Saving The Lion King
Disney’s The Lion King hits cinema screens on 19th June 2019 …and yes, like you, we’re eagerly anticipating watching this “re-imagining” of the classic Lion King animation from 1994.
Whilst we too, love escaping into the world of fiction every now and again, we’re nothing more passionate about than seeing the real thing – a living, breathing, mighty African lion, roaming the grassy sun-kissed plains we call home.
Lions are majestic animals and much like us humans, go through their everyday journey of love, enjoyment, thrill, adventure and misfortunes. These creatures live within prides, often numbering between a few and twenty individuals, which includes one or two protecting dominant males, females and young cubs & adolescents. And whilst it’s the females that do the majority of the hunting and the males secure the pride with a territory in which to be safe, it’s the males that often “steal” the meals and indeed the public’s attention.
The world will be watching on 19th June; admiring, appreciating and likely dreaming of lions.
But, did you know that lions need saving?
One aspect of 2019 version of Disney’s The Lion King, which you may or may not have seen in various marketing, is the collaboration between Disney and lion conservation, with much needed donations being distributed to lion conservation efforts.
Why are Africa’s lions under threat?
As with many wildlife species, the loss of habitat is a crucial element and leading factor to loss of species, lions included. As the human population expands, as cities grow and as land is consumed by agriculture, lions and other species are being pushed to the limits of the territory.
A direct result of habitat loss, is human-wildlife conflict (HWC), where a lion or other species comes “face to face” with man, local villages and farms. Locals are passionate about providing an income to their families and rightly so, however this can mean that their defence of crops and farmed animals, results in retaliatory killing of animals such as lions.
A known (and yet unknown entity) threatening wild lions is poaching. Evidence shows us that lion poaching happens and is increasing, but the scale of which still lacks research. This article in the Guardian highlights the threat of poaching to lions. Lion poaching is often done with intent to supply the Asian lion bone and parts trade, the local traditional ‘Muti’ medicine trade, whilst the illegal bush meat trade sees lions inadvertently caught in snares set for other animals. We have also seen an increase to the poaching of captive lions within facilities in South Africa.
The elephant in the room and the issue many will not discuss, nor see as a viable threat to Africa’s lions. Trophy hunting, if you speak to right people, is the saving grace for Africa’s animals, yet sadly when we look at the history of trophy hunting, the lion population has been on a constant downward spiral and has plummeted to approximately 43% over the past 21 years. Whilst much of these losses to the lion population may not be linked to trophy hunting, such losses clearly indicate that we have much to do to save lions and trophy hunting lions hasn’t achieved great success. Indeed, trophy hunters often go for “prime looking, healthy big” male lions, lions who may still be dominant lions protecting a pride – the hunting of such lions means the removal of a pride’s protection and a result that can see multiple lion cubs being killed and thus creating a far greater biodiversity and ecosystem issue.
Captive Breeding, Canned Hunting & Lion Bone Trade
A relatively new and “grey” area affecting lions, is the commercialised breeding and exploitation of lions for cub petting, walking with lions activities, captive lion hunting and lion bone trade – all of which are legal industries in South Africa. Tourists are lured to South Africa with opportunities to interact with captive lion cubs, usually forcibly removed from mothers to supply tourist interactions. The consequence of interacting with captive lions, which sees tourists deceived and told that the lion cubs are orphaned (they’re not), is that the cub petting facility requires a constant supply of lion cubs, meaning older lions are sold and traded. This means that many of these lions, once petted by tourists, often end up in the canned hunting industry, with their skeletons also being shipped to Asia.
There is a link between petting a lion cub at a “lion park” and that same lion being killed in a captive hunt and his or her bones sold to Asia to profit further. There is currently an estimated 8-12,000 lions held in captivity and used as tourist props in South Africa.
What are people doing to help lions?
Lion Recovery Fund in partnership with Disney’s The Lion King and ‘Protect The Pride’ initiative, with Lion Recovery Fund partners Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and Wildlife Conservation Network, is a wonderful effort to reinstate the lion population. The Lion Recovery Fund invests in projects across Africa to recover lions and restore their landscapes – 100% of every dollar donated is deployed directly on the ground.
Blood Lions is a South African documentary which exposes the exploitation related to unethical and insidious practices associated with wildlife interactive tourism, including cub petting and walking with lions. The Blood Lions story is a compelling call to action to have these practices stopped.
Captured In Africa Foundation is our own registered non-profit foundation (NPO), established to work directly on the ground to support efforts for the protection, relocation or rescue of at risk lions and other big cats. Together with key conservation partners Pit-Track K9 Conservation, the foundation is funded by public donations and contributions by travellers booking travel with Captured In Africa.
Many other people, organisations, professionals and industry colleagues are doing incredible work for lions and other wildlife. We thank you all for your dedication to lions and we thank the Walt Disney Company for their continued approach to conservation in Africa.
Watch the Lion King trailer below and let Disney’s The Lion King inspire you to save lions.