Friday, March 9, 2012

Born Free Trilogy with Elsa the Lioness

After reading about Morrison's travels through Africa in From Lotos To Cherry Blossom, I decided to pull out my copies of the Born Free trilogy. They'd been on my "to read" list for awhile, figured I'd knock them out as all are pretty short reads. I remember my mom talking about these books when I was a kid, and I vaguely remember seeing the movie Born Free years ago. (I recently re-watched the movies Born Free and Living Free on Netflix, cute cubs but it was hard for me to get around the overacting that was prevalent in so many 60s films - the woman playing Joy seemed like she was constantly screeching at the guy playing George about everything. Seriously, not every moment in life is that epic lol). 

Virginia McKenna,
played Joy in the film adaptations of Born Free,
the role was taken up by Susan Hampshire in Living Free

Bill Travers
played George Adamson in Born Free,
went on to marry Virginia McKenna in real life. 
In 1984, McKenna & Travers, with their son Will,
established the wildlife non-profit  Born Free Foundation.
Travers also went on to produce a number of 
wildlife documentaries. 
The role of George was played by Nigel Davenport 
in Living Free. Not sure why the casting change was 
done on the two parts but the sequel was 
not received as well as Born Free
McKenna & Travers remained close friends with the Adamsons.

McKenna and Travers with lion in Born Free

Speaking of moments of "it's not that epic", I did feel some of that in the books themselves. I lost count of the number of times Joy described the lions (Elsa or her cubs) dragging meals to the river, nearly every meal it seemed. It reminded me a bit of when I go to a friend's home who has kids and they tell me, in minute detail, about something the kid did, that, to me anyway, sounds a bit cute but also pretty ordinary but the friend will be over the moon about it. Now, before I get attacked by mom readers, I KNOW, if you don't have kids you can't understand. The closest thing I can liken it to is when one of my pets does something that seems adorable to me but to my friends would probably be a pretty "whatever" kind of moment. For that reason though, I try to keep my pet gushing to a minimum around others lol. My point being, the first few descriptions of Elsa's feedings by the river were cute, but then it started to feel like OKAAAY. Think of it as like when someone shows you their albums of vacation photos or something. The first dozen or so are pretty, but after that you start to lose focus because it wasn't your trip so it all becomes an awkward "well, I guess you had to be there" moment. 

Joy's husband & Game Warden for
 Northern Frontier Province of Kenya in 1960s

that would have been cool to see!

I did like the series, and I've always had an interest in animal behaviorism as a science, one of the things that initially made me curious to read these books. I have to admit though, I found Elsa's mannerisms and antics a little more interesting than her cubs. That could be because her cubs ended up being raised more in the wild than herself so Elsa, through her environment, may have naturally picked up more humanistic characteristics than her children.

Okay, so here's a basic rundown on each book in the series:

Book #1 : Born Free (1960)

Author Joy Adamson, a writer (obviously), artist and botanist is living in Isiolo, Africa with her husband, George, who serves as senior game warden for the Northern Frontier Province of Kenya. George goes out one day to investigate reports of a lion that's possibly attacking locals. He returns with three lion cubs and explains to Joy that he had to shoot the mother lion (killing her) who lunged at him. Joy, with George's help, takes up the task of weaning and raising the cubs. She names the three girl cubs "Big One", Lustica or "Jolly One" and Elsa. Once they are old enough to be off the bottle and separated, Big One and Lustica are transferred to Rotterdam-Blydorp (or Blijdorp as it's known now) Zoo. Joy finds she's developed too strong an attachment to Elsa to let her go too, so Joy and George decide to put together an experiment to see if they can take a lion raised primarily in captivity (of sorts) and have it successfully re-released completely back to a natural state (judging from this book, I'm guessing this was when animal conservation and re-release, a common practice now, was still in it's infancy?). They find a spot on the reserve, not too far away from their home in Isiolo, and with the help of locals Nuru (their assistant), Makedde (armed guard) and Ibrahaim (jeep driver), they get down to acclimating Elsa to the wild. Elsa is left in the wild by herself just overnight at first, then for days at a time, until Joy and George start to find signs that Elsa may have found a wild lion to mate with. 

