Born Free Foundation - Keep Wildlife in the Wild

Lions for life
Copyright George Logan

In 2016 on the 50th anniversary of the iconic, award-winning motion picture Born Free, Born Free Foundation launched Lions for Life.

Elsa the lioness captured the hearts and minds of a worldwide audience in the 1966 classic film Born Free—but, today, the international wildlife charity that bears its name sounds the alarm over the future of lions. The film starred legendary actress Virginia McKenna and her late husband, Bill Travers, portraying the pioneering conservationists George and Joy Adamson and their successful rehabilitation of Elsa to the wild.

According to Born Free President, Will Travers, “Born Free’s Lions for Life campaign is reflective of the film’s anniversary that started it all, as well as the fact that, today, the fight for the survival of lions in the wild has never been more urgent. Experts believe their numbers have plummeted to fewer than 20,000 across Africa as their habitat dwindles and becomes more fragmented; as horrific retaliatory killings are perpetrated; and as hundreds of lions are slaughtered each year by trophy hunters in the name of ‘sport'. It is imperative that their plight is immediately taken seriously. The species’ decline has been rapid and steep. Without concerted action at all levels of government globally, the species could disappear from significant parts of Africa during our lifetime.”

Lions across West, Central, and East Africa have declined by 60% or more over the past 20 years, and in West Africa, they have been declared Critically Endangered. More than a dozen African countries are already thought to have lost their lion populations, and the international demand for lion bones and body parts is further exacerbating this downward spiral. From 2003 to 2012, more than 24,000 lion specimens were declared to have been exported from 102 countries, including 19 lion range states—countries where lions still roam naturally in the wild.

Across the globe, the public is more aware than ever about the need to save lions before it is too late. The slaying of Cecil the lion made headlines worldwide in 2015, and the recent documentary Blood Lions revealed the horrors of professional and canned hunting to audiences in more than 100 countries. Many airlines have stopped shipping lion trophies; France and Australia have banned the import of lion parts; and field conservation projects are underway across Africa to save this beleaguered species.

McKenna said, “There was a time, 50 years ago, when wild lion numbers were in excess of 100,000. Though aware of the challenges lions faced, even then, I could never have foreseen the devastation that was about to befall this iconic species. Filming Born Free was a life-changing experience. It taught us to understand and respect lions and their nature. We could never have imagined the impact the film would have—not only on our family but also on the many millions who watched it. It is unimaginable to contemplate the possible extinction of these extraordinary animals and we must do whatever is in our power to stop their further decline.”

During 2016, Born Free’s Year of the Lion, Born Free also participated in a major scientific lion census in the heritage site of Meru, Kenya — the heartland of George and Joy Adamson and Born Free— which establish how many lions remain in the area. Steeped in the history of wild lions and their conservation, Meru is still home to the descendants of Girl, Boy, and Ugas: three of the lions featured in the Born Free movie.

You can support Born Free's work for lions by:

making a donation

adopting a lion

or buying Lions for Life merchandise

Born Free Foundation
Broadlands Business Campus, Langhurstwood Road
, Horsham, RH12 4QP, UK - Charity Reg. No. 1070906

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