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
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!