George Alexander Graham Adamson (1906-1989), "Baba ya Simba"

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  1. monish

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    George Alexander Graham Adamson (1906-1989), "Baba ya Simba"

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    George Alexander Graham Adamson (1906-1989) with Boy and Christian

    George Adamson was born in Etawah, India, in 1906, to an English mother and an Irish father who helped to train an army for the Rajah of Dholpur. As a youth George Adamson attended a boarding school in England. He enjoyed hiking in Scotland with his younger brother Terence and dreamed of big game hunting in Africa.

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    George Alexander Graham Adamson (1906-1989)

    He came to Kenya (1924) at the age of 18 to work on his father's coffee plantation. Working from dawn to dusk on the plantation did not appeal to him and in the following years he tried various schemes and briefly held many diverse jobs.

    In 1938, at age 32, he joined Kenya's Game Department as a warden and found an occupation that suited him. Four years later he met and married Joy Bally (as soon as she could divorce her wealthy botanist husband).

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    Joy (George Adamson's wife) and Elsa

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    Joy (George Adamson's wife) and Pippa the Cheetah

    In early1956, George Adamson was sent to track down a man-eating lion that had been terrorizing several villages. He and his hunting party startled a lioness and her cubs in the deep bush. When the lioness charged he had no choice but to shoot. February 1st, 1956, was the day he brought the lion cubs home to Joy, two of which were later sent to a Dutch zoo. The Adamsons kept and reared the smallest cub, which they named Elsa.

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    George Adamson with Elsa

    Thus began the events, which would prove pivotal not only for the life of the Adamsons but for the very foundation of modern conservation. After Elsa had grown to about 3 years old, the Adamsons decided to re-integrate her back into the wild, rather than send her to a zoo. This had never before been attempted. Elsa was patiently taken back into the bush and encouraged to develop her instincts to hunt and survive in the wild.

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    George Adamson with Elsa

    George Adamson retired from his position of Senior Game Warden (Meru National Park) in April 1961, to devote himself to working with lions. To share their experiences and stimulate interest in wild animals the Adamsons wrote the book "Born Free", about their experiences with Elsa. After release it rapidly became a best-seller.

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    George Adamson with Elsa

    It was to be the first of a trilogy, Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds (1960), Living Free: The Story of Elsa and Her Cubs (1961), and Forever Free: Elsa's Pride (1962). With the 1964 release of a movie (starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna) based on the first book, the Adamsons achieved celebrity status. Though Joy revelled in the attention, George was uninterested.

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    George Adamson, Virginia McKenna and Lion Ugas

    George Adamson had served as an animal trainer on the Born Free set in Kenya. After filming, he took charge of three of the film's lions and returned to Meru with Joy, where they continued educating lions for life in the wild. At this time Joy was also raising a cheetah and since lions are inclined to attack other cats in their territory, the Adamsons set up two separate camps 20 kilometres apart to continue their work. Joy Adamson also experimented with a leopard, and over time, proved that with skilful and considered action, many animals raised by humans may be effectively re-integrated into the wild.

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    George Adamson with Lions

    Five years later, now with seven lions and numerous incidents behind him, George Adamson was finally expelled from the reserve after one of his favourite lions (Boy), mauled the son of a warden. The only place where the government would allow him to continue his wildlife rehabilitation program was in Kora, an isolated and almost uninhabited region of desert 402 kilometres north of Nairobi. At Kora George Adamson rented an area of 1,300 sq. km. where he, his younger brother Terence (1907–1986) and native assistants were to live and work.

    In 1970, long standing tensions between George and Joy Adamson that were already straining the relationship peaked when Joy declared that she hated the intense heat and isolation of Kora, and refused to go. The couple separated but decided to continue spending Christmas together.

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    George Adamson with Lion and kill

    With the success of Born Free and later related books, Joy Adamson became active in promoting wildlife conservation. Touring around the world, she showed her films, paintings and organized Elsa Clubs and Funds, gaining a reputation as an excellent lecturer. She received numerous awards in many countries and in 1977 was awarded the Austrian Cross of Honour for her scientific and cultural work.

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    George Adamson with Arusha

    Joy Adamson had never shared the Born Free royalties with her husband (the greater part of which had gone to conservation projects), even though (as George's friends later insisted), the book was based on his diaries. But George Adamson never complained and only spoke fondly of his wife, even though there were times at Kora when he and his unpaid assistant Tony Fitzjohn, were so poor that they survived on camel meat and tinned army rations.

