A fifth lion statue was revealed in Trafalgar Square today as part of a Nat Geo Wild (BT TV channel 318) stunt to raise awareness of the plight of the big cat.
Countdown presenter and former Strictly Come Dancing star Rachel Riley unveiled the new statue – which is built entirely from clockwork mechanics.
The new addition to the resident bronze lions represents a stark warning that lions could be extinct in our lifetime if action isn’t taken now.
Riley said this morning: “I’m a huge cat lover both big and small but the plight of our big cats is alarming. You don’t need a maths degree to notice the staggering decline in lion populations.
“In the 1800s there were hundreds of thousands of wild lions worldwide, but at the current rate of decline this figure could be in the hundreds within the next thirty years, with the realistic prospect of extinction in my lifetime.”
National Geographic explorer-in-residence and co-founder of the Big Cats Initiative Dereck Joubert added: “We no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to big cats.
“Today we have more statues of them than actual cats roaming the world so it is important that we raise awareness of these majestic creatures and point to their rapid decline and find solutions. If declines continue at their current pace, wild cat species around the world face a very real risk of extinction. That is why a week dedicated to big cats is hugely important. It stimulates discussion and can help us find solutions.”
The new statue will remain in Trafalgar Square for a very limited period to raise money for the National Geographic’s Big Cat Initiative.
Lions were last month added to the endangered species list, with a combination of habitat loss, poaching and loss of prey contributing to a drastic population decline of nearly 50% in the last twenty years alone. The current population estimated is to be as low as 20,000 in the wild.
Big Cat Week airs on Nat Geo Wild from Monday February 1 to Sunday February 7 and is available for BT TV channel 318 and in HD on 374.
One of the shows airing across the week is Vanishing Kings: Desert Lions of Namib, which provides an emotional insight into the future of the species.