With a seven-figure commitment from the DiCaprio Foundation, the fund hopes to catalyze investment in the recovery of Africa's lions and landscapes and will invest tens of millions of dollars to support conservationists working to reverse the decline in Africa's lion populations — which have dropped from two hundred thousand a century ago to just over twenty thousand today — and restore lion habitat across the continent. To that end, the fund will direct 100 percent of every dollar raised to the most effective efforts it can find.
Conservationists estimate that if existing national parks and nature reserves were properly resourced and managed, and if the local communities around those parks and reserves were supported, Africa's lion population would at least triple in size. To that end, LRF will fund efforts to reduce human-lion conflict, enhance law enforcement and end poaching, and secure the space lions need to roam and thrive. The fund has already awarded grants totaling more than $800,000 to the African Parks Network in Pendjari National Park, Benin to improve anti-poaching efforts, communications, and monitoring of lions and threats; conservation organization Panthera, in support of its efforts to create infrastructure and purchase equipment for the enforcement of anti-poaching laws in Niokolo-Koba National Park in Senegal; and the Wildlife Crime Prevention Project in Zambia, which investigates the targeted poaching of lions for their skin and other body parts.
"We're losing our planet's wildlife — even such iconic species as the African lion — at a dangerously rapid pace," said DiCaprio. "An astonishingly small amount of philanthropic dollars go toward protecting wildlife, but together we can turn that around."
"The loss of lions represents the unraveling of the fabric of Africa's ecology and economies," said Jeffrey "Jefe" Parrish, vice president for conservation at the Wildlife Conservation Network. "Their recovery can help restore both. Bringing lions back will require the best efforts of all, working collaboratively — from conservation organizations large and small, to governments, to the donor community, to every individual citizen who has ever admired a lion in the wild, in stories, or on a logo. The Lion Recovery Fund exists to channel that concern, passion, and generosity and guide financial support to the best efforts to bring them back."