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Kenya: Lion-saving Art Takes Shape

Androcles, the WildlifeDirect lion

Androcles, the WildlifeDirect lion

The pride of Kenya Campaign, being touted as the biggest event in Kenya's conservation calendar this year, has been picking pace and excitement has been building.

The Pride of Kenya is a campaign – coordinated by the Born Free Foundation – to raise awareness about the plight of the declining population of Kenya's lions, which today number a meager 2,100 animals, and to raise funds for their protection.

Recently, Alice Owen of the Kenya office of the Born Free Foundation posted on the Pride of Kenya blog hosted at WildlifeDirect about the start of the painting of the first of the 50 life-sized fiberglass lions at the centre of this campaign. Alice said:

Schools, businesses and private individuals have sponsored lion canvasses and the first images of the lions being painted are starting to arrive!!  Kenton College in Nairobi decided to sponsor a lion and paint it before the children broke up for Summer as a treat!

This campaign is not just about painting, it is about getting involved. The Kenton College art teacher, for instance, had a surprise for his students. Alice writes:

The art teacher, Mr Adam Burgess, at Kenton college created a dramatic reception for the Kenton lion.  He had it hidden in the bushes near the football field early last week.

During assembly, the children were informed of an “escaped” animal in their school compound, and had to go around looking for it. They hurdled in groups of twos and threes, and took to the hunt.

Then more Pride members started leaving the art godowns where they were sculpted. And Noni Mruttu wrote in the Pride of Kenya blog:

This past week has been busy, busy, busy for the Pride of Kenya project. With the lions being delivered to their sponsors and the artists getting to work on them, they are running out fast!

The Sarit Lion

The Sarit Lion

Another twist to the involvement approach comes to light when Sarit Centre, a popular shopping mall in Nairobi, and one of the ‘lion sponsors', opted to have students from one of the international schools in the City, Braeburn High School, paint their lion. Noni writes:

Sarit Centre also received their lion and the year 11 class of Braeburn High School have been busy painting it, even taking time during their holiday to work on it. We are all very excited as everything is coming together beautifully.

On Tuesday, 18 August 2009, Peter Greste, a great photographer who also writes and films for the BBC, visited renowned Kenyan artist, Mary Collis, who is working on a lion ‘adopted’ by Kenyan conservation NGO, WildlifeDirect, and took some pictures of the work in progress. Maina blogged on Pride of Kenya blog about the first images of this lion that has been – symbolically – christened Androcles:

Things happened rather rapidly this week. Suddenly we had a name for the WildlifeDirect lion – Androcles. Before we got used to that, Peter, a friend of WildlifeDirect, who photographs, films and writes for the BBC, visited the artist who is working on the lion and took amazing pictures. And now you can see the first pictures of Androcles as he takes shape in the hands of the renowned artist, Mary Collis.

This campaign will culminate in an auction in November 2009 where the 50 fiberglass lions, variously decorated, will go under the hammer with all the funds raised going into lion conservation in Kenya.

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