Sir David Attenborough has called on companies that profit from the use of animal images to donate at least 0.5 percent of revenues to conservation.
But now Disney has been criticised for donating just 0.02 percent of what it has made from the Lion King franchise to lion conservation programmes.
According to Disney, the first Lion King film grossed over $8 billion. Since the film came out, wild lion populations have fallen by more than 40 percent.
In the lead up to the lunch of the remake this month, an initial donation of US$1.5 million has been made, with a promise of about $1.5 million to follow. And much of this will come from ‘up-selling’ Lion King products to fans.
The new film is expected to make over $200 million at the box office on its opening weekend.
In addition to poaching, human-wildlife conflict and habitat loss, trophy hunting has emerged as a major threat to remaining lion populations. Approximately 10,000 lion trophies have been taken by hunters in the past decade, according to the CITES database.
Earlier this year, scientists from the Zoological Society warned that the species’ genetic diversity had declined by 15 percent in the past century.
A study published in November 2017 by Queen Mary, University of London warned that the loss of just 5 percent of remaining adult males could push lions beyond the point of recovery.
Eduardo Goncalves of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting said: “This month marks the fourth anniversary of the killing of Cecil the lion. Up to 5,000 more lions have been shot for sport since his death. Despite the fact that numbers have fallen sharply to 20,000, the law still permits lions to be shot for so-called ‘sport’.
“It’s almost as if we never left the colonial period. Lions are not an inexhaustible resource we can kill for entertainment willy-nilly.
“Disney’s contribution to lion conservation is paltry. They may as well rename their film the Lion Pauper for all the good it will do. They are making billions from lions and giving hardly anything in return.
“If they were serious about supporting lion conservation they would up their contribution to at least the 0.5 percent recommended by David Attenborough. Given the crisis facing lion populations, it should be even more.
“Disney should also throw its weight behind efforts to abolish trophy hunting. The impact of lion trophy hunting on populations has been well documented throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Not only have large numbers of lions been killed, but trophy hunters have directly affected the species’ gene pool by targeting the fittest and strongest animals.
“If Disney were to mobilise its fan base behind a global move to abolish trophy hunting, that would be an achievement worthy of the name Lion King.”
Brendan Montague is editor of The Ecologist. This article is based on a press release from the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting.