There's more than one way to skin a cat. And I know that doesn't sound like the perfect start to a blog about World Lion Day (August 10th), but allow me to continue.
Last Friday, incidentally World Cat Day (if you dig deep enough you'll find that there's a World anything Day!), we at Care for the Wild launched our new fundraising and awareness campaign called Cat Aid.
Cat Aid is kind of what it says on the tin - taking hues from Live Aid, and working on the fact that everyone loves cats and even more people seem to love watching them on YouTube, we had the idea to bring those crazy internet cats together to record a song, yep - stay with me here - and to make a video too. The result - the rather sweet and ridiculously catchy song: 'If you care, care for the wild'. You really have to watch this!
So, back to my ill placed proverb - why such a light-hearted approach to such a serious issue? Wouldn't another report or interview have been better, perhaps just a press-release? Well, wildlife issues don't always make the headlines and sometimes to get your message across you need to dig deeper and think outside the box (or inside the box in the case of Maru the cat!). Simply, we need to raise awareness of the real issues that wildlife faces today, and now and again it really pays to package that up in a way that people will really engage with.
The simple truth is that the words of our Cat Aid single tell a harrowing tale, albeit to a catchy chorus and riff. The other thing is that sadly the messaging is all true. Only around 25,000 to 30,000 wild lions still exist (compared with over 200,000 in the 1960s), with just 250 remaining across West Africa, and an ever increasing demand from parts of Asia for lion bones for phoney medicines and 'high status' drinks. Lion parts are replacing tiger bones which are now harder to 'source' owing to better protection and less of them being alive.
If that wasn't enough, people from across the globe are paying good money to pop off to Africa and shoot one - just for fun obviously. Worse still, people are paying money unwittingly in many cases to stroke, have their photo taken, and even volunteer with many of these lions when they are cubs under the mythical guise of rescue or conservation. It's all big business - some of it legal, some of it not, but all of it devastating and immoral.
Tigers are faring much worse, with just 3200 remaining in the wild. Their skins, bones and body parts are in very high demand - particularly in China, for all the same reasons. Good old status and Traditional Chinese Medicine myths of potency and strength. Tigers are also a victim of the photo prop industry, just like the lions and so many other big cats and mammals - bred into captivity, harangued by tourists, trained through negative reinforcement and fear based dominance and locked up for 20 plus hours per day with zero enrichment. All the time acting as a mask for the illegal trade.
So, if you do listen, one line from the song will certainly stick with you: 'if you care, care for the wild'. Please do. You can download the song, make a donation online, or simply share the video widely across your social media, but whatever you do don't just turn a blind eye - or you may wake up one day to find they're all gone. In 30 years from now on World Lion Day I don't want to be telling my grandkids about the mythical creature called a lion that once roamed the plains of Africa.