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Kenya: Fibreglass Lions to go ‘Wild’ in Nairobi

Sculptors work on Lions

Freshly sculpted lions

As Kenya's lions continue to face persecution and the population continues to dwindle, a campaign to raise funds and awareness about the lions was launched on 17 June 2009 in Nairobi.

An initiative of the Born Free Foundation, this project will use 50 fiberglass lions, dubbed ‘the Pride of Kenya‘ to drive awareness about the plight of the 2,100 lions that still remain in Kenya.

“For Kshs 200,000 ($2,500), we’re asking organizations to sponsor a life-size fibre glass lion and we’ll be getting artists to decorate them in July and August”, says the Pride of Kenya blog.

Many corporate bodies in Kenya have subscribed to this campaign and have ‘adopted’ each their own lion. Substantial media attention has also started building around this campaign with the Nation Media Group, one of the key media houses in Kenya, being right in the middle of the campaign.

This campaign is already being anticipated to become the biggest wildlife event of the year. The Pride of Kenya blog says, “Pride of Kenya really is going to be the biggest thing in Kenyan conservation this year”. “Pride of Kenya…launched today at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi, is already being described as an event with potentially national significance”, Will Travers, the Born Free Foundation CEO said in the same blog on the day of the inauguration of the campaign.

Although most lions have been adopted by business people, WildlifeDirect, a Kenyan web-based conservation organization has also adopted a lion. WildlifeDirect has put the fight to stop the importation and sale of Furadan – an agricultural pesticide that is responsible for the death of more than 75 lions in the past few years – as the focus of their campaign. There was excitement when WildlifeDirect signed the agreement that secured them one lion. The WildlifeDirect Team blog, Baraza, wrote:

Our campaign will focus on ending lion poisoning using Furadan. The centerpiece for this campaign will be a life-sized lion statue made of fiberglass.

WildlifeDirect will also involve the readers of their blogs. On Baraza, they said:

We need ideas for the art we shall create on this ‘canvas’.  I know you have lots of ideas. Send them to us. We are thinking that it would be great if we could send a global message about lion conservation with our lion. You can be as creative as you want. You can even suggest modification of the lion – as long as it still looks like a lion. But we cannot put advertising. No logos.

The Born Free Foundation has said that these lions have to have been decorated by end of August in readiness for a parade in Nairobi this November. The lions will then go under auction on the same day and proceeds from the auction will go towards lion conservation projects in Kenya. The November date also coincides with Born Free's 25th Anniversary.

There are signs that this campaign – modeled around the Go Elephants campaign held in Summer 2008 in Norwich- will be exciting and it would be interesting to see how the blogosphere and media will react to it.

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