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In 1956, George Adamson, a game warden in northern Kenya,
was sent to track down a man-eating lion
that had been terrorising several villages.
While looking for the lion, he startled a lioness...
..and when she charged, George shot her dead.
Afterwards, he saw the lioness was with milk,
discovered three cubs nearby and chose to rescue them.
George brought the cubs back to camp for his wife, Joy Adamson.
This spur of the moment decision would make one of the cubs a legend
and led to the feature film Born Free.
Oh, you've been very successful, haven't you?
Joy, can you spare a minute?
Yes, I suppose so. What is it?
Well, I've a little something for you.
Joy fell in love with the cubs and wanted to raise them by hand.
However, as they grew, they became harder to handle and more dangerous.
Eventually the Adamsons agreed to let two go to a zoo in Europe,
but decided to keep the weakest, the one they named Elsa.
The unique bond Elsa and the Adamsons achieved
would radically alter the way that we relate to lions forever.
It was like a pebble landing in a pool that set off a series
of dramatic, unpredictable and sometimes tragic events
that still resonate with us today.
In the 21st century, the fate of the most feared animal in Africa
hangs in the balance.
Experts estimate that there are now just 10% of the lions that existed
when Born Free was released in 1966.
The film raised the possibility of having an emotional connection
with a wild predator, previously only thought of as a killer.
The initial amazement is that shot
in which Joy Adamson puts her arms around the lioness' neck
and the lioness certainly doesn't act aggressively.
What caught the imagination
was the successful release of Elsa back into the wild.
More than a film or a book, Born Free became a fable
of the return to nature and aroused our passion to fight
for the freedom that all animals should have in the natural world.
You have this fixed idea.
What's wrong with a zoo anyway?
Nothing... except that she won't be free.
-And is freedom so important?
Yes. She was born free and she has the right to live free.
-Virginia McKenna's life was changed forever by playing Joy Adamson in the film.
It's so wonderful that this story is still alive.
It's like a beacon of hope in a rather sad and violent world.
Both Joy and George would ultimately meet brutal and savage ends.
But in the '50s, the Africa that led them into the Born Free story
was one of romance and adventure.
The bush was still true wilderness
and they were drawn towards the freedom it offered.
As a game warden, George looked after an area the size of Britain.
There were wild animals everywhere and barely a human in sight.
George and Joy filmed their encounters
with lions and other animals.
All the home movie footage of Elsa in this film was shot by them.
The Adamsons also kept a written record of their lives.
Most people know the Born Free story
through the film based on Joy's book.
But the other star was George, perhaps the real hero.
He dedicated his whole working life to protecting lions
in a time when they were still considered vermin
and foresaw many of the problems we face today.
In the 1980s he wrote...
"Quite often our work is called a waste of time and resources,
"as lions are not endangered as a species.
"This is true at the moment, but as a yardstick for action,
"is dangerously short-sighted.
"The same might have been said of rhinos ten years ago."
Using the words of his diaries and books,
we are now able to get inside the head of a thoughtful man
who inspired all who came into contact with him.
George was one of the very first people who understood lion behaviour.
Read the signs.
That's what he taught us, read the body language.
That's what George told us, taught us, not by saying
anything but by his example because he wasn't like a schoolteacher.
He was just a wise and wonderful person
who by his example showed you the way.
When George and Joy decided to raise Elsa,
it's hard to appreciate how unique an experiment it was.
No-one had ever raised a lion out in the bush before
and it was impossible to tell what would happen.
At first, Elsa was distraught that she had lost her siblings.
"It was pathetic to see her searching for her sisters,
"and while she got over the loss of them, we let her sleep on our bed."
Joy's affection for Elsa was immense from the outset.
She had suffered three miscarriages, was unable to conceive again
and had a deep, unfulfilled longing for children.
So Elsa became part of the family.
"There is no doubt that our shared devotion to Elsa
"had brought Joy and me as close to each other as we'd ever been,
"just as a child might have done...
"and Elsa took the place of a child in our family album."
Her emotion was huge, enormous.
