Power, royalty, prowess, strength, chivalry, nobility, bravery – the lion is the ultimate icon and an enduring symbol worldwide.
No other species has ever been able to challenge the lions’ throne as the King of Beasts nor has any other captured our admiration and fascination on such a global scale.
Today the lion can still be found in all four corners of the world. They adorn our flags and thrones, guard our temples and churches, embellish our coats of amour, star in our favourite animated films and an even advertise our popular sporting brands.
Friend and foe; the lion has been depicted as the gentle giant laying with the lamb and bravely joining us in battle against the evil White Witch. He has also been depicted as the power-mad tyrant plotting to over-throw his King brother and the ferocious Nemean beast that must be slayed.
The lion was once the most widespread large terrestrial mammal in the world. Roaming far and wide across the Mediterranean, the Americas, Middle East, Eurasia and Africa; they have walked beside us since Paleolithic times. These early encounters with the large felids are evident by the artwork of ancient Greece, Rome, Mesopotamia, India and even Tibet. In regions where the lion was never physically present he still appears symbolically, testimony to his ability to beguile us by mere tales and stories from afar.
In the bible the lion is mentioned 157 times in 37 of the 66 books; more than any other animal that ever roamed biblical lands. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Islam all pay heed to the lion and its perceived divinity.
A dominating figure culturally, symbolically and religiously, the lion is also an ambassador for wildlife and local communities. Today the lion also plays a pivotal role to us economically and we are beginning to understand further their significance ecologically.
As a member of the infamous ‘Big 5’ in Africa, and due to its rarity in India, visitors to both continents bring in huge tourist revenues in hopes of catching a glimpse of the King of Beasts. This income is crucial for a country’s economy and consequently its development.
Ecologically the lion is invaluable. As an apex predator the lion’s role within an ecosystem is highly influential and controls the delicate equilibrium required to keep all flora and fauna species healthy within it.
The vast continent of Africa holds the Cradle of Life where many animals first appeared, including our own ancestors. Today Africa and its delicate ecosystems influence the rest of the world on a phenomenal scale. From ocean currents and wind patterns, to rainfall and even climate change, what takes place in Africa affects us all. It is therefore imperative we save its wildernesses and those species central to its preservation, such as the African lion.
Despite their importance to us, and a perpetual fascination with this legendary beast, our knowledge of the threats facing lions, and our action to save them is minimal. The time is now to stand up and take note of their importance and our responsibility to save them.
To lose the lion from our habitats would imbalance our natural world.
To lose the lion as an attraction would harm our economies.
To lose the lion as a symbol would leave our world stark and bare.
To lose the lion from our culture would see us lose our global heritage.
To lose the lion would be to lose everything.
Image: Avevstaf | Dreamstime.com