NAIROBI, (The Southern African Times) – Tusk, an African conservation charity, has teamed up with Kenyan telecom operator, Safaricom and KCB Bank Kenya, to launch a campaign aimed at raising public awareness of the plight of lions in Africa.
The campaign, dubbed the Lion Trail, is a global art installation in support of African lion conservation.
The Lion Trail has seen 47 life-sized lion sculptures being launched onto the streets in iconic locations worldwide including Nairobi and cities in the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia.
Organizers said in a joint statement issued in Nairobi to mark the World Lion Day Tuesday that the artworks will be on display for the public to enjoy until the end of September.
Speaking during the launch in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, Najib Balala, the cabinet secretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife, reiterated the importance of lions to Kenya’s biodiversity and the need to make urgent efforts for their conservation.
“Mutual efforts and partnerships like the one we see here today — corporate, cultural and government — are critical to the protection of the lion populations that remain,” Balala said, noting that the DNA of Kenya’s nationhood and lions are inextricably linked. “They are in our coat of arms, our currency and appear in many Kenyan company logos. The lion is an iconic animal in the African culture and a keystone species in wildlife conservation.”
The population of African lions is estimated to have declined by as much as 50 percent over the last 25 years.
The organizers said each sculpture on the Lion Trail will highlight the magnificence of lions, threats to their existence and the people and solutions working for their survival — raising awareness for conservation efforts across the world.
Conservationists say there is a real threat to the species’ survival from loss of habitat, persecution from human conflict and growing illegal trade in lion parts.
“Lion protection is one of my ministry’s key conservation priorities. They form a crucial part of our biodiversity and natural ecosystems and this event will help not only to raise awareness for their plight but also to shine the spotlight on the many more successes that we need to scale up to ensure their future sustainability,” Balala said.
Kenya Commercial Bank (KCB) Head of Corporate Affairs Judith Sidi Odhiambo said the bank was leading the charge through investing in environmental sustainability to ensure a future for nature.
“Our collective and active participation in the conservation of wildlife is critical for the survival of many endangered species and can serve as an important economic, social, and security engine for communities and individuals if we want to achieve sustainable development,” Odhiambo said.
Nairobi will be home to two life-sized lion sculptures which have been designed by renowned Kenyan artists Peterson Kamwathi and Beatrice Wanjiku.
The Nairobi National Park, a key biodiversity resource, which itself is home to over 30 lions, will play host to the sculptures for the next month, with the aim of educating the public about the various threats facing the African lion.
The unique works of art will be auctioned with the funds raised going to support the work of Tusk and its partners in protecting species.