Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Elsa - The Lion That Changed the World!

George Adamson - source Wiki Commons

Last night I watched the Natural World wildlife documentary which told the true story of Elsa, the orphaned lioness featured in Joy Adamson’s book Born Free, later made into an amazing film. The programme continued where the film left off and included contributions from some of the people who worked with Joy and George Adamson as they fought to return Elsa to living wild and later with other lions from the film and the famous lion, Christian. Tragically both Joy and George Adamson were murdered in their beloved Kenya but not by wild animals, by people.

The true story was not the idyllic one told in the book, the Adamson’s relationship was a volatile one as David Attenborough recounted in the programme. He also told of how he woke up in a tent one morning with a huge lion lying on his chest, that was his introduction to Elsa! Not only was the Adamsons' relationship a difficult one, the making of the film was not an easy one either as Virginia McKenna who played Joy Adamson in the film recounted. Her emotions were apparent as she returned to Maru, Kenya where she and her husband Bill Travers met George and Joy Adamson. She is the sole survivor of the two couples.

The film sparked a massive global interest in conservation and a love of wild animals where once we only feared them. It also changed the lives of the stars of the film, Bill Travers and his wife Virginia McKenna forever. They became firm friends of the Adamsons, especially George, and then went on to become campaigning conservationists who set up the Born Free Foundation . The Foundation works throughout the world to stop individual wild animal suffering and to protect threatened species in the wild.  I'll be buying Christmas cards from there this year. 

Yes, Elsa really did make a huge difference!

Fifty years ago when the Adamsons were returning Elsa to the wild lions were not under threat. With the increasing population in Africa their territories have reduced and the additional problem of poachers has sadly reduced the population of lions living free in Kenya to 1,000.

If you missed the programme it’s still available on BBC iPlayer It's an absolute gem!

If you can't watch the programme on iPlayer you can see some lovely video clips on the George Adamson Father of Lions website . It also has some wonderful photographs of all the lions including Elsa and George's favourite, Boy, one of the lions in the film Born Free. 

I’m not ashamed to admit I blubbered most of the way through the programme, especially when they showed original footage of Elsa with the Adamsons and later clips from the film. Born Free had an amazing soundtrack with wonderful music composed by John Barry who sadly died this week. I just have to hear this and I fill up! 

Here's a clip from Born Free, it's over forty years old and still better than most of the films being produced today!


  1. We'll no doubt get the film in the U.S. on our national broadcasting service eventually. I look forward to it.

  2. And of course you can read the books which tell of Elsa and later ones of Elsa's cubs. Born Free, Living Free and another one, written by the guys and def. not like the Film lol. Of course, the actors who played the Adams then went on to play a role in conservation. A wonderful story (bit sad at the end though lol)

  3. So sad to read about the death of John Barry. He was a such a talent.

  4. I loved the movie, Born Free. I think it made a difference.

  5. I remember the movie Born Free, I did not realize it was 40 years old. I hope we get the show you watched here in the US someday. I will be sure to watch it if we do. Thanks for sharing this with us. I didn't know the couple had been murdered, how sad.

  6. I remember reading Born Free when I was about 12 or so. I think I may have watched the movie too.

  7. Greetings from Southern California :-)

    I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

    God Bless You, ~Ron

  8. Thanks for posting this! I remember Elsa! I seem to remember watching a TV show as well as the movie.

  9. After reading this I will be looking for this documentary. I have been watching documentaries every night for the past month or so. I remember Elsa and the Born Free Movie. Love your new look here Winifred and thanks for doing this post.

  10. We watched that show too. Brought up a lot of questions and curiosity on my part to learn even more. For sure I want to watch Born Free.

  11. I loved the movie I can't believe it was released 40 years ago. I think I will watch it again.
    That is an amazing picture of George Adamson Winifred. He would be an artists dream subject.

  12. Hey Winifred! How are you? How have you been? I have missed you! :)

    You know, when I was a little girl, my favorite movie was a movie about a little girl growing up amongst lions and tigers... is this that movie, you're talking about here? It was my favorite movie because I remember just watching it over and over and over again and I remember the feeling of just feeling sooooo freeeee! I wonder if this is that movie...hmmmm....

    Happy Valentine's Day to you, Winifred! And to the love of your life, and to your family and friends! Today is also the great reveal of my new novella, and I hope that you will be able to support me and purchase a copy of it when it's available for ordering! :) Enjoy a beautiful day of love! :)


  13. Thanks so much for the link to this documentary, i love the BBC iPlayer, I just wish there wasn't this stupid international issue of what shows can be played and which cannot outside of the UK.

  14. Do you listen to the Archers on BBC? Its my favorite show, every day I listen. I was also hooked to Silver Street before it went off the air.

  15. darn it...I just tried to watch it and it says "Not Available in my area".

    So annoying!!!

  16. Brown Muffin - It is a pain when you can't watch video outside the country. Certainly limits the Internet.

    No I've never been an Archers fan. My husband is an avid Radio 4 listener and Archers fan. Me, I'm for Radio 2!

    C - Some days I just can't log in to Blogger I have no idea why as my password has never changed. Just the vagaries of Blogger I assume.

  17. Great is amazing how one change change the world!

  18. Winifred,

    I amashamed to admit that I have never read or seen "Born Free". I think I'll have to remedy that. I would also loveto see the program you blogged about.

    ~hippo hugs~

  19. I don't think I have ever seen the film. I must try to get a copy, I enjoyed the clip. Did you see the film "A Lion Called Christian" that was televised just over a year ago, I think you would enjoy that too. A x


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