    On January 3rd, 1980 the 69 year old Joy Adamson (who is documented as having had a greater affinity with animals than with people) was murdered on a road near her camp in the Shaba Nature Preserve, where she had lived for 3 years.

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    George Adamson walking Lions

    Later at his wife's funeral, George Adamson promised to carry on her work. According to her wishes, her cremated remains were scattered by George on the graves of the cheetah Pippa and the lioness Elsa. A year later, a 23 year old former employee Paul Ekai was convicted of the murder, apparently committed after a dispute over money.

    Later in 1980, a lion mauled Terence Adamson. This prompted the Kenyan government to shut down George Adamson's controversial re-integration program, which even some conservationists had labelled as irrelevant.

    After being sent a pair of leopard cubs, and later another pair, in 1981 the Kenyan government allowed George Adamson to established a new camp, where his assistant Tony Fitzjohn started working with leopards.

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    George Adamson and Mara

    In the years that followed, poaching increased dramatically and threats of reprisal attacks by poachers were common. The elephants were nearly all gone and the lions had been killed or driven away, even Tony Fitzjohn's favourite leopard was poisoned. Poaching was endemic, a sad situation that now existed throughout most of Africa.

    At age 83 George Adamson was still considered to be hardy and in fine form, despite suffering from asthma and sleeping with an oxygen tank near at hand. On August 20, 1989 at Kampi Ya Simba (camp of the lions) in Kora, George Adamson and two of his assistants were killed by Somali poachers when they intervened on behalf of a group of German tourists. He is buried at the reserve next to his lion friend named Boy. Also buried there are George's brother, Terrance Adamson and Supercub the lion.

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    George Adamson and Lion

    Even with the offers and opportunities that came with fame, Joy and George Adamson chose to remain in the wilds of Kenya. They continued to care for and study the animals that had become their life's work, living in this harsh and isolated environment amidst wild and untamed predatory cats. Their unfortunate deaths at the hands of humans, motivated by simple greed, makes for an ironic contrast.

    Film and Television
    • Born Free (1966), based on the book of the same name by Joy Adamson about Elsa the Lioness, who was rehabilitated into in the wild but remained in a friendly relationship with George and Joy Adamson. Stars Virginia McKenna as Joy Adamson and Bill Travers as George Adamson. George Adamson served as Chief Technical Advisor.
    • The Lions Are Free (1967), The true story of what happened to the lions Boy, Girl, Ugas, Mara, Henrietta, Little Elsa and other lions who starred in the popular movie classic Born Free. George Adamson rehabilitated many of these lions after the movie Born Free was completed. Documentary-style film about George Adamson and his lions.
    • An Elephant Called Slowly (1969) Travelogue featuring George Adamson, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna.
    • Lord of the Lions...Adamson of Africa - Filmed in the Kora Reserve in Kenya only months before George was murdered. About 53 minutes.
    • Living Free (1972) Sequel to Born Free, Stars Nigel Davenport as George Adamson, and Susan Hampshire as Joy Adamson.
    • Christian the Lion (1972) Documentary of Christian the lion and his journey to George Adamson; Written, produced and directed by Bill Travers and James Hill, the director of Born Free.
    • Born Free (television series) (1974), loose adaptation starring Gary Collins and Diana Muldaur.
    • To Walk With Lions (1999) Feature film; Stars Richard Harris as George Adamson.

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    George Adamson

    Bibliography
    • Bwana Game: The Life Story of George Adamson, Collins & Harvill (April 1968)
    • My Pride and Joy: Autobiography, The Harvill Press (22 Sep 1986)

    Books on Him
    • Sandy Gall, George Adamson: Lord of the Lions (Nov 1991), Grafton,
    • Adrian House, The Great Safari: The Lives of George and Joy Adamson, (1993), William Morrow & Company.

    There will never be another person like George Adamson. His was a rugged life style, in a bush camp with only a few modern conveniences. He lived in harmony with nature and he shared a truly beautiful and almost unbelievable friendship with his beloved lion friends. He was truly a unique and wonderful gentleman who devoted his life to helping wildlife and to protecting the unique environment in which they lived.

    He was a Hero to the end... giving his life to save another!


    Monish
     
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