Published Jan 2022
A new exhibition of life-sized bronze lions has opened in central London in a bid to raise awareness of the plight of the animals.
Born Free star Virginia McKenna opened the outdoor display of 20 lions at Waterloo Millennium Green to raise awareness and funds for lion conservation.
The actor and wildlife campaigner, 90, starred in the 1966 film, which was set in Kenya, and now runs The Born Free Foundation.
Created by artists Gillie and Marc Schattner, the display's centrepiece features Elsa the lioness, the charity’s inspiration and symbol, standing on top of a 4×4 surrounded by lions and cubs.
Also included in the exhibition are sculptures of Christian, a cub purchased from Harrods and returned to the wild, and King, a lion the foundation rescued from the exotic pet trade who now resides at its sanctuary in South Africa.
There is also a sculpture of Cecil, a 13-year-old lion who was killed by a US big game hunter and dentist in Zimbabwe in 2015, while the animal was the subject of a long-term research programme by Oxford University.
McKenna was joined by her son Will Travers, executive president and co-founder of the foundation, and Born Free patrons, presenter Gaby Roslin, Olympic athlete Sally Gunnell and author Lauren St John.
Travers said: "Lions face many challenges, both in the wild and in captivity.
"We simply cannot ignore the declining numbers for a moment longer.
"This life-size, outdoor, bronze sculpture exhibition, featuring iconic lions, including Elsa on top of a 4×4, tells the true stories behind the issues they face.
"I encourage everyone to visit us in London not only to marvel at the exhibition and learn more about the plight of these emblematic and majestic creatures but help us fundraise and campaign so that there is a forever for lions."
Gillie and Marc Schattner said: "The bronze cubs symbolise the future generations of lions that can be created with hard work, dedication and a lot of love.
"The lion is a big part of our national identity and personifies the qualities of what it is to be British; strength, 'courage and pride. If wild lions were to become extinct, we would lose part of ourselves."
The display is open to the public for the next three months.