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2016 declared ‘The Year of the Lion’

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the famous lion-celebrating film‚ ‘Born Free’‚ and a foundation linked to the movie has declared 2016 “The Year of the Lion”.

Born Free USA and the Born Free Foundation‚ concerned about the plight of the jungle royalty‚ made the announcement in a statement released on Monday.

Born Free will launch various initiatives to draw attention to the decline of the lion population‚ including a census‚ publicity campaigns‚ special screenings‚ events‚ news‚ and information online throughout 2016.

“Elsa the lioness captured the hearts and minds of a worldwide audience in the 1966 classic film Born Free — but‚ today‚ the international wildlife charity that bears its name sounds the alarm over the future of lions. The film starred legendary actress Virginia McKenna and her late husband‚ Bill Travers‚ portraying the pioneering conservationists George and Joy Adamson and their successful rehabilitation of Elsa to the wild‚” the statement said.

Adam M. Roberts‚ CEO of Born Free USA and Born Free Foundation‚ said: “Experts believe their numbers have plummeted to fewer than 20‚000 across Africa as their habitat dwindles and becomes more fragmented; as horrific retaliatory killings are perpetrated; and as hundreds of lions are slaughtered each year by trophy hunters in the name of ‘sport’. It is imperative that their plight is immediately taken seriously. The species’ decline has been rapid and steep. Without concerted action at all levels of government globally‚ the species could disappear from significant parts of Africa during our lifetime.”

The statement drew attention to canned hunting‚ saying: “Across the globe‚ the public is more aware than ever about the need to save lions before it is too late. The slaying of Cecil the lion made headlines worldwide in 2015‚ and the recent documentary Blood Lions revealed the horrors of professional and canned hunting to audiences in more than 100 countries.”

The two organisations said that in 2016‚ the spotlight will be on lions at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)‚ which will be held in Johannesburg in September.

“More than 180 countries from around the world will debate‚ and possibly decide‚ the future level of protection afforded to lions. Born Free is calling for an end to commercial trade and an up-listing of African lions to CITES Appendix I (highest priority).”