Leonardo DiCaprio launches a new fund to save the lions

Lions are in trouble – there are just 20,000 today, down from 200,000 around 100 years ago. But everyone’s favorite eco-warrior, Leonardo DiCaprio, isn’t going to sit by while big cat populations plummet. His foundation has teamed up with the Wildlife Conservation Network to launch the Lion Recovery Fund (LRF), a nonprofit that seeks to double the amount of lions by 2050.

Lion populations have plunged as they suffer from habitat loss, and the loss of prey to sustain them. The animals are gone from 80 to 90 percent of their range in the past, and the lion populations of 26 countries have vanished. But it’s not too late for lions – if African parks were effectively managed while nearby communities were supported, there could be three to four times the number of lions, according to the LRF. The fund will support groups working for lion conservation in Africa – and 100 percent of every dollar given to the fund will go to partners.

The LRF has already allocated over $800,000 to partners like Panthera in Senegal, the Wildlife Crime Prevention Project in Zambia, and the African Parks Network in Benin. Money will go towards efforts to combat poaching, secure space for lions to recover, and lower conflict between the big cats and humans.

Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation executive director Justin Winters said in a statement, “With the population of Africa expected to double by 2050, this is an opportunity to show the world that development does not have to come at the expense of wild landscapes and species. Humans and the natural world can coexist and thrive.”

DiCaprio called for people to get involved. In a statement, he said, “We’re losing our planet’s wildlife – even such iconic species as the African Lion – at a dangerously rapid pace. An astonishingly small amount of philanthropic dollars go towards protecting wildlife, but together we can turn that around.” You can donate to the fund here.
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