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February 17, 2011

"The Last Lions"

A new National Geographic movie sheds light on the status of lions in the wild

Humane Society International

  • A lone lioness will do anything to protect her cubs. National Geographic

by Marcie Berry

Six years in the making, National Geographic’s "The Last Lions" hits select theaters on Friday, February 18. This incredibly beautiful, powerful, and well-researched film was created by award-winning filmmakers Dereck and Beverly Joubert. Set in Botswana’s Okavango Delta, "The Last Lions" is the tale of a lioness and her cubs who, shunned from their own pride, must escape from the dangers of a rival group, only to find themselves in unknown territory where they must learn to survive. While it reminds us why lions are celebrated for their courage and strength, this real-life story has an important theme at its heart: lions are rapidly vanishing from the wild.

Species at risk

The number of wild lions has declined almost 50 percent over the last 30 years, making conservation of utmost importance. Not unexpectedly, the reasons for such a drastic decline are human-induced factors such as loss of habitat and international trade associated with recreational trophy hunting. Conflict with humans is on the rise, as conversion of habitat for agriculture and grazing drives lions to prey on livestock. As a result, retaliation at the lions, usually in the form of poison, is a common occurrence. Loss of habitat due to human population growth, in addition to increasing trade in bushmeat, results in decreased availability of prey for lions, making survival more difficult than ever. International trade in lions and lion specimens is also seeing an increase. Not only does this trade have immediate effects on the sheer number of wild lions, but it also has residual consequences as the removal of certain individuals from a pride can result in social, territorial, and often fatal, conflicts among lions.

Lions are an important link in the food chain, acting as top predators in their ecosystem. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says that lions are at high risk of becoming extinct in the wild. Should this happen, there would be detrimental, and possibly irreversible, effects on the balance of the African ecosystem. There would also be resounding negative consequences for the tourism industry that depends on the presence of popular and charismatic animals like lions to attract travelers from all over the world. African wildlife ecotourism draws in billions of dollars annually, accounts for thousands of jobs and provides indirect benefits to local economies.

Do your part

It is our hope that this movie will draw worldwide attention to the plight of the African lion and be a call to action. Do your part—go see this film and share its important message with your friends and family. Help us ensure that these lions are not the last lions.

Watch the trailer on YouTube—every view earns $.10 for big cat conservation efforts in Botswana.

Watch "The Last Lions" on TV. The movie will be airing on the National Geographic Channel on November 13th and December 16th at 8pm EST in the U.S. Check your local listings to find out if and when it will be airing in your country.

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