I felt deeply sorry for her actually because she cared so much about that animal.
It was like as if Elsa was her child, absolutely.
She poured every ounce of love that you would give to a child into Elsa.
I was lucky to have some very fine people in my life
including what I thought human love means.
But with Elsa it was a love which was something quite different.
Elsa's natural instinct was playful.
Lion cubs learn by rough and tumble in the wild.
But it soon became clear,
as Elsa grew and gained strength, that in spite of the Adamsons'
special bond with her, she would need to roam further than their camp
to fulfil her potential as a lioness in her natural environment.
"We began to plan her education for life in the wild,
"for Joy and I were as one that she should not end up in a zoo.
"Despite all of my years as a warden
"and my particular interest in lions,
"I had no real knowledge how to set about our self-appointed task.
"As far as I could discover,
"literally no-one had attempted such a thing before.
"Everyday we used to take her out for walks,
"down the river and up the river.
"And when we came across waterbuck, she'd learn to stalk them."
George got to know Elsa intimately
as he reawakened her natural instincts.
But in spite of Elsa learning to hunt,
he quickly saw she had an especially gentle and loving character.
George began to realise that every animal is unique,
an idea that was novel at the time.
Westerners saw lions as part of a sport -
trophies to be shot for fun.
Local tribesmen killed them out of necessity,
but nobody related to them as individuals.
The strong bond that Elsa had with the Adamsons
gave George a problem when he tried to release her back into the wild.
She wasn't yet ready for the dangers that lay in wait.
She became ill, got hungry and was attacked by wild lions.
That made her attach herself even more to the Adamsons.
"Tried to leave Elsa behind, but she followed us back to camp and slept in my tent.
"Behaved very badly and chewed my pillow.
"Sat on my bed and broke it!
"It's really heart-rending to leave Elsa in the bush alone.
"Like deserting our child.
"It seems so shabby to wait until she's asleep and steal away.
"What makes it doubly difficult
"is her obvious pleasure at seeing us every time.
"The same old affection for us.
"How she is so gentle and no attempt to jump at us."
Gradually she did learn to fend for herself,
to hunt and to cope with the dangers of the big wide world.
"Probably Elsa's most remarkable step forward at this time
"was in exercising extraordinary self-control.
"She somehow learned to reconcile the reactions of being a wild lioness
"with those of a young lion who had imprinted, almost at birth, on her human foster parents."
This, to my mind, is one of the most remarkable photographs
that's ever been taken of a lion.
It shows Elsa,
the famous lioness that was reared by Joy and George Adamson.
She had just killed this buffalo, killed it for herself.
And yet at this moment, when all her most powerful instincts of savagery,
the instincts of a hunter, were aroused,
she allowed these two men to drag her prey, her kill, from her
and yet do nothing whatever to prevent them.
She thus proved that she was a lioness of two worlds,
a lioness who could live in the world of the wild savage bush
and also in the world of human beings.
Elsa walked the tightrope between a wild and domestic life,
a constant worry for her surrogate parents.
Worst of all was when she disappeared for a full six weeks.
As Elsa was used to humans providing food, she could have easily walked
into trouble with local tribesmen, or hunters who would have killed her instantly.
Then, on Christmas Day, Joy and George received the best present they could ever have dreamt of.
"She called from the river in an unusual way
"and stood near the bank with three cubs at her side.
"It was one of the greatest sights of our lives."
Being the first hand-reared lion to breed successfully in the wild,
Elsa had made history.
Joy celebrated their successful rearing of an orphan lion
by writing the book, Born Free.
There was great anticipation on its release
and it was an immediate international smash hit,
being translated into 25 different languages
and selling six millions copies in its first year.
I got a telegram saying,
there is a new book coming out about a lioness, we have permission
to go and film it, will you go up there and do so, which I duly did.
When we arrived,
Joy would say, "Oh, I am in trouble, so, so much trouble, trouble.
"Elsa has been in a fight with a strange lioness.
"And she is injured and she's somewhere in the wilderness...
"We have..." So I thought oh, I have no star,
I mean, what is this thing about?
