by George Adamson
In this memoir George Adamson tells of his younger days, his many attempts at making a living before he realized he preferred to live as ancient man must have done, with few possessions on the wide scope of land. He relates how he met Joy, their work together with big cats that began with raising Elsa for release into the wild- a groundbreaking attempt at the time. When Joy decided to also attempt raising and releasing cheetahs, and later a leopard, they had to live in separate camps. Disagreements between them on how programs should be run or what Joy\’s money should be used for (from royalties off the Born Free books and film) caused rifts in their relationship, but he remained very fond of Joy to the end. He treats their disagreements very tactfully in the book. His book is easier to read than all of hers- it goes into more detail about the personalities of the lions, and describes the landscape vividly. (But I also learned that part of the awkwardness or dry prose is because Joy wrote in English -not her first language- which was then re-worked by an editor). When the first film about Elsa was made, after all the hard work, Adamson could not bear to send the lions used in the film back into captivity. He petitioned to keep them and release them into a national reserve. Later he received many more lions that had been in captivity- either from zoos, circuses, or even pets- Christian the lion was one. He was curious if a lion\’s instincts would have been dulled by generations of them living in captivity- not at all. They fitted back into their natural habitat seamlessly, but their familiarity with people possibly made them far more dangerous than wild lions, although Adamson argued against it. Regardless, I was a bit surprised to find that the project was abandoned after the fifth generation of lions in Adamson\’s pride (I was starting to loose track of the individual lions at that point- the only ones that stood out in my mind were the original half dozen of them). Authorities shut the project down when people kept getting mauled by lions- Adamson and some of his staff included. The incidents were spread out over the years, but unfailingly they happened. It still remains a fascinating account of life in the bush with large predators, treated practically like family (I was surprised a few times at the lengths they went to trying to save a lion from injuries, broken leg, etc). Definitely explains lots of extra details about the work Joy did, and illuminates the aim and drive of a remarkable man. He was incredibly passionate about wild places, and especially the lions.
Rating: 3/5 304 pages, 1987