Fifty life-size lion sculptures were auctioned off to the highest bidder on 6th November, in what can only be described as a spectacular celebration of Kenya’s magnificent wildlife heritage.
Organised by the Born Free Foundation in collaboration with Wild in Art, the star-studded event marked the climax of the Pride of Kenya project, raising millions of shillings for wild lion conservation.
“These exquisite fibre-glass lion sculptures have all been innovatively and intricately decorated by top Kenyan artists. Each and every one is a unique work of art.” said Alice Owen of Born Free Kenya. “However, they are not just for decoration. They carry a critical message: Kenya’s wild lions are in serious trouble and need our urgent help.
”Held at the Kenya Wildlife Service Headquarters, a whole host of dignitaries were present at the colourful Pride of Kenya auction, including the Assistant Minister for Forestry and Wildlife Hon. Josphat Nanok, Virginia McKenna OBE, star of the film Born Free and founder of the Born Free Foundation, and Dr Julius Kipng’etich, Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service.
The Government of Kenya has backed the Pride of Kenya initiative from the very beginning when Rt Hon. Dr Wekesa attended the launch at the Serena Hotel in Nairobi back in July. Represented by the Hon. Josphat Nanok at the Pride of Kenya event, the Minister reaffirmed both his personal enthusiasm and the Government’s commitment to this important issue.
Dr Kipng’etich proclaimed: “Our mission at KWS is clear. Firstly, to stabilise our lion population and then, working with all sectors of society and our partner organisations like Born Free Foundation, to find ways to allow that lion population to grow. When it comes to wildlife conservation, Kenya is an undisputed world-leader.”
The issue of lion conservation has certainly been brought to the fore by this amazing public art display. Kenya may still be a lion stronghold but the reality is that without urgent action, Africa’s greatest symbol, the lion, could be extinct across much of its current range within 20 years - a message that has sent shockwaves throughout Africa and the rest of the world.
Virginia McKenna OBE, said: “I first visited Kenya when the film Born Free was made in 1964. Despite the inevitable impact of development, this beautiful country still has an abundance of wildlife and wild places, and Pride of Kenya is a testament to Kenya’s determination to make wildlife conservation a priority. However, the challenge will be to ensure that this remains the case in the years ahead. Pride of Kenya has shown the way to bring all sectors of society together for wildlife.”
Numerous business leaders, including Vimal Shah, MD of Bidco Group Kenya, were also present to support the event.
“I think I can speak on behalf of all those who have participated in Pride of Kenya by saying that this event truly marked a historical moment in Kenya’s wildlife history” stated Will Travers, CEO of the Born Free Foundation. “Not only has this been a wonderful celebration of Born Free Foundation’s 25th Anniversary, it has also set a benchmark for lion conservation over the next 25 years. It will be a challenge, but with the breadth of support and commitment shown here this evening, I know we can all do it. Born Free looks forward to working with KWS in coming months and years to see this dream become a reality.”
“Pride of Kenya” is a major mass appeal public art event which aims to raise awareness and funds for the conservation of lions in Kenya. At least 25 life-size fibreglass lion canvasses will be created, sponsored by local and international companies based in Nairobi and then a Kenyan artist will design and decorate the canvas.
The decorated lion sculptures will then be displayed in and around Nairobi providing a free, public art display which will highlight the need to protect lions and their habitats throughout Kenya. Coinciding with Born Free Foundation’s 25th Anniversary, the event will culminate in a spectacular dinner and auction attended by Born Free founder Virginia McKenna and Born Free CEO, Will Travers, where each lion will be auctioned to the highest bidder. The funds received from the auction will be dedicated to lion conservation in Kenya and Born Free Foundation’s work.
The lion and the Born Free Foundation are inextricably linked. We feature Elsa the lioness on our charity’s logo. Her journey to freedom inspires everything we do to help animals in need. But in the last few years, Africa has lost 70% of its lions and today as few as 16,500 animals remain. In Kenya, a stronghold for lions in Africa, as few as 2000 lions remain.
The lion’s hunting grounds have been lost to agriculture and farmers use poisons, rifles and snares. Prey species have been depleted, populations have become fragmented, and it is still legal to shoot lions for ‘sport’. Africa without lions is unimaginable.
Pride of Kenya aims to raise money for lion conservation projects but also create awareness of the drastic decline in lion numbers and highlight what can be done to improve the situation.
In this, Born Free Foundation’s 25th anniversary year, Pride of Kenya is a fitting and effective celebration which will make a real difference to lion populations in Kenya.
In 2008, Wild in Art which develop, manage and produce mass public appeal art events, teamed up with the Born Free Foundation and The Forum Trust to transform the historic streets of Norwich, UK into the setting for a herd of sponsored and decorated baby elephant art pieces. This superb city-wide event called Go Elephants! brought together conservation organisations, education, artists and the public locally, nationally and internationally. This entirely accessible art exhibition created much pride in the local area combining cultural awareness, education, community participation and awareness of issues such as human-elephant conflict in Kenya.
After public exhibition, the 50 decorated elephants were auctioned at a spectacular Gala event in Norwich on 23rd September 2008. The auction raised over £200,000, of which a significant amount came to Born Free Foundation for elephant conservation in Kenya. Winnie Kiiru, one of Kenya’s leading experts on elephants stated on the night “If Norwich can enjoy these 53 elephants think how much they will enjoy helping the 400,000 in Africa that need to be protected.” For more information click here