So I got out a camp bed and I went to sleep.
And I woke with a huge weight on my, on my chest and the most appalling
halitosis coming at me and I opened my eyes and there were these snaggled
saliva of the underside of a lion's jaw, and its weight on me.
So I realised that a lion is lying on top of me, what do I do now?
And before I could make up my mind to do anything in particular,
I heard Joy saying "Elsa, my liebchen"
and this huge great thing uncurls and plodded over and she saw Joy,
which was a great relief as far as I was concerned.
But that was my introduction to Elsa.
She certainly was injured.
And Joy treated her wounds and stroking her
and feeling very tender.
And that evening Joy said, "George,
"you must go and shoot this lioness who is injuring my Elsa".
And George said, cos he always had a pipe in his mouth,
never wore a shirt, I never saw him in a shirt.
And George said, "Grr mmm grr"
and Joy then lost her temper and said, "You're so, so idle, George,
"you must go and shoot this animal who is injuring my Elsa".
And then it became a really,
an embarrassing argument, I mean, you know, we'd only just arrived
and here was husband and wife rowing
in the most violent way and, er, and I was so embarrassed I got up
and left the tent and went out and looked at the African moon.
And Joy came running afterwards and said "Oh, please David, I know you
"think it's so terrible I'm talking to George in that way but he is so,
he is so idle and I love Elsa more than I love any man", she said.
Oh, well. Mmm.
The blissful relationship portrayed in the book was far from the truth.
Joy and George were in fact at loggerheads
and would spend most of the rest of their lives apart.
"She had what you might call an artistic temperament.
"She was not at all easy to get along with.
"We used to have some terrible rows.
"Joy very difficult, created scene while I was having lunch.
"She left the table and went to her room.
"A minute later I heard a shot!
"She had fired off her revolver to frighten me into thinking
"she had committed suicide."
Clearly there was more going on
than the fairy tale portrayed by the Born Free book.
And not only with the Adamsons.
Elsa's rehabilitation back into the wild was more dangerous
than the book implied.
The Kenyan bush is a violent and unforgiving place
where wild prides will always fight off a lone lioness.
The truth was that it was a minor miracle that Elsa survived at all.
"I always regretted not keeping Elsa's sisters.
"It had made her rehabilitation far more difficult.
"I do not think she would have managed it in more open country,
"or without Joy and me to provide her with an occasional kill."
The idea of putting a lion back in the wild is actually pretty scary for the lion
because the wild is not a safe, happy place -
it's constant gang warfare.
And if you're one lion against many and you don't know your way around
and they know every inch, and they also know the whole social network.
And there's somebody new here, what is that?
And they're going to come looking for you in the dark and be ready to nail you.
That's the problem. Nobody wants to see the way it really is,
the way it really is out here is truly vicious and nasty.
Born Free is a deep, deep myth,
and it is a lovely encouraging myth that we are at one with nature
and that nothing awful ever happens.
Death and destruction and pain and agony is not part of that myth.
It happens to be part of the natural world.
And it was the relentless force of nature that struck Elsa down.
But it wasn't another lion that got the better of her.
She caught a tick fever whilst Joy was heading back from London.
George kept notes of exactly what happened.
He knew Joy's heart would be broken if Elsa didn't make it through.
"It was a terrible and harrowing sight.
"It even crossed my mind that I ought to put her out of her misery,
"but I believed there was still a chance that you might arrive with a vet in time to help."
"At about 4.30am, I called all the men of the camp.
"Together, we put Elsa on my camp bed
"and with much difficulty carried her back to my tent.
"As dawn was breaking,
"she suddenly got up, walked to the front of the tent and collapsed.
"I held her head in my lap.
"A few minutes later she sat up,
gave a most heartrending and terrible cry and fell over."
"Elsa was dead.
"My Elsa gone!
"Gone the most wonderful friend
"and part of my life which nothing can replace.
"Why should it be?
"Something which has created nothing but goodwill and love all over the world."
"I buried Elsa under the target tree
"and got the scouts to fire three volleys over the grave."