Elsa's sister, Lustica, as a cub
trying to open a bolt lock

Elsa and Joy embracing each other after a time apart --
who says animals don't have souls! :-D

I really felt for Elsa, thinking about how she had grown to be so dependent on humans and then seemingly out of nowhere to her I'm sure, she gets dumped by herself out in the wild to kind of just "figure it out". Yes, the Adamsons did camp nearby the first few weeks but they couldn't exactly tell her how to find and kill food like a lion if she was to be wild again. The Adamsons knew the importance of this work, and as hard as it was personally not to keep her has a sort of pet, they had to let go and let nature happen. 

To help fund her research with Elsa and other wild species, as well as contribute to species conservation efforts in general, Joy used the proceeds from Born Free to start the now defunct foundation she named The Elsa Appeal. Joy's friend, actress Tippi Hedren (famous for her role in Alfred Hitcock's The Birds) served on the board of The Elsa Appeal. 

Book #2 - Living Free  (1961)

For some reason, this middle book seems harder to come by and less publicized than the other two. I had to troll around on Ebay for awhile before I came across a copy in decent shape. 

So this book shows that Elsa did in fact find a wild lion to mate with, introducing the Adamsons to Elsa's new cubs, 2 boys and 1 girl. Joy dubs the boy cubs Jespah and Gopa and the girl Little Elsa. Not sure why, but there's not much talk about Gopa. Don't know if he just wasn't as interesting to watch as Jespah and Little Elsa? Maybe he was just the kind to sit there, wondering when the next meal was coming up and nothing else lol. Anyway, once she had her cubs, Elsa (whose inexplicable distrust of any and all dark African men was described in the first book) didn't seem to like any men of any kind, not even her lion mate, around those babies. In fact, the way Joy describes the father lion almost sounds like the stereotypical "deadbeat dad"

The way in which the cubs were developing into true wild lions exceeded our hopes, but their father was a great disappointment to us. No doubt we were partly to blame, for we had interferred with his relationship with his family -- but certainly he was of no help as a provider of food for them; on the contrary, he often stole their meat. Moreover, he caused us a lot of trouble. One evening he made a determined attempt to get to a goat which was inside my truck, and another time, when Elsa and the cubs were eating outside our tent, she suddenly scented him, became very nervous, sniffed repeatedly toward the bush, cut her meal short and hurriedly removed the cubs. George went out with a torch to find out what the trouble was; he had not gone three yards when he was startled by a fierce growl and saw the cubs' father hiding in a bush just in front of him. He retreated rapidly and luckily so did the lion. 

I thought it was cute that this story opens with Elsa hunting a honey badger ("for sport", Joy writes) - now a popular source of comedy thanks to the introduction of this clip:

San Diego Zoo needs to hire this narrator 
for their monorail tours ;-)

I was walking ahead but stopped dead at the sight of a ratel; this animal also known as a honey badger, is rarely seen. It had its back turned toward me and was so absorbed digging for grubs in the rotten wood of a fallen tree that it was quite unaware of Elsa's approach. She saw it and crept forward cautiously until she was practically on top of it.Only when their heads nearly bumped together did the ratel take in the situation; then, hissing and scratching, he attacked her with such courage and so savagely that she retreated. Using every advantage that  the ground offered, the ratel made a fighting retreat, charging often, and eventually disappeared none the worse for his adventure. Elsa returned defeated and rather bewildered; plainly she was too well fed to hunt except for sport, and there was no fun to be had with such a raging playmate.

I felt this book gave me, as a reader, a better look at Elsa's personality. Much of the first book was mainly about her care in the wild and the Adamsons' struggle to let go of their hold on Elsa. At this point in Elsa's story, everyone seems to have adapted to the changes and now true colors start to come through - and Elsa is feisty!!

