HARRISMITH, South Africa (CBSDFW.COM) – Conservationists in South Africa captured a magnificent close-up video of male lion Smokey, sitting in the dawn light.
The video of the 10-year-old big cat sitting in the long grass at sunrise, has had more than 12.5 million views on the social media page of GG Conservation, a wildlife reserve based in South Africa.
Suzanne Scott, Director at GG Lions Non-Profit Company, took the video on her phone on May 28.
“Smokey is a very charismatic lion, whose human best friend is our lions’ manager Thulani, known as Mike,” she told Reuters. “He loves to get head rubs from him.”
The popularity of the video came as a surprise to Scott, who commented: “We are still intrigued as to why everyone loved it so much. Maybe it’s the peace that people need in their busy lives.”
GG Conservation reserve was founded by the Shannon family, originally from Ireland. Three years ago, the reserve became a non-profit lion sanctuary whose mission, according to Director Scott is “to love, protect and preserve the lion species.” The reserve is currently home to 72 lions.
While the lion population in South Africa remains relatively stable, the species as a whole has faced declines of around 43 percent in the last 21 years, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List.
The IUCN attributes the decline to pre-emptive killing, trophy-hunting and a decline in their prey.