The impact of Elsa's life and her death
and her relationship with George and Joy Adamson
has had an impact beyond description really
because I don't think really before that animals were ever looked at as individual beings.
They were just lions or elephants or monkeys or whatever.
But through the Adamsons' life with her,
the whole understanding of human beings to individual animals began.
It was as if there wasn't any separation, that's what I like
about, you know we say animals and humans, because we are all
in the same basket, we really are.
And we don't take enough time to understand what they do,
we're so busy thinking of ourselves and what we do.
So Elsa and the Adamsons kind of started this off, I think,
and probably changed the way a lot of people think about other creatures,
I think, I'm sure they did.
Elsa continued to provide fresh new insights into the world of lions from beyond the grave.
She gained immortality through the feature film Born Free.
Virginia McKenna was cast as Joy, her husband Bill Travers played George
and George himself was the chief lion advisor.
What went on behind the scenes perhaps reveals more
about the nature of lions than the film itself.
At first, the producers wanted to use captive circus lions to star as Elsa.
However well trained, they were still huge beasts
that instinctively sensed fear in humans.
I must admit, when I first saw them,
my heart did skip a few beats because they were so huge.
It was quite daunting,
and I had a nice cup of tea when I came out.
The trouble was we could only do what the trainer said we could do.
So we never could just do what we felt.
The filming didn't go well.
Despite George's best efforts,
the lions became more aggressive with the actors.
There was something inherently wrong about captive animals
working on a film called Born Free.
George advised that they get a whole new group of lions
from around the world that hadn't had a rigid circus training
and would hopefully behave more naturally.
Eventually, 24 new lions arrived,
including three that would go on to play huge roles not only in the film
but also George's life.
Boy, Ugas and Girl.
George advised Virginia and Bill to walk with the lions every morning
for months to gain their trust.
They started to film in a completely new way
by encouraging the lions to behave naturally, not by commanding them.
It required great patience
and often George was just outside the edge of shot
encouraging a lion to act in a particular way.
Come on Elsa, get down!
But the danger of being close to lions was always apparent.
When playing with Boy in rehearsal, Virginia broke her ankle.
Bill's got this incredible photograph
of Boy absolutely just starting to spring at me,
and I'm going, "No, Boy", like this with my hands.
But...that was useless, of course he landed on me, plonk,
and I fell and my ankle just snapped.
She soldiered on, first filming in plaster and later with a limp.
And even after months of filming, it was clear that no-one could ever
fully trust a killer carnivore.
"Towards the end of filming,
"Ginny had to play a long and loving embrace
"with the lioness she knew best, Girl.
"But she sensed something was wrong.
"She was uneasy herself, the day was cloudy and cooler,
"the scene was set under a tree with its mysterious rustle and swaying.
"For the only time in her life, Girl turned on Ginny,
"took her by the arm in her teeth
"and firmly forced her face up on the ground.
"Very slowly and quietly, Bill and I had to move in
"to break up the clinch that was no longer loving."
This series of events might have been enough to convince the stars
that it was not the way to work.
But on the contrary, George, Virginia and Bill
were adamant that this was the only productive way to film with lions.
Almost to the end there were lots of people who felt it was
crazy to do it this way, and they would have preferred to have done it
with more control, with circus animals.
Although, frankly, I would have thought they could have seen
with their own eyes how very different the behaviour of the animals,
the expression on the animals' faces, the whole relationship between us and them.
It was all too obvious to see that the way we did it was the way to do it.
And we always believed that because we did it that way,
the film survived.
There are many, many films made with trained animals
which haven't had that sort of amazing kind of gut impact on people.
# Born free
# As free as the wind blows... #
The feel-good Hollywood production turned out to be a smash hit.
The opening night in Leicester Square
was attended by all the glitterati.
The film went on to win seven awards.
For the first time, it was possible to love a lion.
Typically, George was not present at the premiere,
never espousing the limelight.
"We often speculated on the reasons that Born Free
"appealed to such a phenomenal number and mixture of people.
"Partly, of course, it was a love story.