... Elsa hopped up on my camp bed as soon as it was made ready and looked as if she thought it the only suitable place for someone in her condition {pregnant, at this point}. From now on she took posession of it, and when next morning, as I did not feel well, I had it carried down to the studio (a place on the riverbank, overhung by the branches of a large tree where I work), she came to share it with me. This was uncomfortable, so after a time, I tipped it over and rolled her off. This indignity caused her to retire, offended, into the river reeds til the late afternoon when it was time for our walk. When I called her she stared at me intently, advanced determinedly up to my bed, stepped onto it, squatted, lifted her tail, and did something she had never done before in so unsuitable a place. Then with a very self-satisfied expression she jumped down and took the lead on our walk.

Daaammn! Saucer of milk for table 2, eh ;-). I've had one of our cats pull a similar stunt on our bed before and I swear it feels like it's out of spite sometimes! There was another pretty funny incident of Elsa's Joy describes, taking place just after the time they guessed Elsa had given birth:

The next morning I woke up to hear Elsa moaning to the cubs in a nearby thicket. Since their birth, we had never used the radio when they were in camp, so as not to frighten them. But today George turned on the morning news. Elsa appeared at once, looked at the instrument, roared at it at full strength and went on doing so until we turned it off. Then she went back to the cubs. After awhile George tuned in again, whereupon Elsa rushed back and repeated her roars until he turned it off. 

Not an NPR fan, I guess lol. Or maybe she was a new mom trying to say, "OMG! Are you kidding me?? I just got them to lay down!! Shut that damn thing off!" It would have been even funnier if Elsa had come back the second time and knocked down the radio, breaking it in a million pieces as if to say "Oh, I KNOW you did not just turn that thing back on!" :-P

Living Free also shows what a badass Joy was out in the wild. Throughout the course of this story, she has a stand-off with a rhino, gets bitten by a scorpion and gets violently ill with her leg getting pretty scary looking from the way she describes it, she gets chased by poachers with guns and escapes AND survives powerful floods on the African plains! Speaking of poachers, these poachers (or maybe friends of theirs) destroy one of the camps of the Adamsons - I just found a smidge of irony in that. They're the ones breaking the laws but they destroy the game warden's camp. World's Dumbest material right there.

"How splendid these lions were -- aloof, but friendly, dignified, and self possessed. 
Looking at them, it was easy for me to see why the lion has always 
fascinated man and become a symbol of something he admires. The king of
animals, as they have called him, is a tolerant monarch; true, he is a predator,
but predators are essential to keep the balance of wild life and he has no wish
to harm, he does not attack man unless he is persecuted for his skin or when he
is too infirm to find other more active prey. He never kills except to satisfy his
hunger, as is proved by the unconcern with which herds graze around a pride
when they know that the lions' bellies are full."

The Adamsons had a bit of an uphill battle trying to bond with the cubs in the same way they did with Elsa. It seemed they took more after their brush-native father. The cubs, presumably by their mother's rule, would never try to harm the Adamsons, despite being more wild natured. I wondered if they only mimicked Elsa's non-threatening behavior or did she in fact have a way of telling them not to harm the humans?  They managed to make some progress in getting the cubs to listen to them in that they were able to successfully get the cubs to stop unruly behavior just by saying "No, No" a few times here and there (which reminded me of a mother's "count to three" method of discipline). Just as they were starting to make some headway, these incidents with the poachers came about. The cubs came dangerously close to being caught by the poachers. After escaping, the cubs' personalities seemed to flip - Jespah, who was the eldest of the cubs and more shy initially, was much more bold with Joy and George after surviving the poachers, while the other two became more guarded.

Elsa with Little Elsa 
Visitors sometimes came to visit Elsa in the wild, but it didn't 
always go how they might have imagined. In one instance,
Elsa makes a nighttime visit to one visitor's tent:
"... by the time he {George} got inside, Elsa had 
managed to clasp her paws around Billy's neck and 
held his cheekbones between her teeth.We had often
watched her do this to her cubs; it was a sign of 
affection, but the effect on Billy must have been
very different." OMG! What a way to wake up!

