Two lions and a lioness have moved in to a Dental Practice in Bloomsbury – but neither the lions nor the general public have anything to fear.
The lions are cuddly toys that have been sent to the Forest and Ray dental practice in Gilbert Place by international wildlife charity the Born Free Foundation in return for the practice adopting three of their rescued African lions.
Dentists at the practice decided on the adoptions as a counter to American dentist and big game hunter Walter Palmer, who caused a world-wide backlash when he unlawfully killed a prized and protected lion called Cecil.
The Born Free connection all came about after Customer Care Manager Christopher Hall spotted an online photograph of an advertising sign for the ‘Hagerty Family Dental‘ surgery in Arkansas, USA.
"I’d been following the story of Cecil the lion and Walter Palmer, and the public’s reaction to it as well. I discovered that another American dentist had added a tongue-in-cheek addition to the sign outside his practice – he had put underneath ‘By the way, I don’t hunt lions’, and this went viral."
Then a past patient got in touch with Chris via Facebook asking whether all dentists were like Walter Palmer: "And I said ‘No they’re not! Most dentists are caring people!’ So I talked to our dentists and they were quite shocked that people might think that. They all said lions are very beautiful animals and there aren’t many of them left. It would be a terrible shame to kill such an exotic animal.
"I started thinking about what we could do to show that we care about wildlife, so we contacted the Born Free Foundation. They were really happy to hear from us, and we decided to take out adoptions for three of their rescued lions – or rather two lions and a lioness, named Dolo, Sinbad and Shada."
Resident dentist at the practice Dr Nick Kasiteridis takes up the story: "They’ve sent us two cuddly lions and a lioness to represent our adoptees, all of which are safely looked after at the Born Free Foundation’s rescue centres in Ethiopia and South Africa. We have adoption certificates and some rather magnificent photos of the lions and an adoption pack, and we will be getting periodic updates on how they are getting on."
"Adopting three lions does not represent a massive donation but we are discussing fund-raising for the Foundation on a regular basis, anything from just having a collecting tin at our surgery to holding fund-raising days and events. It’s early days yet but younger patients in particular love the cuddly lions, and we are happy for them to take photographs of themselves posing with them in return for a small donation.
"We are also looking to Born Free for advice on fund-raising ideas and are keen to get dentists in other parts of the UK and indeed around the world joining in to support the Foundation in their work, helping to protect lions and wildlife."
"If the idea takes off, we will at least know that Cecil did not die in vain, and in raising funds for Born Free, dentists and their clients can ensure that something positive comes out of this. It could be that more lions and their habitats could be saved as a result, and it could also go some way towards demonstrating that not all dentists are heartless trophy hunters.
"Instead of being ashamed of what Walter Palmer’s exploits did to the reputation of the profession, we can be proud that a pride of lions has moved in to a dental surgery in Camden...
Our clients will also be able to follow progress reports on our lions that we will be receiving from Born Free by visiting the news section on our website.” ( http://forest-ray.com/news/).
(Contact to Born Free Foundation: http://www.bornfree.org.uk/give/adopt-an-animal/ )