Wild Baby Lion
Sub-Saharan Africa and western India
This mighty lion cub is still very little. At 10 weeks old she is not very fearsome. She would much rather play than attack anything! But she is working hard at getting her pouncing skills up to scratch and, of course, working on her roar. She always makes sure she is near one of the lionesses in her pride to keep her safe from predators. Soon, she will be apex predator and not have to worry about other wild animals. There is one threat that always remains, the effect of humans. It is not as uncommon to see other lions now and her mum and hunting buddies are finding it harder to find food for everyone. She doesn’t want to go hungry!
The mighty lion is one of the most iconic animals in the animal kingdom. It once roamed across all of Africa, Southeast Europe, and Western and South Asia but populations have dramatically declined. Now only found in fragmented pockets of sub-Saharan Africa and one critically endangered population in India, the lion is vulnerable. They are quite adaptable animals, happy to live in most places apart from tropical rainforests and deserts. They are also very social, the only cat that lives in groups called prides. These are made up of anywhere from 2 to 40 cats, mostly females and their cubs. Some lions do prefer a more nomadic existence.
Females are the hunters of the pride. Working in teams, they can take down large prey such as zebra, wildebeest and antelope which are often faster than them. The males spend much more time sleeping but are the best defence against any intruders who try to disturb the peace in the pride, though females are happy to step up if needed.
A female will give birth to 1-4 cubs at a time. She will make a den away from the pride, hunting alone so she can stay near her cubs. These cubs are born helpless with their eyes closed for a week after birth. She will move them many times each month to avoid predators catching wind of the smell of the cubs, moving each one individually. They will only come back to the pride when the cubs are about 6-8 weeks old, a scary experience for the young ones who have never met another adult lion. Lionesses may help to care for other cubs if she also has young, even synchronising their reproductive cycles to give the cubs the best chance of survival.
Being at the top of the food chain, they only have one predator, us. Habitat loss is the single biggest threat to lions. We are pushing them out of their habitats because of our swelling cities and increasing needs for land for agriculture, making their available space to live and thrive smaller and smaller. This means greater competition for food and territory, with not enough to go around for the once-thriving populations. As young lions leave their pride to form their own, they are increasingly finding it difficult to find anywhere suitable. Once able to roam the entire African continent, they are now restricted to small pockets, pockets that are still shrinking. Lions are therefore forced to come closer to the lives of humans, often being killed for this by angry farmers when they attack their livestock. Then there are the most disturbing threats. They are hunted by big trophy hunters looking for their next big wall mount or rug. They are also hunted for their bones, thought to have magical properties if you turn them into wine. Lion numbers in countries that allow this are being decimated, despite the claims of “sustainable offtake”.
HOW TO HELP
Based off real animals that Gillie and Marc met while travelling, the public will be able to meet individual animals.
With public art, more people will come into contact with these sculptures, will stop and consider them, will take a photograph, and will discuss this with their friends and family. Through this increased exposure, the message of love, family, and conservation will be spread much further than any piece of art in a gallery ever could. It will bring people into close contact and will help them to fall in love. With love comes a greater urge to want to create a change and save all endangered animals.
The sculpture will be aligned with the hashtags #LoveTheLast and #wildaboutbabies to raise unparalleled awareness about the sculpture’s cause across the globe.
To help protect these animals, please donate to the WWF: https://www.worldwildlife.org/