President Obama, Martha Stewart, Neil Armstrong, Lucille Ball, Magic Johnson, Julia Child, Robert Redford -- all born Leos, under the astrological sign of the lion that has ruled the month of August for thousands of years. Like lions, Leos are said to have powerful personalities, display great boldness and possess leadership qualities. No other creature so accurately personifies the traits attributed to Leos as lions. And no other animal quite commands the attention of the jungle like the lion. But imagine if lions went extinct -- what symbol could take its place? This could happen in our lifetime. Faced with mounting threats, African lion populations are rapidly declining.
Habitat loss has created mounting tension between local people and the king of the beast. When the battle for space is between humans and lions, lions continue to be on the losing end. Lions are also fighting disease, changing habitat from climate change, and poaching for trade in their parts. But perhaps most egregiously, on top of all these threats, wealthy hunters from abroad -- mostly from America -- travel to Africa for the "thrill" of slaying a wild lion and bringing their kill home as a trophy.
No longer do lions cover the plains of Africa cautiously stalking their prey, nor are lions any longer abundant in many of the places where they once regularly amazed travelers on safari. Instead, the Earth is left with as few as 20,000 African lions remaining in the wild.
What would it be like if the lion population really did vanish completely? If you wanted to travel to the African plains and take pictures of lions to show friends and family, you wouldn't have that luxury. Like the dinosaur, movies and television programs about lions would become classified as fantasy instead of reality. And Leos would no longer have a symbol that effectively represented their astrological sign. The Leo's lion would join Sagittarius' half-man half-horse centaur or Capricorn's sea-goat as another fanciful myth, enshrined in eternity as a constellation, but absent as a reality in our world.
It is not too late though. The U.S. government has the chance to address one of the many challenges that the real leos of the plains face. In March 2011, IFAW, along with a coalition of other animal welfare groups, petitioned the US Department of Interior to list African lions as an endangered species under the US Endangered Species Act. If the species is listed, US hunters will be prohibited from bringing African lion trophies back into the U.S., thereby taking away a major incentive for killing this imperiled animal.
The King of the Jungle deserves to be more than just a set of stars flickering in the sky. Leos and all the other Zodiac signs should unite to save this natural icon before it is too late.