"Then partly it owed its impact to the fact that we had stayed on terms with an animal in the wild
"which up until now had symbolised majestic strength and ferocity."
Working on the film was the most profound life-changing experience for Virginia.
She developed a huge affinity with the lions and didn't want
to see them leave Africa for a life in captivity.
She, Bill and the Adamsons were becoming activists
fighting to save all lions.
A struggle that would go on to shape the rest of their lives.
In the midst of the battle to save the lions used in the film,
Joy inspired Virginia by taking her to the actual camp where Elsa was raised.
For the first time in 45 years,
Virginia is trying to track down the exact spot.
Of course I think a lot will have changed...
It is a long time ago.
And stuff's grown in and there's not so much of a sand bank as there was before.
But there's a bank over there and is that a rock?
There's a rock.
And the camp is probably...
was probably that way and it's all overgrown now.
I mean we're talking of so long ago.
And of course Joy describes where she did her painting and her writing
as being under a huge tree.
And here we have...
He's agreeing with me...
This huge tree, this huge, amazing tree.
This is it.
And here I am standing in it at last.
It's absolutely wonderful.
And of course across here you've got the river
where she brought the cubs across.
The freedom given to Elsa that allowed her to breed in the wild
acted as a guiding force for Virginia's battle against keeping animals in captivity.
George showed her that each animal has a right to a decent life.
I wish you were all standing here with me...
Perhaps you are...
Virginia and Bill would go on to set up the Born Free Foundation,
a group that to this day battles against the suffering
of individual animals.
But their first victory was securing three of the lions from the film
for George to rehabilitate back into the wild.
That Boy and Girl and Ugas story was the stepping stone for George
that led to everything he did in the future.
Those three lions set the seal in a way on his future,
which was magic, absolute magic.
George set up a new camp close to where they released Elsa in Meru Park.
With the experience gained from Elsa,
he devised a radical new plan.
For the first time ever,
he wanted to build a man-made pride out of his new lions.
For Joy, no lion could ever replace Elsa,
but she began to rehabilitate a cheetah a few miles away.
This is the area where George had his camp.
1965 he came here,
when he was given the three lions from Born Free to return to the wild.
There are little relics of that camp still lying about and if we search,
we'll find them and I always find that very poignant.
Looks like a bit of vehicle to me.
I'm not very mechanically minded,
but that's what I think that is.
More orphaned cubs were donated to George and soon he had seven lions.
He needed help moulding them into a pride
and found it in his godson, Jonny Baxendale.
George realised by making up a pride of lions that this could and would be the way to do it.
This had never been done before.
And at this stage very...
None of us really knew
how lion society operated and worked.
It was a very rough time to begin with.
They had wild lions to deal with.
Basically, we had intruded into somebody else's territory.
This is a very prickly issue in lion society.
Eventually they established a fantastic area of about 30...
32 square miles we reckon.
Finally, after about two years, they were totally self-sufficient.
They were now absolutely free and they were able to look after
themselves and for George I know this was a very special moment.
As far as the attempt to actually return this group of animals
to the wild to be self-sustaining and to breed and to hold their territory
against wild lions, it was an absolute success.
But the realities of Africa broke into their idyll.
Kenya had recently won independence
and needed to feed its rapidly growing population.
The local authorities couldn't afford to maintain the park for wildlife
and thought it would be better used to grow rice.
And Joy said "I tell you what, I'll foot the bill. I will pay for everything.
"Don't take it off as a game reserve."
And they, fortunately, agreed.
Joy had amassed a small fortune from the Born Free book and film
and set up the Elsa Trust, an organisation that saved Meru
and went on to back wildlife projects all over the world.
The Adamsons had turned from game warden and wife
into global conservationists.
A lot of people don't realise that.
This park would not exist had it not been for the Adamsons
and in particular Joy and the Elsa Trust, because that saved the day.
But all the Adamson's good work was undone in a second
when disaster struck in March 1969.
Boy, one of the male lions, was lying on top of Jonny Baxendale's Land Rover
when Peter Jenkins, the game warden, pulled alongside him to chat.
In the back was his three-year old son, Mark.