Oh yeah, and on the topic of rhinos - Joy mentions that large game animals such as rhinos were often killed by poachers with poisoned arrows but she also says that nearby lions fed on the leftover carcasses - I wondered that the lions were not affected by the poison? Wouldn't the meat be tainted? Also, a little factoid I picked up from this book - it seems that tapeworms, while making the average human cringe at the very thought, can actually be beneficial in the GI tract of a lion. Some studies have shown that certain parasites in certain hosts actually somehow alter the immune system of the host, making them less susceptible to diseases or more minor illnesses. Not sure how that works exactly but interesting nonetheless.. Still, don't want any in my system - I'll take my Vitamin C and echinacea and call it a day, thank you lol. I can't even sit through that show Monsters Inside Me!

Joy writes that one of Elsa's favorite treats was a mixture of
"brains, marrow, calcium supplement and cod liver oil"
yea... mmmm LOL but then, I'm not a lion. 
For all I know, a lion might hate the taste of shrimp 
when I can easily eat a big ol' plate of them :-D
The lions' regular diet consisted of lots of goat and guinea fowl.

Elsa & cub, 
taken before Joy could determine sex of cubs
so it's not certain which cub this is

Aside from the awakening of Elsa's real personality, the other thing that interested me most about this book was Joy's interesting observations and run-ins with other members of the animal kingdom. She found hippos to be ugly "but at least they had nice voices", liking the voice to "low notes of a cello". Is that like when people say a heavy girl has a nice personality or a sweet face?? Joy also mentions that elephants were the only wild animal that frightened her... Elephants. Not cobras, not rhinos or tsetse flies or scorpions. Not even spiders the size of baseballs. Elephants. I realize they're known to charge when alarmed and can run up on you in a hurry but it's not like one wouldn't hear them coming. These are creatures that fear mice. They do! Mythbusters proved it. I saw it. I'm just thinking if you're mingling with lions day to day, you can probably hold your own with an elephant. Another "umm" moment is when she describes a yellow blackheaded weaver bird nesting in the rigging of her tent and Joy finds herself trying to help the momma bird find food for the sick baby in the nest so Joy feeds the baby an egg yolk... yeah, a baby bird eating another baby bird embryo. Not saying it's wrong if it keeps the animal alive, just an unusual "we'll laugh about this later" moment in species preservation. But I wonder if the connection dawned on Joy in the moment? If she did, in fact, chuckle about it later? 

Book # 3: Forever Free (1962)

I think this was my favorite of the trilogy. This book really addressed the difficulties animal conservationists / activists face when trying to protect and preserve species. I'm not talking about the crazy conservationists that do more harm than good, but the honest, goodwill minded people who really just want to save animals, but with rational means. When people that approach environmentalism with rationality get blocked by governmental red tape and corporation greed, it is really aggravating. Reading Forever Free, the reader can feel how disheartened and frustrated the Adamsons must have been, trying to overcome such seemingly impossible obstacles. There's a lot of "1 step forward, 3 steps back" to this part of the story. 

Momma Elsa: "Next day, at teatime, Elsa showed me very clearly what a wonderful mother and companion she was to her cubs. The family appeared on the far bank of the river opposite the studio. I had seen a six-foot crocodile slither into the river at their approach and was therefore not surprised when the cubs paced nervously up and down the rocky platform by the river's edge, obviously frightened to jump into the deep pool beneath. Elsa licked each one in turn. then they all plunged in together and swam safely across in close formation. When the cubs relaxed and began to chase each other so as to get dry, Elsa joined in. She took Jespah's tail in her mouth and walked around in circles with him, obviously enjoying the clowning as much as he did. Eventually Jespah sat down closely to me, turning his back to me. This he did when he wanted to be petted; he seemed to realize that I was always a little afraid of being accidentally scratched by him because, unlike his mother, he had not learned to retract his claws when playing with human beings.

