One of my earliest memories was getting to see the movie Born Free, a movie depicting the lives of George and Joy Adamson. My parents took me to a viewing at the Sumner County Drive-In, an outdoor movie excursion in itself. The movie was based on the international best seller of the same name by Joy Adamson. And, the cinematic images of the vast plains of Africa and lions riding atop land rovers forever changed my life. Birthdays later, I received a toy set with zebra-striped land rover and male and female lion figures. (I still have the lions to this day).
George and Joy became the first most well-known African conservationists after raising an orphaned lioness named Elsa. Elsa was orphaned on the first of February 1956 after George, an African game warden, killed her mother when she charged him. George afterwards realizing that the mother had charged to protect her small cubs, took the young ones home to his wife, Joy. The couple soon found that they could not fill the needs of young lions and the two larger cubs were taken to a zoo in Rotterdam. The smallest would be named "Elsa" and would stay with the Adamsons. But, time came when Elsa would have to join her sisters in a zoo setting. Joy was adamant that her beloved Elsa would not live her days in a cage. Instead, Elsa would be trained and taught to be wild again. She became the first lion to be successfully released back into the wild. Elsa lived free until 1961 when she died of babesiosis, a disease from a tick bite.
Joy Adamson would go on to write sequels to the Born Free story with Living Free and Forever Free. Throughout her life she continued to support wildlife with the proceeds of her books, appearances and artwork. But, on the 3rd of January 1980, Joy was found dead by her assistant, Pieter Mawson, who mistakenly claimed that she had been killed by a lion. Police investigations later proved a discharged former employee had been the murderer. Joy was buried next to her Elsa in the Meru National Park. Her husband, George, would also be murdered nine years later in 1989 as he rushed to aid a tourist attacked by poachers near his camp Kora. He is credited for saving the tourist's life.
I believe it is essential that stories such as the Adamson's be shared today. Theirs is a story that has been lost to history. The Adamsons were not perfect people, they had their flaws. However, they had a love and a passion to see and appreciate wildlife as it was created. May we all grasp this passion so that we may better care for the incredible creations of God.
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