To celebrate the release of Disney’s The Lion King, the upcoming live-action-ish feature film helmed by Jon Favreau, the Walt Disney Co. 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 revitalizing 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. The company plans to make additional grants and invites fans to help double the donation for a total contribution of up to $3 million. Fans can participate in celebratory experiences and purchase special-edition products to be a part of the campaign.

In the 25 years since Disney released the original version of The Lion King, Africa has lost half of its lions, with only about 20,000 remaining. Disney is supporting the LRF and its vision to double the lion population by 2050 through efforts that engage communities. Lions face ongoing, increasing threats, but protecting them supports the entire circle of life in Africa, from hyenas to meerkats. Research shows that their numbers can be strengthened if they — and the habitats they share with people and other African wildlife — are adequately protected.

“Disney is committed to supporting lion conservation efforts and we believe The Lion King is the perfect story to remind us of the role we each have in helping ensure a world where these majestic animals are treasured and protected,” says Elissa Margolis, senior vice president of enterprise social responsibility for the Walt Disney Company. “Conservation has always been a core value of the Walt Disney Company and that commitment is apparent in everything from our films to our theme parks and is why we created the Disney Conservation Fund (DCF). Through the stories we tell and the experiences we create, we have the power to reach people around the world and inspire them to take action with us.”

Protect the Pride

“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,” says Charles Knowles, president and co-founder of WCN. “The Wildlife Conservation Network is proud to continue its longstanding collaboration with Disney to make a meaningful impact for people and wildlife across Africa.”

The Lion King Protect the Pride donation will be DCF’s largest single contribution in its 24-year history. The LRF 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 revitalization of Africa’s lion populations, and expanding and strengthening collaborations.

Fans can explore The Lion King Protect the Pride website to learn more about the campaign and find ways that they can get involved, including:

  • This summer, take part in Protect the Pride lion-related Disney experiences celebrating WCN’s LRF, like the Kilimanjaro Safaris Expedition at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park in Florida during opening week of The Lion King film (July 19-25); purchase special-edition Simba and Nala plush lions available at certain Disney stores, on shopDisney.com, and in select U.S. Disney Parks and Resorts locations; Disney Theatrical Productions will celebrate with audiences on Broadway during the month of July, providing campaign information in Playbills for The Lion King; learn about the history of Disney’s commitment to conservation in films and Disney Publishing Worldwide’s support of the campaign through The Art and Making of The Lion King book. Disney is supporting these and other global opportunities in South Africa, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States;
  • Support lion conservation efforts and learn more about the Lion Recovery Fund at lionrecoveryfund.org; and
  • Follow The Lion King, the Disney Conservation Fund, and the Lion Recovery Fund on social media to stay up to date on #TheLionKing #ProtectThePride campaign and share information with your friends and family about how they can help.

Photos: Disney