Posted on 18 October 2010.
We love them. We fear them. We stand in awe of them.
Lions have inspired strong emotions in humans since prehistoric times. These great cats have come to symbolize power, nobility and fearlessness in cultures around the world, and their images appear everywhere—on flags, currency, statues, corporate logos, sports teams’ uniforms.
But our esteem for lions hasn’t stopped us from killing them mercilessly. In just the past half century, lion numbers have dropped from about 450,000 to 20,000 or fewer today. If we don’t act now, the “king of beasts” could disappear from the wild in a decade, says noted wildlife filmmaker Dereck Joubert in the latest issue of Defenders magazine.
Dereck and his wife, Beverly, have spent most of the past 30 years in the African bush observing, filming and documenting lions and other big cats for the National Geographic Society and other major publishers and broadcasters. They have witnessed first-hand the toll on lions taken by hunting, poaching, habitat loss, the trade in traditional medicines and, lately, poisoning and global warming.
In just the past half century, lion numbers have dropped from about 450,000 to 20,000 or fewer today. If we don’t act now, the “king of beasts” could disappear from the wild in a decade.
Seeing these grisly impacts and alarmed about the future of their beloved cats, “Beverly and I decided that inspiring people is just not enough—we had to roll up our sleeves and get involved directly in conservation,” writes Dereck. They have set up the Big Cats Initiative, and with help from National Geographic and Defenders of Wildlife, they are working to halt the decline in lion numbers by 2015. In addition to educating people around the world about the big cats’ plight, they are working with African communities to set up ecotourism projects, compensate herders for livestock losses from lions and other steps to bolster local support for protecting big cats.
To find out more about efforts to help safeguard lions—and to see more of the Jouberts’ stunning photos of big cats—read the full story. You can also help us pass the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act—a bill pending in Congress that would provide funding for on-the-ground efforts to protect lions and other imperiled species overseas.
Find more great wildlife stories and photos in the fall issue of Defenders Magazine.