Boy very casually stepped down,
pushed me aside because I tried to block him,
and put his foot on the running board and reached right inside past Peter.
He got Mark on the head like this.
I saw Mark putting out his arm and Boy got him by the arm.
By then, fortunately, Peter had started the car, took off down the road.
And Boy was hanging in there and then eventually he came off.
He let go and he came off the car,
but I thought he was going to come out with Mark.
In the meantime, I'd whipped my rifle out of my car
and I was going to shoot Boy right off the side of the car because I knew this was all over.
And just at that moment he came off the car
and he fell on the road, fortunately without Mark.
And then Boy sort of got up
and looked sort of confused and everything.
And I'll never forget looking down the scope sight
as he stood there looking at me
and I remember having it right on his forehead.
And I was literally just about to press the trigger
and take him out and I suddenly made a decision,
split second decision not to shoot him, right there.
So I put the rifle down, unloaded it, threw it in the car
and Boy walked towards me and I knew the damage had been done then.
That was a nasty bite
and a very unfortunate incident, but it happened so quickly.
It just shows you. It's just a serious wake up call.
Although Mark didn't suffer grave physical injury,
the predatory attack changed the perception of the Adamsons' work.
People questioned the wisdom of releasing lions that could come into contact with people.
Were they just breeding man-eaters?
"In my naivety, I did not realise the heat of the opposition
"which had boiled up against me in the National Parks."
The chief warden gave George the choice - either to shoot Boy
or continue his work with him elsewhere.
Both George and Joy were forced to leave Meru Park,
where they had brought up Elsa,
and now no other National Park would touch them.
George chose to stick with Boy,
a decision that would come to haunt him later.
After a year of looking,
he set up camp in Kora, an area of densely thorny bush
in the back of beyond.
"I had only two tents to my name,
"but I was honestly happier than if they had been a couple of palaces."
George could now continue his work with lions
in comparative safety as there were no people nearby.
"I'd found a place where I would be happy to settle and die."
His first task was to establish a new pride for Boy.
Little could he have guessed where one of the lions would come from.
George's old friends Virginia and Bill came across a male lion cub
called Christian that was being brought up on the fashionable King's Road in London.
After the Born Free film,
Bill became a successful wildlife film-maker
and recorded the whole story.
The young lion we discovered belonged to Ace and John,
two Australians who worked at the shop.
They'd been keeping him there for the past four months.
They bought him when quite small from a big department store
in London's expensive Knightsbridge area that sells everything and anything.
Bill and Virginia wanted to release Christian back into the wild
and knew just the man in Kenya to do it.
George was interested to know if it was possible to return
a fifth generation captive-bred lion to the wild.
Male lions often fight to dominate a pride
and the huge Boy looked as if he wanted to kill the new arrival.
After days of keeping them apart, getting them used to each other's scents,
George decided that they would have to meet in the open.
Would Christian's natural instincts still help to protect him?
"There was no doubt that he would go for Christian...
"..it was just a question of how violent the attack would be."
It was a massively successful reintroduction...
Boy, this enormous great, incredible lion and this really slightly timid
little lion from England, you know, who behaved instinctively, perfectly,
when challenged by Boy, submissively down, crouching on his back, I mean,
he could not have behaved in a more appropriate way,
so he was truly wild at heart still.
John and Ace went back to London,
leaving George to get on with Christian's rehabilitation.
George needed assistance and found it in Tony Fitzjohn.
In very real terms, Christian was the first friend I ever had.
He'd made it thus far, but the odds were stacked against him.
And me, I didn't know what the hell I was doing, you know.
So the two of us had to work it out together.
"Tony was fearless in dealing with lions,
"neither his energy nor his capacity for mischief were often restrained.
"Like Christian, he had an unnerving habit of disappearing from camp,
"without warning, for weeks on end, and of materialising again just as unexpectedly.
"There the parallel ended, for his dexterity with girlfriends
"was in a different league from Christian's,
"and I never once found Christian with a bottle at his elbow."
"The early days with Boy and Christian
were some of the most enjoyable days of my life."
