Every individual animal matters: whether it is Elsa the lioness, whose poignant story of freedom gave birth to generation after generation of animal lovers, or Cecil the lion, whose brutal demise elicited a global outcry against lion hunting. World Lion Day (August 10) is meant to remind us of the dire state of lions in the wild, and inspire us to act with vigor to ensure the species' future.
We have no time to waste; lions desperately need us to shield them from deadly threats. They face habitat loss, reduction in prey populations, retaliatory killings from coming into contact with humans, and rising levels of international commercial trade in parts of their bodies (bones to Asia and "trophies" to the U.S. and Europe).
Fewer than 20,000 lions remain. Their threats persist; some governments still fail to act to protect the species; and some NGOs refuse to support full international protection. How could we "celebrate" World Lion Day when lions are in such crisis?
We did celebrate... With action.
We started in 2011 with our ultimately successful petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to increase protection for lions under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Now, we're focused on global protection at next month's meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Johannesburg, South Africa.
We knew the situation was dire, so we dubbed 2016 the "Year of the Lion" to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Born Free film and to put a special focus on lions all year long.
On World Lion Day, we introduced a light-hearted new video to raise awareness of the threats facing lions all year long. The video is for those who are unaware of their plight, and who perhaps can't handle the gruesome reality of what is happening on the ground.
We want people to continue to pay attention, just like they did when the news of Cecil broke. We hope that the comedic nature of Born Free USA's new video will inspire people to share it on Facebook and Twitter, and email it to friends and family. The more people who watch it, the more that lions will be on the forefront of the public consciousness for months to come.
Make no mistake, though; designating a "day" for lions doesn't mean that we forget about them during the rest of the year. Rather, it means that maybe -- during the buzz surrounding World Lion Day -- the world will listen to another lion's story.
Keep Wildlife in the Wild,