Human Journey

‘Clockwork Lion’ in London Cries, “Time Is Running Out for Big Cats”

“The Clockwork Lion, Commissioned by Nat Geo Wild in support of the Big Cats Initiative,” reads a plaque on the base of a newly unveiled sculpture in Trafalgar Square. At the bottom it declares, “Time is running out for big cats.” (Photo by Mikael Buck/Nat Geo Wild)

Time is running out for big cats.

That’s the message of a new statue on display for just one day in London’s Trafalgar Square, commissioned by Nat Geo Wild and about to be auctioned to raise money for National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative.

The gaunt frame, torn hide, and wide, harrowed eyes of the Clockwork Lion give a drastically different impression than the steady, powerful look of the famous Landseer Lions around him, dramatically illustrating the decline wild lions have experienced since the original statues were installed in 1867.

For those seeking more literal communication of the situation, a plaque on the front of the base provides viewers facts about lions and the Big Cats Initiative’s work to protect them in the wild.

Trafalgar Square, London, Thursday 28th January 2016: Countdown star Rachel Riley unveils Nat Geo WILD’S dramatic new clockwork lion sculpture in Trafalgar Square, highlighting the plight of big cats ahead of Big Cat Week, 8pm 1-7 Feb on Nat Geo WILD This picture: The new statue this morning at sunrise For further information please contact Amy Williams on 07702 706 229 or amy.williams@premiercomms.com PR Handout - editorial usage only Copyright: © Mikael Buck / Nat Geo Wild +44 (0) 782 820 1042 http://www.mikaelbuck.com
The gaunt frame and harrowed clock-face eyes of the Clockwork Lion give a drastically different impression than the steady, powerful look of the Landseer Lions around him, dramatically illustrating the decline wild lions have experienced since the original statues were cast in 1867. (Photo by Mikael Buck/Nat Geo Wild)

Rachel Riley, mathematically inclined co-host of the long-lived British puzzle show,”Countdown,” unveiled the sculpture on January 28 to highlight the plight of big cats ahead of Big Cat Week airing in the UK 8pm, February 1-7 on Nat Geo Wild. “You don’t need a maths degree to notice the staggering decline in lion populations,” she said. “For every ten lions on the planet 100 years ago, only one roams free today.”

You don’t need a history degree either, but if you have one, the statue and its location speak even more eloquently about the challenges facing wild lions and those who would protect them today.

The statues surround the base of Nelson’s Column, monument to the naval commander who successfully defended Britain against Napoleonic conquest. At the battle of Trafalgar, for which the square is named, Nelson had fewer ships but bolder tactics and his forces soundly defeated the Franco-Spanish fleet. Though Nelson himself died in the battle, his confident and unconventional maneuvers catapulted Britain from a position of anxious defense to utter supremacy at sea around the world.

Today, poaching and habitat loss are the lions’ Napoleon. Can we Nelson them out of annihilation?

National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence and co-founder of the Big Cats Initiative Dereck Joubert thinks so.

“We no longer have the luxury of time when it comes to big cats,” he said. “Today we have more statues of them than actual cats roaming the world so it is important that we raise awareness of these majestic creatures and point to their rapid decline and find solutions. If declines continue at their current pace, wild cat species around the world face a very real risk of extinction. That is why a week dedicated to big cats is hugely important. It stimulates discussion and can help us find solutions.”

Trafalgar Square, London, Thursday 28th January 2016: Countdown star Rachel Riley unveils Nat Geo WILD’S dramatic new clockwork lion sculpture in Trafalgar Square, highlighting the plight of big cats ahead of Big Cat Week, 8pm 1-7 Feb on Nat Geo WILD For further information please contact Amy Williams on 07702 706 229 or amy.williams@premiercomms.com PR Handout - editorial usage only Copyright: © Mikael Buck / Nat Geo Wild +44 (0) 782 820 1042 http://www.mikaelbuck.com
Rachel Riley, co-host of the long-lived British puzzle show “Countdown” unveiled Nat Geo Wild’s dramatic new clockwork lion at the base of Nelson’s Column. The naval commander’s boldness and innovation could serve as a model and inspiration for those working to protect the big cats from extinction. (Photo by Mikael Buck/Nat Geo Wild)

[Updated 1/29/2016]

NEXT:

Big Cat Week on Nat Geo Wild UK

National Geographic’s Big Cats Initiative

 

Andrew Howley is a longtime contributor to the National Geographic blog, with a particular focus on archaeology and paleoanthropology generally, and ancient rock art in particular. He is currently beginning a new role as communications director at Adventure Scientists, founded by Nat Geo Explorer Gregg Treinish.

Over 11 years at the National Geographic Society, Andrew worked in various ways to share the stories of NG explorers and grantees online. He also produced the Home Page of nationalgeographic.com for several years, and helped manage the Society’s Facebook page during its breakout year of 2010.

He studied Anthropology with a focus on Archaeology from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. He has covered expeditions with NG Explorers-in-Residence Mike Fay, Enric Sala, and Lee Berger. His personal interests include painting, running, and reading about history.

  • Rod

    I only have limited availability and would have like to visit and photograph the clockwork lion, however I can not find any information as to how long it will be in Trafalgar Square. I would be grateful if someone could let me know

    • Andrew Howley

      Hi Rod, sorry to say the statue was in fact up just for the day. I’ve updated the main text accordingly.

    • Andrew Howley

      Hi Rod, sorry to say the statue was in fact up just for the day. I’ve updated the main text accordingly.

  • Rod

    I only have limited availability and would have like to visit and photograph the clockwork lion, however I can not find any information as to how long it will be in Trafalgar Square. I would be grateful if someone could let me know

  • Cyndi Papia

    But how do we save them when they are located in countries that view them as animals to be hunted, poached or killed because they are considered a “nuisance”? The loss of any species affects us all eventually no matter where we live.

  • Cyndi Papia

    But how do we save them when they are located in countries that view them as animals to be hunted, poached or killed because they are considered a “nuisance”? The loss of any species affects us all eventually no matter where we live.

  • Meg Ewen

    To raise even more money, is there a possibility of a framed poster or nice photograph that can be purchased by those that can’t afford the real sculpture? I’d buy one.

  • Meg Ewen

    To raise even more money, is there a possibility of a framed poster or nice photograph that can be purchased by those that can’t afford the real sculpture? I’d buy one.

  • Sam

    Sooooo where is the statue now? Where did it go?

    • Andrew Howley

      Hi Sam, the statue is now being prepared for auctioning off to raise money for the Big Cats Initiative.

    • Andrew Howley

      Hi Sam, the statue is now being prepared for auctioning off to raise money for the Big Cats Initiative.

  • Sam

    Sooooo where is the statue now? Where did it go?

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