A cultural conscience for conservation?

August 4, 2017

If I had a pound (even a penny) for every time …… might be the refrain of  grumpy old men, but think how grumpy you’d be if you were a lion, writes David Macdonald, reporting on a new WildCRU paper led by Caroline Good, WildCRU’s Recanati-Kaplan post-doctoral fellow in Art and Conservation. After all, since they emblazoned the banners of our Plantagenet kings, or knocked a dozen times a day on the door of 10 Downing Street, lions have branded Britain, and got not a penny for it. Indeed, as Caroline and her colleague Dawn Burnham wryly observe in their paper, entitled A Cultural Conscience for Conservation, while lions do not lay eggs, they surely sell them. Indeed, they sell about 30 million of them a day in Britain, each bearing the British Lion Quality Seal. If each lion stamp were to earn the species one tenth of a penny, then every day lion conservation could receive £28,900. That’s £10.5 million a year.

What if, the WildCRU authors muse, animals, especially endangered animals, received a royalty for their use in commerce? Conservation is in crisis, and large sums are needed to fund it. Finding that money necessitates innovative financial mechanisms, and payments triggered by a cultural conscience could be a potent one. That’s certainly what the Economist magazine thinks. The Economist picked up this new WildCRU story and observed that if, as predicted, the Premier League’s crowned lion logo is depicted on the five million merchandised shirts this season, and a pound was donated to lion conservation for each shirt, that could employ over 4,000 lion guardians for a year. And why stop there, from the supermarket to the sports field and onto the catwalk, where innumerable leopard skin prints might acknowledge their debt to a species disappearing fast across Asia.

This deliberately provocative sideways look at funding conservation, is published as an Opinion in the journal Animals. The authors emphasise lions are just one species that is owed a hefty royalty – they point out that of 63 mascots inspiring clubs in the top ten richest sports leagues in the world (they earn $64 billion a year!), a third are endangered wild mammals, and another third are critically endangered.