 Apologies to my readers here, I tried to think of a way around it but I have to put in a little SPOILER ALERT here - they're my biggest personal peeve when it comes to books and movies but in this instance, I just couldn't think of how else to discuss the book without it, so look away or scroll down if you'd rather not know. This book picks up pretty much right where the last one stopped but does backtrack a bit in the opening pages and give more details regarding how Living Free ended. This on focuses on the life and future of Elsa's cubs after Elsa's death from babesia, a blood born illness that stems from infected tick bites. Joy writes that Elsa's death was the first recorded case of babesia even being found in a lion, let alone killing one.  The real tragedy was that Elsa was only 5 years old at the time of her death! What's curious to me is Joy's observation, "her {Elsa's} nose was wet and cold, a sure sign she was ill." Initially this stood out to me because I think of how a wet nose on my dog or cat means they're well, not ill. Unless she's talking about when cats get heavy mucus flow down their face. I've seen my own cat get little colds here and there when he was younger, he displayed heavy mucus on his face then, but just being wet and cold is a bad sign? The other thing I wondered about is how further along in the book, Joy explains how they had the help of tranquilizers and sedatives when moving the cubs long distances. If they had that sort of thing available, why wasn't a sedative used on Elsa so she could be moved to a vet who could check her out like they do now? Would it have been enough to save her life?

Elsa's gravesite, Meru National Park, Kenya
In Forever Free, Joy describes the troubles they went through to get this stone engraved
and have a real memorial gravesite set up for Elsa, who came to mean so much for 
so many. 

Judging from Joy's writings, Jespah seemed like he had the closest
bond with Elsa, out of all her cubs.

Living close to wild animals for so many years, I have come to find that their instinctive reaction to fate is often very far superior to our own and that theirs is a wisdom I still have to learn. In this context, I had been recently much impressed by the way in which a spider I watched coped with her difficulties. I cannot feel any affection for these eight-legged creatures but I was fascinated to observe the spider remaking her complicated web  each time the rain destroyed  it or it was torn by a large insect; whatever the source of the disaster, she went to work at once to repair the damage and she had the courage as well as patience; she could often tackle beetles many times larger than herself, wrapping them in her silky thread until  they were tied up like parcels  and ready for consumption. Watching her, I hoped that we might be capable of learning from this low form of life how to show an equal determination and persistence in coping... 

After the death of Elsa, there was an even greater push to have the cubs put completely back in the wild, with human contact cut off. The Adamsons fought against this, reasoning that the cubs were less than a year old and had yet to fully learn how to hunt for themselves. There was also the added difficulty of the cubs seeming to retract even more from human contact after the death of their mother. Joy and George work out an agreement with the Kenyan government allowing the Adamsons to stay with the cubs until they are fully capable of being on their own, but still requiring the cubs to be moved. Over the course of many months, the cubs traveled all over the African serengeti, but the first trial relocation was at Lake Rudolph.

The transition was especially trying for Joy, because she was greatly worried about the future of the cubs:

If man, with all his capacity to reason often gives tragic proof of his inability to adjust himself to exile, how can one expect wild animals, who are more conservative and more dependent on their territory, to adjust themselves to something completely strange?

At Lake Rudolph, there seemed to be evidence that the cubs might be getting pushed off their turf by an old  foe of Elsa's, a lioness from a different pride. Joy dubbed this enemy "Fierce Lioness". Joy believed this lioness might have followed the cubs through parts of their travels and was trying to push the cubs out of their area, making the kids resort to finding food in and around local tribal villages and having them risk being killed just to avoid starving to death. Lions (not always Elsa's cubs) would sneak into villages and snatch livestock from the village pens or grab a stray one from a herder's flock. The kill was sometimes just out of boredom, but more often than not because the lions were left with no other choices for food sources. 

"Two Lion Cubs At Play" by William Walls (1880)

While Joy and George struggled to get the cubs to a decent level of self-sufficiency where the cubs could hope to have some chance of survival on their own, they were also in a struggle with the Director of National Parks in Africa who originally invited them to try out Lake Rudolph. The director tried the angle of "good works" to try to bring the cubs in and boost tourism to the park area, leading the Adamsons to believe they had an ally. Turns out his help only went so far. With each day, he was more and more persistent with Joy and George to either leave the cubs as is or decide to move them somewhere else. He claimed to understand their concerns but it was more like when someone says "You seem to be listening but do you really hear me?" Or as my parents use to say when I was a kid, "Don't try to understand me so fast!"