Come on, Boy. Come on, Christian!
Come on, Christian! Come on, Boy.
Boy and Christian became inseparable
and when more lions arrived at camp, the rehabilitation programme became a success again.
Over the course of nearly 20 years,
more than 30 lions passed through George's hands.
He honed his operation down to the bare essentials,
leading a simple, pure life out in the bush.
"Living for animals means that we have to live like animals.
"Our eyes and ears have to pick up sights and sounds
"that most others would miss.
"I have not taken a morning paper for 40 years.
"The news I need is printed on the ground."
The single moment that would cement Christian's place in history
occurred when John and Ace returned to George's camp
nearly a year after they'd left.
The question they all wanted to know was would Christian,
who was now living in the wild, still remember them?
It's been a positive,
wonderful, inspirational thing for people because they see that
connection between man and animal, which we're so short of these days.
A clip from that film has been shown millions of times on YouTube,
and through that clip, of course, everyone has wanted to know about Christian.
And of course he never forgot them.
A lot of people around the world
obviously were fascinated by Christian greeting Ace and John.
For George and myself this was quite normal.
Of course he remembered them.
Of course because they were friends way back he'd want to say hello to them
and a lion's way of saying hello is a head rub.
Now, it doesn't happen every day in Surbiton or Kansas or Wichita or somewhere,
but it does out here if you're working with them.
But staying in close proximity to a huge killer animal out in the wild
meant that danger was never far away.
George's assistant Stanley knew Boy well.
But when he wandered outside the perimeter fence of the camp,
he was killed by the very lion he'd cared for.
The shadow that Boy cast when he attacked the child in Meru
had now arisen and struck again...
this time fatally.
George was forced to shoot Boy immediately.
"Lions very quiet,
"they know something has happened.
"Boy, my old friend...
George knew that he would lose the support and hearts of the outside world with this tragic fatal attack.
But even so, he loved Boy so much that he asked to be buried next to him when he passed away.
"As I have learned at great cost,
"it might be true to say that no lion is completely reliable.
"But are many human beings either?"
Joy also shared this sense of mistrust of humans
and always felt reassured in the presence of animals.
Into her old age, she was still exploring new ground
by bringing up a leopard in a similar remote camp to George's.
But her downfall was sudden.
She was killed when taking her evening walk in the bush.
The media reported that a lion had taken her.
In fact, a member of her staff, whom she'd recently sacked,
"It was difficult to comprehend that Joy had gone,
"and dreadful to know of the way of her death.
"Far better had it been a lion.
"Whatever our differences, our fondness remained to the end
"and had, if anything, deepened over the years."
"Destroying the wilderness,
"and robbing its prospects of peace and of game,
"man leaves only the promise of danger.
"He has killed ten of my lions and murdered my wife."
As Joy wanted, George scattered her ashes on Elsa's grave,
so she could be reunited with the greatest love of her life
by the place where Joy said, "Sitting there with Elsa close to me,
"I felt as though I were on the doorstep to Paradise."
"Joy had conviction that somewhere and somehow the spirit of Elsa
"was at large and directly influencing events in her life and mine,
"not to mention the animals we subsequently cared for
"and indeed others in danger all over the world."
The spirit that both Joy and Elsa shared will always be treasured
through the Born Free film.
It's all right. It's really all right.
She's done it. She's crossed the bridge.
She's wild now and free.
You should be very happy.
You've done something no-one else has ever done
and you should be very proud.
Well, you might at least stop laughing.
Whilst the Born Free fairy tale had won lions millions of fans across the world
George was facing a very different reality.
Africa was changing fast in the '80s.
The population increase meant that more pastoralists and bandits
came closer to the camp
and burnt the bush to clear space for their livestock.
George's lions started to get hunted down by them, and even poisoned.
"So far I had tended to think of Kora
"as 500 square miles of unwanted bush,
"a tribal no-man's land
"in which lions could wander freely in comparative safety to themselves and others.
