Disney aims to donate up to $3 million to help double the lion population by 2050. Picture: Supplied: Disney

To celebrate the release of Disney's "The Lion King," the upcoming groundbreaking feature film helmed by Jon Favreau, The Walt Disney Company has launched a global conservation campaign to raise awareness of the crisis facing lions and other wildlife across Africa. 

The Lion King "Protect the Pride" campaign focuses on protecting and revitalising lion populations and the habitats they need to thrive. Disney has already donated more than $1.5 million to the Wildlife Conservation Network’s (WCN) Lion Recovery Fund (LRF) and its partners and will make additional grants as well as invite fans to help double the donation for a total contribution of up to $3 million. Fans may participate by taking part in celebratory experiences and purchasing special-edition products, as part of The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign.  

It’s been 25 years since Disney released the original version of The Lion King; sadly, during that time Africa has lost half of its lions, and only about 20,000 remain. Disney is supporting the Lion Recovery Fund and their vision to double the lion population by 2050 through efforts that engage communities to ensure a brighter future for African wildlife and their habitats. Protecting lions supports the entire circle of life in Africa, from hyenas to meerkats. Lions face rising threats; however, research shows their numbers can be strengthened if they and the habitats they share with people and other African wildlife are adequately protected.

The Disney Conservation Fund (DCF) has directed $75 million to save wildlife globally since 1995, including $13 million to protect African wildlife spanning more than 30 countries. The Lion King Protect the Pride donation will be DCF’s largest single contribution in its 24-year history, supporting WCN’s Lion Recovery Fund and their work to engage people in conservation solutions. The Lion Recovery Fund supports a variety of partner organizations working in Africa and employs a three-pronged approach to lion recovery: investing in conservation projects on the ground, developing campaigns that build support for the protection and revitalisation of Africa's lion populations, and expanding and strengthening collaborations, as no single entity will be able to solve this challenge alone.

As a kickoff to The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign, Disney and WCN convened more than 80 leading lion conservation experts this past May at the Lion Footprint Forum at Walt Disney World Resort, the first meeting of its kind in 20 years, aimed at expanding collaboration to grow conservation impact. Participants from 18 countries and representing more than 50 organizations and foundations discussed challenges impacting lion populations across lion range countries and strategies to address them. Resulting ideas and project proposals will be considered for support through the LRF.

“The Lion Recovery Fund has a vision to bring lions back across Africa, and Disney’s powerful storytelling is a perfect way to get even more people aware of the lion crisis and inspired to take action,” said Charles Knowles, President and Co-Founder of Wildlife Conservation Network. “The Wildlife Conservation Network is proud to continue its longstanding collaboration with Disney to make a meaningful impact for people and wildlife across Africa.” 

It takes many different approaches, which differ by regions, habitats, and local communities, to help protect lion populations. Fans can explore The Lion King Protect the Pride website to learn more about The Lion King Protect the Pride campaign.

Disney also released the official character posters for the upcoming movie last week. Have a look at your favourite character's live-action redesign below.

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