Twenty-five life-size bronze lions have been put on display in Edinburgh to raise awareness of the plight of the animal’s population in the wild.
Each of the feline sculptures depicts the story of a real-life lion, from Christian, the cub bought from Harrods department store in London and successfully returned to the wild in Kenya, to Cora, rescued from appalling conditions in a zoo Spanish and now living in a sanctuary in South Africa.
The majority of these are in the Meadows, but three Pride members will be on display in the garden in St Andrew Square to give visitors to the city center a chance to view them.
The artists behind the free exhibition, entitled Born Free Forever, are Gillie and Marc Schattner, internationally renowned British and Australians.
The duo are known for their animal, human-animal hybrid and abstract sculptures, which have been exhibited as public works of art around the world.
They said: “The bronze lion cubs symbolize future generations of lions that can be created with hard work, dedication and lots of love.
“The lion is a big part of our national identity and personifies the qualities of what it is to be British; strength, courage and pride.
“If the wild lions disappeared, we would lose a part of ourselves.”
The instillation was organized by wildlife charity Born Free, which campaigns ‘to keep wildlife in the wild’.
Its centerpiece is lioness Elsa atop a 4×4 vehicle, an image inspired by the much-loved 1966 film Born Free, which starred charity co-founders Virginia McKenna and her late husband Bill Travers.
It told the story of an orphan lioness raised to adulthood and released into the wilds of Kenya.
When the movie was made, there were around 200,000 lions in the wild across Africa.
Today the charity says there are only 20,000 left, a devastating decline which, if not halted, could see them disappear across much of their wild range within 30 years.
Other Bronze Pride members include Louga, one of Born Free’s Lions Of Lockdown, rescued from a circus in France and relocated to the Born Free Sanctuary in Shamwari Private Game Reserve, South Africa, earlier this year, and Cecil, the lion whose killing by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe in 2015 sparked international outrage.
The exhibition comes at an important time for the charity as Mr Travers, who co-wrote the screenplay for Gavin Maxwell’s Ring Of Bright Water, the story of a man and an otter exploring the Scottish countryside, also starring Mrs. McKenna, would have been 100 years old. this year were it not for his death in 1994.
A Forever Lions Fund, established in his memory, will use money raised from the exhibit and other donations to help protect wild lions, resolve human-predator conflicts, care for rescued lions and stop lion slaughter. for trophies and in “canned” lion hunting (the killing of lions in captive facilities).
Each of the statues is available for purchase, with all funds supporting the charity.
Ms McKenna said: ‘I am delighted to bring our beautiful lion exhibit, Born Free Forever, to Scotland, a country which holds a special place in my heart as it was where, in 1969, my late husband Bill and I worked together on bringing Gavin Maxwell’s magical story Ring Of Bright Water to the big screen.
“I’ve been back several times, most recently in the summer of 2021.
“Tragically, since that time the number of wild lions has declined catastrophically – and Born Free is determined to do something about it.
“That’s why I urge everyone who can to visit this incredible exhibit and find out why this magnificent pride of lions means so much to Born Free.
“Everyone has their own true, unique and powerful story.
“Through these individual stories, visitors will learn about the plight of lions in captivity, the challenges they face in the wild – where they belong – and what we can all do to help.
“I am so delighted that Edinburgh is hosting this wonderful exhibition and I hope people of all ages will come to share the experience and become part of our Born Free Family.”
The exhibition will be presented in the Scottish capital for three months.