of my book, as I feel that it would have made a most valuable, insightful contribution to the subject. However, I could still add it to my article on my ShukerNature blog as an update if you are willing for me to do so, which of course would be credited directly to yourself as its source under your Cryptomundo user name of PhotoExpert or to your real name if you were willing to share that with me and for me to cite it. Perhaps you could let me know, either here or via email to me at my usual email address of
    I’ve known Chris Orrick (Corrick) for a long time, and like you I am aware of his direct means of expression, but what primarily incited me to respond to his comment was the fact that he seemed to have missed the entire point of my article, which was that I had investigated a mystery that had been in full view of the cryptozoological readership for many years yet without ever having attracted any attention before – namely, where had Heuvelmans obtained his information re the supposed existence of green leopards? Whether their fur was green because of nature, or algae, or anything else, was irrelevant to that. It was uncovering Heuvelmans’s primary source, or determining whether (as I appear to have done) he had instead misremembered a reference to a green lion report, that was of interest to me. Anyway, I feel that I have made this point adequately here now, and once again I am happy that you enjoyed my article.

  12. Alamo responds:

    I’ve actually seen both lions and tigers covered in algae (from getting in pools with it on the surface) at a wildlife park in Thailand (Safari World). I suppose you could see them as green in a certain light from a distance. Even though they were covered in it, it was pretty obvious that it was green particles stuck to the surface, rather than the coloration of the animal itself. I might even have some pictures around here somewhere…

  13. Alamo responds:

    Here’s the story of a kid whose skin turned green.

    He got copper dust on his skin and it combined with an acid (sweat) to turn it green. What if a lion was to roll in copper rich dust, then get in an acidic pool or wet by acidic rain?

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