Though I had heard of the Barbary Lion before my good friend and fellow wildlife photographer Sue Demetriou introduced me to this magnificent male at Port Lympne Wildlife Park (Kent, UK), when researching this feline online upon my return home, I was deeply saddened to find out that it is entirely extinct in the wild.
It's not always easy being able to relate to the importance of declining numbers of various species in the wild, especially for most of us who live in cities and towns that rarely if ever come in to contact with wild animals in their natural habitat, I mean, knowing that there are a few hundred or perhaps a few thousand tigers, elephants, or orangutans left out there as nature intended, what's all the fuss about, right?
But when you stop to factor in things like these animals need to procreate with other groups to prevent inbreeding, much the same as us humans, as animal families continue to grow smaller and they are not able to travel the distances they used to, allowing them to come into contact with other family groups (because forests have been stripped for timber or to make way for more human population) enabling them to maintain a strong gene-pool, not to mention the numbers that are constantly being hunted, whether it be for food, as pets, or for their fur and body parts, we begin to see a bigger picture of what may happen …... but we tend to think of this happening perhaps 50 years or more from now, which once again gives us reason not to feel there is all that much to be concerned with or get all that worked up over.
This certainly isn't how I felt before learning of the Barbary Lion's fate, but recalling the all too brief time I was able to observe and photograph this awe-inspiring feline, now knowing that it has been wiped off the face of the earth by human encroachment and from being hunted to extinction, well, I have to say it brings me close to tears.
Thinking back to the hour or so I spent with Sue standing outside this splendid lion's thankfully spacious and well maintained enclosure, observing his dignified poses, watching him pace, listening to his roar from time to time that one could physically feel, I knew I was in the presence of one of Mother Nature's mightiest creations. How poor humanity will be for losing something so very special.
Thank you for you time and interest.