Cecil The Lion & Endangered Species Were Projected Onto The Empire State Building Because Their Survival Depends On Us

Crowds of people filled New York City's intersections last night to watch as detailed, colorful images of endangered species were projected onto the Empire State building as part of a promotion for the Discovery Channel's Racing Extinction, which premieres in December, according to the Associated Press. The campaign has coincidentally fallen just after the death of Cecil the lion, a famous lion in Zimbabwe who was allegedly killed by Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer. Cecil was also featured among the projections, which was the first of its kind to appear on the Empire State building, according to The Guardian.

The projections included a snow leopard, a manta ray, a gorilla, and a tiger. They took up about 33 floors of the building's southern face, according to the New York Daily News. The show was created by Oscar-winning director and Oceanic Preservation Society founder Louie Psihoyos and aimed to draw attention to the issues while also generating some footage for a documentary, according to The Guardian. The project cost about $1 million, with funding from private donors and Psihoyos covering the rest, according to the Daily News. There are about 16,306 endangered species in the world right now, including both endangered animal and plant species, according to Endangered Earth.

Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Psihoyos collaborated with Travis Threlkel, chief creative officer and co-founder of Obscura Digital, to create what the two men called a "weapon of mass instruction," according to The New York Times. The images were meant to be beautiful and educational; "We’re going to try to create something beautiful. Not bum people out," said Threlkel said. "Hopefully, this is one big domino. If we can tip it, it would be great."

Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The projections were played alongside the song "One Candle," a collaboration between composer J. Ralph, who worked on the Psihoyos-directed documentary The Cove, and the singer Sia. Psihoyos told the Times the song will be the anthem for Racing Extinction as well as the greater movement to save the species, saying, "You can't light a bigger candle than the Empire State Building."

He also said the title was inspired by an aphorism embraced in the film: "It's better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."

As we mentioned, Cecil the lion was featured among the projections, serving as both a news peg and reminder of our responsibility to animals.

Images: Getty Images (4); Stevie Boothe/Instagram