CN: What makes The Lion’s Share (TLS) different to most wildlife funds is that it is private sector-based. It’s about sustainable marketing really – if the advertising industry and brands use the images of animals to generate profit in their ads, and yet real animals are under so much threat, then the private sector needs to chip in to make things right. Most brands, and consumers for that matter, want to help make a difference, and TLS enables them to do just that.
The Lion's Share
Guinness World Records is delighted to announce that it has partnered with conservation charity The Lion’s Share, which is managed by the United Nations Development Programme. Founded in 2018 by Australian film-maker Chris Nelius and Rob Galluzzo (see Q&A below), the big idea behind the initiative is to rally advertising and media companies to start giving something back to nature to help wildlife in distress. It’s a chance to redress the balance for all the joy (and profit) that animals have brought to visual-led industries for so many decades.
Wild record-breakers in peril
Discover just a few of the record-breaking species that are currently under threat, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Largest land animal
While it is their physical size that entitles African elephants (Loxodonta africana) to this record – bulls can be up to 3.7 m (12 ft) tall at the shoulder and weigh as much as 7 tonnes (7.7 US tons) – these charismatic giants make a big impression in other ways too. They are known for both their supreme intelligence (well, they do also boast the largest brains among terrestrial animals) and their strong communal bonds. Poaching for their tusks and meat continues to suppress their wild population. Although there have been some success stories in countries such as Botswana, Namibia and Uganda, there are growing tensions between farmers and elephants who share the same land, so much so that a ban on hunting elephants was controversially lifted in Botswana in 2019.
Smallest natural range for a vertebrate
Status: Critically Endangered
The Devils Hole pupfish (Cyprinodon diabolis), a type of killifish that reaches no longer than 3 cm (1.2 in), is found exclusively in a single water-filled fissure known as the Devils Hole in the Amargosa Desert region of Nevada, USA. The surface area of the spring-fed geothermal pool within the cavern is approximately 3.5 m wide by 22 m long (11 x 72 ft) and reaches depths of around 130 m (430 ft), though these fish have been found no deeper than 24 m (80 ft) from the surface. The Devils Hole pupfish is one of the world's rarest fish species, having reached a record low of 35 individuals in 2013. Conservation efforts, such as a captive population being maintained in a nearby facility, are in place to ensure their survival should anything befall their last natural stronghold.
Status: Critically Endangered
Axolotls (Ambystoma mexicanum) are the “Peter Pans” of the animal world in that, for the most part, they never grow up. They can spend their entire lives in an adolescent state, albeit being able to reproduce – a condition known as neotony. They also boast the most complex genetics of any known organism studied to date, with 32 billion base pairs (the basic building blocks of DNA). That is at least 10 times as many that make up the human genome. Sadly, the future of axolotls is in jeopardy as decades of pollution and construction over their native waterways have severely depleted their last remaining habitat in the canals near Mexico City.
Largest wild cat
The story of the tiger (Panthera tigris) has long symbolized the tale of endangered wildlife everywhere. They are also king of the cats, outsizing their cousins, lions and jaguars. The largest subspecies are Siberian tigers, found in China, eastern Russia and North Korea, specimens of which can measure up to 3.3 m (10 ft) long and weigh as much as 180 kg (300 lb). Tigers have enjoyed some positive results in recent years, at least in India, however these majestic predators are still far from out of the woods yet.
Most northerly penguin
It’s a common misconception that all penguins live in frozen terrain like Antarctica, but that’s not true of every species of these flightless birds. Indeed, the Galápagos penguin (Spheniscus mendiculus) – as its name would suggest – inhabits the Pacific’s balmy Galápagos islands, with its range just straddling the Equator into the northern hemisphere. They sadly also hold the unwanted record of being the most endangered penguin, with an estimated 1,800–4,700 remaining as of the last count in 2009.
