So, what exactly are all those lion statues doing in The Meadows?

Published Sep 2022

Today, a new art installation hit the main intersection of the meadows, featuring 25 enormous lions—20 cubs, two pairs of adult lions, and one lion standing atop a sinking jeep. Created by Gillie and Marc, a husband-and-wife artist duo and longtime lovers of African animals, this project aims to bring attention to how in 25 years lion populations have decreased in half.

An adjacent sign in the meadows explains the story of this art installation, as well as those that worked to bring it into being. The names and posing of the animals tell of lions’ past, present, and humans that have helped them along the way.

10 of the cubs are named after real lions cared for by the Born Free charity, and the other 10 cubs are to be named after sponsors and donors of this project. The lion couples are named after real-life conservationists, George and Joy Adamson, who raised the lioness, Elsa, featured on top of the jeep in the installation.

George and Joy went on to become “two of the greatest champions for lions”. Additionally, the other lion couple is named after Bill and Virginia, two actors who played George and Joy in the movie Born Free, who were also the co-founders of the Born Free Foundation.

This project, titled Born Free Forever, is from this foundation, a UK-based animal welfare and conservation charity. Their mission stemmed from the tragic death of Pole Pole the elephant in the London Zoo. Born Free works to protect the habitats, lives, and species survival of animals, as well as “promoting Compassionate Conservation.”

They also fight against the major threats to endangered species of poaching and trophy hunting, working with locals and farmers for co-existence between these animals and humans.

The sign reads: “Born Free Forever is part of the broader ‘Love the Last’ project, a social movement driven by public art to increase awareness, funds and support for endangered and threatened species across the world, encouraging people to take action before we lose these animals forever.” More information about Love the Last can be read here.

Additionally, Born Free has placed another lion exhibit in Edinburgh, located at St. Andrew Square Garden, where visitors can read more as well as enter into a competition for a goodie box worth £100 of Born Free prizes. More can be found on their website.

The artist’s Gillie and Marc are described as “passionate eco-warriors”, each of whom had spent time in Africa and developed passions for the conservation of the endangered wildlife they encountered. They have “dedicated their lives to art and animal conservation and ask you to join them on their journey to “making art for a better tomorrow.” You can read more about them and their mission to spread “messages of love and conservation around the world” on their website.

From the University Library overlooking the Meadows, the installation can be seen stopping many people down below, where the messages of animal conservation, welfare, and the overall importance of conserving our environment and the creatures within it are largely displayed in bronze.

Supporters of these causes are encouraged to donate by texting FOREVER to 70450, where they can contribute £5 to Born Free and their animal conservation cause.