Big cats of Instagram: Conservationists warn over rise of lions as status symbols in Pakistan and across Middle East

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For the up-and-coming businessman or celebrity wanting to signal their status, a flash car, trophy spouse or huge house are no longer enough. The standout possession of today is a pet lion, claims the wealthy entrepreneur as he washes his playful cub with the jet from a hose pipe.

“If one lives in Pakistan and wants to be famous, he must have a lion, which can earn him the top level of fame,” says the man at his home in an affluent area of Karachi.

A fashion that arrived a few years ago in the Punjabi capital of Lahore has now gripped Pakistan’s commercial hub, he claims.

“The wealthy people in Karachi took inspiration and today there are several farmhouses and big villas where one may find lions,”…