'Born Free': Wild lions brought to capital in bid to save species

The 25 sculptures will represent real-life lions with their own unique stories at the Meadows.

‘Born Free’: Wild lion sculptures brought to Edinburgh in bid to save species from extinction Supplied

An international wildlife charity is bringing a dramatic exhibition to Edinburgh to raise awareness of the catastrophic plight facing the world’s wild lion population.

Fighting for the long-term survival of the species, Born Free will exhibit 25 life-sized bronze sculptures of wild lions designed by Australian artists.

Dubbed Born Free Forever, the exhibition will represent real-life lions, with their own unique stories, at the Meadows in a bid to highlight grave threats facing them both in captivity and in the wild.

The centrepiece will be Elsa the lioness, stood on top of an SUV, as depicted in the much-loved 1966 film Born Free, starring charity co-founders Virginia McKenna OBE and her late husband Bill Travers MBE.

The centrepiece will be Elsa the lioness, stood on top of an SUV.

As the installation opens to the public at the Meadows, more than 50 local youngsters from the nearby George Heriot’s School will be taking part in a lion-based art workshop, led by Scottish artist and designer Jane Lee McCracken.

“There are 7.8 billion people on Earth, and we now have to decide – are we prepared to share our planet with the shockingly few wild lions that remain or not?”

Virginia McKenna OBE, co-founder of Born Free

When the film Born Free was made in 1960s, there were around 200,000 lions in the wild across Africa.

There are now only 20,000 remaining, a decline which could see them becoming extinct across much of their wild range within 30 years, according to Born Free.

Elsa the lioness was depicted in 1966 film Born Free, starring the charity’s co-founders.

The free exhibit will be in Edinburgh for the next three months, during which, the majority of the lions will take ‘pride’ of place at the Meadows.

However, in partnership with Essential Edinburgh, three of the lion statues will also be situated in St Andrew Square Garden.

Ms McKenna said: “I am overjoyed to be bringing our beautiful lion exhibition, Born Free Forever, to Scotland, a country which has a special place in my heart as it was where, in 1969, my late husband Bill and I worked together on bringing Gavin Maxwell’s magical story, ‘Ring of Bright Water’ to the big screen.

“I have been back many times, most recently in the summer of 2021. Tragically, since that time, wild lion numbers have declined catastrophically – and Born Free is determined to do something about it.

Charity co-founders Virginia McKenna OBE and her late husband Bill Travers MBE starred in the 1966 film Born Free.

“That is why I urge everyone who can to please visit this incredible exhibition and discover why this magnificent pride of lions means so much to Born Free.

“Each one has its own unique and powerful true story. Through those individual stories, visitors will learn about the plight of lions in captivity, the challenges they face in the wild – where they belong – and what we can all do to help.”

Ms McCracken added: “This breath-taking exhibition is vital to raising awareness of the plight of lions and encouraging the protection of this majestic, keystone species for future generations.

“A world without lions is simply unimaginable.”

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