The Lion – King or Commodity?

AN ANALYSIS OF THE LION BREEDING INDUSTRY IN SOUTH AFRICA published in the Africa Geographic Stories Issue 8 – 22 Aug 2014.

A wild lion is a scrappy thing. A fierce, dishevelled, fly-bitten beast with battle scars from nose to tail and a matted, grimy mane. This is a rug you don’t want on your living room floor. But the beast has been cleaned up and rebranded in one of the greatest wildlife marketing stunts of all time. Since humans painted them on a cave wall in France 30,000 years ago, lions have populated our imagination. Despite being extinct in Britain and Europe for thousands of years, they have grown in stature through myths and legends.

Tens of centuries ago, kings and conquerors of Britain and Europe adopted the mighty lion as their symbol on military shields, tunics and crests, a form of marketing if you will: Look on us in awe. Use of the symbol eventually extended to the nobility who displayed lions “rampant” and fierce, often human-like, clutching axes and swords or wearing crowns.

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