You Win or You Die: Real-life Threats to the Animals behind “Game of Thrones”

A group of armadillo lizards in South Africa. Image by Chris Broeckhoven.

By Jen Shook of National Geographic’s Research, Conservation and Exploration Grant Programs

The famous families on “Game of Thrones,” the HBO series based on George R.R. Martin’s books, feature an assortment of animals on their house crests. While the fictional families in the series are vying for a seat of power, their real-world animal counterparts are fighting for resources to survive. Our Explorers are working to raise awareness and protect these specie before time runs out.

Dragon (House Targaryen)

National Geographic Young Explorer Grantee Chris Broeckhoven studies a modern-day “dragon” – the armadillo lizard – which has evolved an excellent defense of heavy armor and the ability to roll into a ball by biting it’s own tail. The lizard is still vulnerable however. Food loss, due to farming and grazing activities in the Succulent Karoo Biome, as well as population decline through illegal collection for the pet trade, threaten this species.

A group of armadillo lizards in South Africa. Image by Chris Broeckhoven.

Wolf (House Stark)

Due to inbreeding, as a result of fewer ice bridges in winter, the gray wolf faces of Isle Royale National Park, in the United States, face extinction. National Geographic Explorer Rolf Peterson is studying how to save this population in a shrinking ecosystem.

A wolf looks over the cold landscape as Rolf Peterson researches wolf populations and ecology in Michigan, United States. Image by Rolf Peterson/National Geographic Creative.

Lion (House Lannister)

Lions are threatened by poaching, snares and human-predator conflict. National Geographic Emerging Explorer Shivani Bhalla is a fourth-generation Kenyan, a biologist, and the founder of the Ewaso Lions project. Ewaso Lions works together with local communities in Kenya to advance lion conservation. Programs promote human-carnivore coexistence, provide education, and build local capacity for wildlife rangers and community rangers.

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