Lion cubs capture local organizations’ attention
On a ranch in Kenya, there’s a young lioness called Aspen, and she and her sister need your help.That’s the message coming this week from Wildize, an Aspen-based conservation nonprofit that is scrambling to raise money to save the two lions.The cubs were discovered with their brother earlier this year after the trio fell into a pit next to a butchery in Kenya. The male lion has since died in captivity. But the females still have a shot at being reintroduced to the wild, according to Wildize President Eli Weiss.”It’s complicated, but essentially the lionesses’ chances of survival have gone up exponentially since the death of their brother. A male lion would have made reintroduction much more difficult. I’d say their chances have gone from about 50 percent to 75 percent,” Weiss said. The cubs were being held in a concrete cage by the Kenyan Wildlife Services. According to Weiss, the cage, although deplorable, may actually have helped their chances of survival – their isolation kept them from being habituated to people.Last month Amara, an East African conservation group based in Kenya, contacted Wildize to help fund the lions’ relocation to a 46,000-square-foot privately operated ranch. The ranch acts as a staging area before the lionesses’ permanent return to the wild. Last week, Wildize granted the relocation effort $2,500 and received another $2,500 from a private donor. In honor of this support, Amara gave one of the cubs the name “Aspen.” “Each lion requires at least $5,000 per year to see them through the reintroduction, which is usually around a two-year process,” Weiss said. “During that time they need to be fed, relearn their hunting skills and be monitored. All that requires monitoring and personnel.”Weiss hopes the survival of these lions galvanizes the Aspen community. She pointed to data from the International Convention of Endangered Species that listed around 22,000 lions left on the African continent. Eight years ago, that number was 160,000.”Lions are a symbol, an icon,” Weiss said. “Think about them becoming extinct in our lifetimes. This could easily happen. These lions deserve a chance in the wild. We’ve found a project with qualified people on the ground that might save Aspen and her sister. So we’re going for it.”Donations to help the lionesses can be made out to the Wildize Foundation, P.O. Box 3078, Aspen, CO 81612. Checks should include “lion project” in the memo line. For more information visit http://www.wildize.org or http://www.amaraconservation.org.
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