"I now began to think of it differently, as a landscape
"whose inhabitants, from the smallest microbe to the largest elephant,
"had evolved and interlocked over millions of years,
"but which now were being threatened with more rapid and disastrous changes than ever before."
The fundamental reason that things have so changed in Africa
is simply the size of the human population.
Understandably, they want somewhere to live,
they want somewhere for their cities.
So they can only come from one place and that's the natural world,
so the natural world has become more and more squeezed.
The first things that are affected by that
are the things that have huge natural ranges, which include predators.
By the late '80s, George only had a handful of lions left in Kora.
This was representative of a trend that was being repeated right across the continent.
Lions were being hammered by people.
And it was human pressure around Kora that led George to face his final challenge.
On 20th August 1989, the 83-year-old George heard shots
and went to help a young German volunteer
who was in trouble with local bandits close to the camp.
Tony Fitzjohn is revisiting the exact scene with Ibrahim, a Wildlife Service Ranger.
(HE SPEAKS SWAHILI)
George came charging down... he saw what was happening.
Ibrahim says he didn't slow at all. He just came straight at them.
The coroner said as the car passed, George was still alive.
He said the car was riddled with stuff.
And George came steaming down here and the bullets just kept hitting the car.
The bullet that killed him, even though he was riddled... his legs were off...
was the one that went in through the back after they'd gone past.
The car lost control and went off,
and hit that little commiphora tree there.
The whole of the bottom half of his face was shot off and hanging on...
He said it was a huge loss for us, for all of us.
For all of us he was, you know, like a father
and as much to these guys as me, you know.
The man known to locals as the 'Father of the Lions'
was fittingly buried in a simple grave close to his camp.
The palpable sense of loss at the funeral was far-reaching.
It marked the end of an era for the lions of Kora and symbolically for lions across Africa.
Glory be to the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost...
I think we were one of millions of people
who were absolutely shattered when we heard George had been killed.
It was a very, very highly charged emotional event.
Really, really deeply upsetting.
Even the people that were so opposed to George
absolutely adored him, they just really admired him.
You know, we all want to be loved by everybody but he was, that's the beauty.
And he was loved by the wildlife, that's pretty good going.
Tony Fitzjohn had prepared a tribute for the funeral,
but didn't get the opportunity to say it.
A very great friend of mine helped me write a little speech
and the one bit I always wanted to say was that,
"Wherever I've gone in the world, wherever I've been,
"there was at least one clean sunlit wilderness
"where a man who walked with lions was my friend and partner.
"And now the world seems instantly smaller and harsher
because an important part of it has gone."
After people had left the funeral,
the wild lions that George had known gathered and stayed by his grave.
George lived the life he wanted with lions.
He lived in a unique bubble of time when lions were plentiful
and there was enough wilderness for his rehabilitation experiment.
George left us with an appreciation
that lions, and many other large animals, are individuals,
unique beings with different characters.
In time, that has made us evaluate our own place in nature
and question our catastrophic impact
on the population of lions across the world.
In George's time, no-one ever said lions are going to be endangered.
There were so many, we were awash with lions, you know.
Now there are less than 2,000 in Kenya.
It's crisis time.
Elsa was the lioness that changed the world
because of the relationship she had with the Adamsons.
We now have to imagine a world without lions.
Can we rekindle the passion that Elsa and Born Free aroused
to help save the species?
George foresaw the threat to lions over 20 years ago.
He ended his autobiography with a plea for Africa's lions.
"I feel I can no longer go on answering questions about Kora.
"But I have some to ask.
"Who will now care for the animals in the reserve, for they cannot look after themselves?
"Are there young men and women in Kenya
"who are willing to take on this charge?
"Who will raise their voices when mine is carried away on the wind?"
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
In the 1960s, Born Free captured the world's imagination with the story of Elsa, an orphaned lioness who was taken in by George and Joy Adamson and returned to a life in the wild. The book and film sparked a new love of nature that has blossomed ever since, but the true story of what happened afterwards was far more tragic as both George and Joy were murdered.
Fifty years on, this emotional and revealing drama documentary re-lives those events - with intimate contributions from Virginia McKenna and David Attenborough.