ABOUT THE FILM
The killing of Cecil the lion, by a Minnesota dentist in 2015 created a tsunami of emotion around the world. His hunt in Zimbabwe highlights the little-known plight of his species. Lion populations are in free fall, and this iconic species is in danger of extinction. Only two centuries ago, hundreds of thousands of lions inhabited Africa. Today there are estimated to be 20,000 living in 8 percent of their former range.
Trophy hunting is legal in many African countries and although Cecil’s killing was particularly horrific, it is just one of the issues facing lions today. Dozens are speared or poisoned each week by rural Africans in defense of their domestic cattle. Many more lions die in wire snares and iron traps laid to catch wildlife for the massive wild bushmeat trade. These illegal traps are a twofold blow for lions. Poaching devastates the wild prey that sustains lion populations and the lions become captured in nearby snares themselves, where they die prolonged, ghastly deaths. As wildlife prey decline from poaching, lions resort to killing livestock, further fueling retaliatory killing by herders and ranchers.
HEART OF A LION is a feature documentary filming in South Africa, Zambia, Namibia, and Mozambique that explores the legacy of Cecil the lion and the indigenous, economic and political forces behind the lion industry and wildlife conservation. It looks at Cecil’s impact on International Trophy hunting; the decision by CITIES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) to allow the trade of "lion bones" to the Chinese market as replacement for those of the near-extinct tiger for so-called medicinal Tiger Wine as well as the rise of “canned hunting”, a mail order safari offering the guaranteed trophy of farm-bred lion, shot within a small enclosure.
It considers Prince Harry’s clarion call that, “saving endangered animals is God's test for humanity. If we cannot save wild animals from extinction, then humanity is in danger too."
This documentary takes a hard look at these dangers and explores the extreme challenges of wildlife conservation in a continent where poverty is endemic, and the success of any conservation program goes hand in hand with education and local economic development.
It looks at the strategies of such organizations as African Parks in rehabilitating national reserves in partnership with government and local communities. It explores new technologies and methodologies by key organizations in wildlife conservation and the emergence of eco-philanthropy and its potential role, not only in helping to stem the dramatic decline of species in Africa but in highlighting that the crisis of wildlife extinction is not just a problem for Africa but one of urgent global importance.