Most primitive bear
Giant pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) have long been a “poster animal” of conservation and huge efforts have been put into restoring their wild population by charities and the Chinese government. With their numbers growing by 17% between 2004 and 2014, the IUCN downgraded their Red List status from Endangered to Vulnerable in 2016, which is a testament that conservation efforts can pay off. Pandas are a bit of an oddball among their bear brethren, unusually eating almost exclusively bamboo (the most limited bear diet). Their unique qualities probably have something to do with the fact that they diverged from all other bears around 18–25 million years ago.
Q&A: Chris Nelius and Rob Galluzzo
CN: I’m a film director in the longform and commercial world. So I know intimately what goes into the making of a commercial. I’m just so fortunate that I work with a production company like FINCH in Sydney, where I was able to tell the idea to producer Michael Hilliard, and then someone like Rob Galluzzo could be crazy enough to want to bring it to life. None of us have experience in the conservation world.
RG: My background is in production, so I’d always had a presence in the advertising/media world before I founded FINCH. When I was approached by Chris Nelius and Michael Hilliard with this idea, I knew that making it into a reality would be extraordinarily difficult. A monumental challenge with a huge upside for the planet, but that's really what drew me in.
RG: Having the United Nations (UN) on board is invaluable in scaling the initiative. The UN gives us credibility and gives the brands the confidence to get involved. Being partnered with the UN helps drive momentum from the private sector, and access to data helps us identify organisations with high animal usage - these organisations then became prospects. Our success rested on signatures, which became the focus of all activities. Our UNDP lead, Mr Boaz Paldi, has helped open many doors in regards to accessing global brands, and ensuring we successfully distribute the proceedings to result in the greatest environmental impact.
CN: Having Sir David’s support is priceless and we’re forever indebted to him and his team, not to mention flattered that he would give us his time! We have no idea just how many doors he has opened for us simply by being our Special Ambassador – his influence is incalculable. Personally it meant so much to me, the first book I ever remember noticing as a kid was my grandfathers’ copy of Life on Earth and I still pinch myself that we are somehow now connected. It’s a testament to his immense influence as a writer and presenter and advocate for the natural world.
CN: Awareness. We are still in the nascent stages of what we want to become – our ambition is to raise $100 million per year, every year, and that means signing as many brands as possible. In turn we want to have consumers really get behind the fund and encourage the brands they buy to join in. We live in a time where new solutions need to be added to the old and GWR is really helping us get that message out.
CN: Our ambition, since this is a fund where we are signing brands from all corners of the Earth, is to have a holistic approach to where the money goes. That means tasking our team with assessing where money is needed most on all continents, and what we can do that isn’t just stepping on the toes of other organisations. But we want to keep it varied and move money fast. We have invested in land purchase in Sumatra where an old Palm Oil plantation is being regenerated into forest. This particular location backs onto the Leuser ecosystem, one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks, and the last home to native rhinos, orangutans, tigers and elephants. We’ve also funded scientific research in Africa and invested in equipment for anti-poaching units in Mozambique.
RG: My favourite animal is the elephant. As mentioned above, The Lion Share has helped digitize all ranger communication and technology in the Niassa Reserve in Mozambique – equipment that had not been updated for over 20 years. This investment has reduced elephant poaching from 200 per year to zero. And as of more recently, we have helped provide relief to various Australian species affected by the bushfires. The fund has co-financed the construction of a mobile veterinary bus to provide immediate treatment for wildlife injured by fire and individual mobile wildlife rehabilitation units for the smaller animals.
RG: Our objective is huge, to prove that advertising can use its power for good to save the animal kingdom. By 2030, it will be unimaginable to think a brand would use an animal in their advertising without contributing to TLS. It will simply become the norm.
Sir David Attenborough
“In 2015, the world adopted a new global development agenda with an ambitious set of 17 sustainable development goals. Now, through The Lion’s Share, advertisers have a real opportunity to act and deliver on these sustainable development goals by making a small change in the way they recognize animals in their advertisements. I urge you – every brand and every CEO out there – to join us and sign up to this profoundly game changing initiative, so that we might help protect Earth’s habitats, animals and wildlife as we head into this new century.”
Sir David Attenborough, Special Ambassador for The Lion’s Share