Uniquely for a wildlife book, we have collaborated with some of the best creative minds to create concepts which clearly show the challenges and threats that Lions currently face. We highlight what needs to happen to prevent losing them for ever.
I first started working with The Born Free Foundation on their campaigning work 12 years ago. We targeted many of the main threats and dangers which are decimating wildlife across the planet. However, it soon became clear that we couldn’t just show poached or hunted animals. Most people switch off when confronted with a slaughtered Elephant or butchered Rhino. We realised that we needed a different approach to get our messages across and engage with our audience in a more sophisticated and thought-provoking manner. So, when I embarked on this book, it was important for me to carry on this work.
We invited some of the best creative minds to submit ideas and concepts which highlight the problems fast causing the demise of the Lion population.
Habitat loss, human-wildlife conflict, captivity, trophy hunting, canned hunting and the Lion bone trade all need to be addressed if we are to halt the slide towards extinction.
I’d like to say massive thanks to all those brilliant contributors (listed below) who attacked this brief with such heartfelt enthusiasm.
Isabel Albarran, Tim Brookes, Lawrence Clift, Grant Codron, Richard Connor, Matt Crump, Ryan Delaney, Jordan Down, Simon Haselhurst, Steve Hawthorn, Katy Hopkins, Emma Houlston, Richard Ince, Gavin Johnson, Chris Jones, Nick Kidney, Jon Leney, Kel Lunam-Cowen, Simon Mannion, Wiliam Marseden, Colin McKean, Prad Nair, Hector Ojea Pereiro, Richard Pirelli, Adrian Raphoz, Pete Sanna, Tiger Savage, Dan Seager, Oliver Short, Tomas Smith, Kevin Stark, Andrew Stone, Adam Taylor-Smith, Emma Thomas, Ady Thomas, Edward Tillbrook, Alexa Turnpenny, Darren Urquart, Trevor Webb, Matt Weston, David White, Olly Wood, Stephen Yeates
The cubs are taken from their mothers at two to four weeks old. They are then offered for ‘cub petting’, where unsuspecting tourists will pay $50.00 to stroke them and have their picture taken with them.
When they are two months to two years old, they are used for ‘walking with Lions’ experiences. Tourists unwittingly pay up to $280.00 to walk with the animals in what they think is a conservation experience. But few of them consider where all those Lions go once they get too large and dangerous to walk with.
Between the age of two and five years, they are kept in breeding pens until they are considered large and impressive enough to shoot. They are then sold in ‘canned Lion hunts’ for anything up to $50,000.00. They are released into fenced enclosures, with no chance of escape and shot with high powered rifles. The Lion’s head will then be severed and offered as a trophy to the hunter.
Even in death, the Lion’s body will be exploited. The bones are sold for approx. $8,000.00 to the Lion bone industry, to be used in medicines and Lion wine in the Far East.
“Lions are being wiped out silently. You don’t see many pictures of dead Lions as there are of Elephants or Rhinos. They are quietly poisoned, out of sight. Lions have no natural predators in the wild, yet we are losing them at the rate of two per day. There is a real possibility that they will become extinct by the middle of this century.”
“One evening in December 2015, we sat observing the Marsh pride at dusk. The only vehicle around as the sun went down. In the distance I could see local herdsmen driving their cattle into the reserve to graze. It struck me that if I could see them, then the Lions certainly could.
Next morning, we returned to see the ominous sight of the Lions feasting on a cow. We knew there would be repercussions.
Three days later, came the news that the pride had been poisoned. Nine Lions were affected and three died, including the matriarchal Lioness.
The point I want to make is that everyone thinks there is an army of conservationists protecting these Lions, the most famous Lion pride in Africa, but in reality, there is not. They are so vulnerable.”
There are many wonderful wildlife photographers, but George’s images are amongst the most intriguing, thought-provoking and original.
Born Free founder and actress Virginia McKenna OBE
The human race has to now decide whether it is prepared to share the planet with the last few surviving of the most iconic predator.