Hedonistic lions... too funny not to quote! This one goes out to the suckers that feel humans are so superior amongst the rest of the animal kingdom... see how familiar this behavior sounds to you!:

Quite close to the camp we passed the dark maned lion and his two girlfriends. We had always supposed that lions liked to pass their honeymoon in privacy and were therefore surprised to see this lion making love to one of the lionesses in the presence of the other. Not more than a mile farther on we saw a magnificent blond maned lion sunning himself on the open plain. He paid no attention to us or to the clicking of our cameras and stretched and yawned as though we weren't there. After that, I had hardly time to change my film before we ran into another pair of lovesick lions. They lay as close together as they could, seemed very tired and ignored us...After breakfast {next day} we went off to see more of the migration. On our way we passed the mating lion and his lioness again. Although they were lying in the open and must have seen us, they allowed us to approach to within twenty-five yards of them, and were so little disturbed by our presence that eventually the lion sired his mate, an act which lasted three minutes and ended by his giving her a gentle bite on her forehead to which she responded with a low growl. {Seriously, does that not sound like when a guy smacks you on the butt after he finishes? Don't act like you haven't been there ladies! If you haven't you might want to encourage your dude to let his freak flag flutter a bit more lol} After a quarter of an hour, he approached her again, but this time she dismissed him with a sweep  of her paw. This was repeated three times before she permitted him to sire her again and, as before, he bit her on the forehead. We continued to watch them and after about twenty minutes the lion sired her a third time, releasing her only after giving her a slight bite on the neck; after this both went to sleep. There was no sound to be heard and time seemed to stand still on this vast plain.  When we started up the car, the lioness raised her head and blinked at us through half-closed eyes, but the lion never stirred. Here {the African plain}the males being vastly outnumbered by the females, a good many of the lions we saw looked rather thin. We thought this was partly because a lion's honeymoon lasts 4-5 days and during this time the couple do not eat and seldom drink, and here there were not enough lions to satisfy the demand of so many lionesses so the lions often went hungry {Joy explains elsewhere that while lions on their own can hunt, in a pride the lioness typically hunts for the lion and the cubs}. 

A note to my husband when he reads this -- honey, I love you but don't get any ideas here -- you don't need to surprise me with a post - coital forehead munch lol. 

Okay, back to the cubs!

The risk proved to be too great for one of Elsa's cubs - Jespah, the eldest. He wasn't killed but he did get an arrow in the butt! By the time of Jespah's injury, the Adamsons were not left with an option. They were pretty much just kicked out of the reserve. The only way Joy could find to still keep an eye on the cubs was to buy a tourist pass onto the reserve and camp, but even then she was not allowed to touch or interact with the cubs she helped keep alive! Desperate, Joy (without telling George) goes to see a fortune teller to see if she can get any news about Jespah (who still had the spear head in his rear - the vet that checked out Jespah said it would cause less damage to let the spear head fall out on its own rather than have someone yank it out. The last time Jespah was seen, Joy noted that the wound did not look good and in fact she feared it might go septic and possibly kill him).

I was rather ashamed of myself and didn't tell George what I had done {to which I thought "So you just let him find out down the road in your book??}. The fortune teller gives Joy a date, telling her she is to find "unexpected success". He also instructs her to wear something blue for luck {if it's predicted to happen, why does she need luck?}. Joy goes back to the camp and on the day the fortune teller gave her, she and George go driving out trying to see if they can get any sign of the cubs' location, when they end up getting the truck stuck in mud on the edge of a lake bed. The truck starts to sink into the lake, the interior filling with water. Joy and George jump out and Joy notes In my hurry, I forgot my blue talisman, and when I looked back, I saw my handkerchief {the bit of blue she put on per instructions} floating away and with it, my belief in fortune tellers. 

