These 25 Life-Sized Lion Sculptures Have Made Themselves At Home In Waterloo

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 29 months ago

Last Updated 26 January 2022

These 25 Life-Sized Lion Sculptures Have Made Themselves At Home In Waterloo
a dog and its owner look curiously at a statue of two lions
The 25 life-sized big cats are on display in Waterloo until April. The pair here are named Virginia and Bill, after the founders of the Born Free charity.

A pride of 25 lions has appeared in Waterloo — in a free exhibition celebrating, and fighting for, the long-term survival of big cats in the wild.

Louga the lion strolls across the grass
A sculpture of Louga - a lion which was saved from working in a circus.

Born Free - Year of the Lion on Millennium Green (situated just across from the Old Vic) features life-sized bronze sculptures of lions prowling, playing, growling and canoodling. It's the work of international wildlife charity Born Free, in a bid to raise awareness of a decline in the population in wild lions, which could be extinct in 30 years without intervention.

Statue of a lion holding out their paw as if to say hello
You can see the 25 life-sized sculptures in London until April 2022

Created by artists Gillie and Marc, each sculpture represents a well-known big cat; they include Cecil (infamously killed by an American trophy hunter in Zimbabwe); Christian, a cub bought from Harrods (which once had an exotic pet shop) then later successfully returned to the wild; and Louga, who was rescued from a circus.

Elsa the lioness stand majestically on top of a 4x4
Elsa the lioness stand majestically atop of a 4x4, and will likely prompt a few double takes, especially after dark.

The striking centrepiece is a sculpture of Elsa the lioness — the charity's mascot, who was the subject of the 1966 film Born Free — standing atop a vintage 4x4 surrounded by lions and cubs. (Reckon there'll be some double takes from people stumbling out of the bars on Lower Marsh and The Cut.)

A lion stands proud, as if about to pounce
We challenge you to visit this exhibition without humming the theme from Born Free.

The film was the work of the charity's co-founders Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers; sadly Travers passed away in 1994, but McKenna was there to launch this eye-opening exhibition, saying: "There are 7.8 billion people on Earth, and we now have to decide, are we prepared to share our planet with the shockingly few wild lions that remain?"

A wide shot of the lions on the green
Get as close as you like - they won't bite.

You can see the lions for free on Millennium Green, Waterloo until April 2022. They'll later relocate to Edinburgh.