by Andrew Chalk
There are now more tigers in captivity than there are surviving in the wild. That sobering fact will come as a shock event to those aware that big cat populations are being decimated. The lion is now confined to a few stretches of Africa and has global population estimates in the tens of thousands at best. That is down from more than half a million when reliable record-keeping started.
Reversing the decline of big cat populations and the inevitability of the extinction of one or more of the species within our lifetimes has become a cause celebre for National Geographic. They are campaigning on all fronts: on-the-ground prevention projects, public awareness campaigns and, most importantly, public education to bring the cause to public attention (for example, Big Cat Week starts November 29th on NatGeo). The slogan is “Cause an uproar”.
The latest front on this campaign was this week in Dallas when National Geographic partnered with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel for a presentation and dinner at the first of what may be a series of events promoting the campaign by combining it with art featuring big cats in their element. The work of Dallas artist Brad Oldham of Pure Sculpture (based in the Design District) is central to this promotion. He has sculpted an iconic bronze of a full-grown male lion with his cub based on a photograph by seminal big cat conservators Dereck and Beverly Joubert. A full-size version of the bronze occupies the entrance to National Geographic headquarters in Washington D.C., a half size and several table top and mantelpiece sized versions were on display at the dinner.
After a video presentation by Alexander Moen, vice president of Explorer Programs for National Geographic, guests settled down to a dinner overseen by Todd Saba of The Ritz-Carlton’s catering staff. To get involved with the National Geographic Big Cats campaign, Cause an uproar here.