Joy and George try to plan a more extensive trip with a wider search area for the cubs (who leave no definitive clues to their whereabouts after the Adamsons are forced to leave the cubs alone out in the wild). Their friend Billy (the same Billy who unwillingly had his head between Elsa's teeth that one time) comes to help but then it turns out he discovers he has an "allergy", as Joy describes it, to tsetse flies (after he's bitten by one). So travel plans are halted. Are there many people out there who wouldn't have an "allergy" to tsetse flies? I thought those things were suppose to be deadly to humans, or at the very least make you sick as hell, making you think you were going to die. Poor guy that Billy, but how many people can say they were bitten by a lioness and a tstse fly in the same lifetime and survived both! Along the lines of illness, I love how casually Joy tells of the day she wasn't feeling well, discovered she had a temp of 103 and "had no choice but to rest until the malaria passed"- she's so calm about it, she makes it sound like a passing headache! It's freakin' malaria - still something that is incredibly unpleasant even with modern medicine! Like I said, serious badass lol. 

Neat shot caught by Joy while they were searching for the cubs,
featured in Forever Free.

The Adamsons head in the direction of Mt. Kilimanjaro, once they had finally heard news that they thought might lead them to the cubs. Unfortunately, it turned out to be another dead end, no definite sightings.

From Lake Rudolph, the cubs out on their own in the wild,
drift toward this region

It was a lovely morning, and I watched last nights clouds disperse to disclose Mount Kilimanjaro rising above the early mist. Its cap of newly fallen snow looked so ethereal in the soft morning light that it was difficult to believe it was a glacier-capped volcano. I have often admired Kilimanjaro from a distance, and I have climbed to its summmit, but today more than ever it seemed a manifestation of glory, remote from the troubled world of man; part of the grandeur of an unspoiled creation of which animals were an integral part of. 

Joy and George move toward Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania where they meet a game warden who adorably had a porcupine named Ngugu, which just cracked me up because it reminded me of that Dane Cook bit about Mgugu!

Ngorongoro Crater in Tanzania

The story of Elsa's cubs is left open ended. They never actually find the cubs but they don't find evidence of them being killed off either. In fact, they occasionally get news of someone spotting a lion they believe may be Jespah, but nothing they are able to confirm. So in the end, the experiment worked I guess. Elsa was born in the wild, raised by humans, and has her children fully immersed back into the wild. Got you singing "Circle of Life" yet? ;-)

by Joy Adamson

After the work with the cubs ended, Joy and George drifted apart, almost as if they had actually suffered the loss of their own children (they didn't have any children together, as far as I've read, but that's what I likened the split to). They didn't ever officially divorce, and remained on friendly terms the rest of their lives, but George continued to work with other lions, while Joy went on to study cheetahs. 

Joy and George's story is compelling and educational just by their sheer dedication to wildlife preservation and education efforts. They dedicated their lives to to protecting and learning about these wild animals, much like Jane Goodall and, in the 1980s, Dian Fossey. Sadly, like Dian Fossey, George and Joy met untimely ends related to their endeavors. On January 3rd, 1980, Joy's body was discovered by her assistant. At first, due to the gruesome nature, it was assumed to be a lion attack, but upon further investigation, it was revealed to be murder by a labourer formerly employed by Joy. Joy was 69. Per her request, her ashes were divided and scattered between the graves of Elsa the lioness and Pippa the cheetah (adopted by Joy in her later solo years). Just 9 years later, Joy's estranged husband George was shot and killed by Somali bandits when he tried to assist a threatened tourist on the Kora Reserve where he continued his work with lions after parting ways with Joy. He was laid to rest on the reserve next to his favorite lion, Boy. 

If you've enjoyed reading about this family of lions, I recommend you check out the movie Two Brothers (if you haven't seen it already) --- BEAUTIFUL movie about two orphaned tiger brothers but I warn you, parts of it will break your heart!! So good though :-)