Painting of Lion Mario amonst a bright lue and organge background

Sophy Tuttle Creates Art to Raise Awareness for Big Cats

Artwork commemorates the Endangered Species Act and kicks off our Campaign for Big Cats 


Lion Mario looks inquisitively at the audience with a twinkle in his eyes. His relaxed posture conveys comfort and confidence as the majestic cat lays amongst a flourish of vibrant vegetation and bright geometric shapes. This Mario is a portrait, based on the real-life Mario who resides at our LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. Painted by renowned wildlife artist Sophy Tuttle, the artwork was commissioned to raise awareness about the need for continued protection of big cats and highlights FOUR PAWS’ global work to rescue and protect big cats like Mario. The artwork is also a part of our #ESA50 coalition work which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

Painting of Lion Mario amids bright blue and orange background

"Lion Mario" painting by Boston-based artist, Sophy Tuttle

Sophy worked on the painting live at a recent event in our hometown of Boston, Massachusetts, which launched our Campaign for Big Cats. It was incredible to see the details of lion Mario’s face come to life in just a few hours. The quiet confidence and joyful spirit of the real-life Mario shine through in Sophy’s painting.

With work that can be seen from Massachusetts to Columbia, Sophy Tuttle combines art and advocacy as seamlessly as realism and whimsy live side-by-side on her canvas. The English-born, Boston-based artist specializes in nature inspired murals and artwork, and her creations often advocate for protection of animals and the environment. Her work celebrates nature, reconsiders our position in the web of life, and creates new narratives that explore regenerative, resilient culture-building among all forms of life. 

Artist Sophy Tuttle stands before canvas with partially complete portrait of lion Mario

Sophy Tuttle working on painting at Big Cat Campaign event in Boston, MA

Lion Mario is an apt symbol for the plight of big cats. This beautiful lion, who is known for his joyous personality and his handsome mane, was going to be sold from a safari park in France to a canned hunting lodge in South Africa that caters to trophy hunters. Luckily, FOUR PAWS stepped in and brought Mario and his sister Marion to LIONSROCK in 2010, where this resilient lion can live safely in a species-appropriate environment.

While big cats are protected under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA), they are still traded both legally and illegally internationally, fueling an international market for traditional medicine products and so-called luxury items. South Africa is a hotspot for intensively farming and commercially trading big cats, and through our Break the Vicious Cycle Campaign FOUR PAWS is fighting to ban the commercial trade of all big cats in South Africa.

Lion Mario rests on a rock at LIONSROCK

Lion Mario at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa

Close up of lion mario portrait by Sophy Tuttle

Close up of lion Mario's portrait by Sophy Tuttle

Sophy’s artwork is also a part of the #ESA50 celebration and National Mural and Art Series, which commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. This coalition effort features artwork from animal welfare, conservation, and environmentalist groups who are collaborating to raise awareness for endangered species. These murals and paintings spotlight regional ecological and cultural diversity by highlighting plants and animals that are either currently protected under the Endangered Species Act or who have recovered thanks to this landmark legislation. Along with our Boston-based artwork from Sophy, FOUR PAWS previously partnered with artist Sonny Sundancer to create a  mural featuring a tiger in New York City.  Since FOUR PAWS rescues and protects animals all over the world, our artwork highlights the global protections that are afforded to animals such as tigers and lions who are not native to the United States.

Mario’s portrait is proudly displayed at FOUR PAWS’ US office in Boston, Massachusetts. If you are interested in displaying the portrait in your business, nonprofit, gallery, or public space, please contact us at  

FOUR PAWS Staff with Artist Sophy Tuttle and completed painting

Artist Sophy Tuttle with members of the FOUR PAWS USA team in Boston

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