Photos from Kevin Richardson’s postToday we pay homage to the man who started itStephane Alsac
On August 20th 1989 George Adamson, 83, Husband of ‘Born Free’ Author Joy Adamson, Was Slain by Bandits: ‘Brave Man’ Died Trying to Help Aides Under Attack
“NAIROBI, Kenya — Conservationist George Adamson was slain by bandits near the wildlife reserve where he and his late wife, “Born Free” author Joy Adamson, taught lions raised in captivity to live in the wild.
Adamson, 83, was killed Sunday as he drove head on into a group of Somali bandits who had earlier robbed and beaten his assistants. Shifta, or roaming bands of Somali tribesmen, are believed responsible for most of the animal poaching in Kenya.
Adamson and his wife together helped popularize wildlife conservation.
After hearing gunfire, Adamson and three workers drove about a mile from the Kora National Reserve to help the assistants, Director of Wildlife Richard Leakey said today at a news conference.
Arriving at the scene of the attack, Adamson ignored pleas from other occupants in his car to stop, put his foot on the gas and drove straight at the bandits, Leakey said. Adamson and two assistants in his car died in the barrage.
“George was a brave man,” Leakey said at a news conference.
Leakey said the government had been increasingly concerned about attacks by shifta since a major anti-poaching effort pushed most of them out of Kenya’s game reserves.
Adamson refused any additional protection, however, and did not want to be removed from Kora, where he felt well protected by his 16 lions and more than half a dozen assistants.”
George Adamson was game warden of Kenya’s northern Frontier District in 1944 when he married Joy, an Austrian-born artist whose books later thrust him into fame. In 1956, her husband brought home three motherless lion cubs. One, which they named Elsa, became the central character of “Born Free.”
After living apart from her husband, Joy moved to the game reserve in the late 1960s to work with leopards.
George served as technical director for a film adaptation.
That book and its sequels, “Living Free” and “Forever Free,” described the Adamson’s’ unique and controversial practice of taking lions born in captivity and teaching them to survive on their own before freeing them.
The government stopped the practice in 1980 after a mauling incident in Kora.
Adamson, whose shoulder-length hair and goatee gave him a lion-like appearance, kept a modest camp in Kora and lived off a pension, interest from a trust fund set up by his wife and donations from supporters.
Adamson was born in India in 1906 and first visited Kenya in 1924. He later moved to the East African nation and joined its game department in 1938. He retired as game warden in 1963.
While George’s first love was raising lions and releasing them back to the wild, he was attached to all wildlife.
As he watched first rhinoceros and then elephants disappear from the surrounding Kora National Reserve, he became a harsh critic of what he considered the Government’s lax attitudes toward elephant poachers. I can only imagine what his thoughts would be on canned hunting today!
In 1980, after George’s brother Terence was mauled by a lion, the Kenyan Government forbade him to receive any more cubs. But in 1988, the officials relented, and he was given three orphan cubs.
He also played host to lions that came from the reserve to his enclosure at nightfall. Guests, treated to whisky or gin before dinner, would watch George calling the lions through a red megaphone and then stepping out of the wire fencing, fearless, to feed them hunks of camel meat.
He was once attacked by one of his lions. But he was never deterred. He wrote of lions: ‘‘like people, they can look impressive, beautiful, curious, ugly or plain. The best are adventurous, loyal and brave. All of them have been designed and perfected by nature to kill.”
George was very aware of the dangers his lions posed to both himself and those around him. No one was more sorry than George when his beloved lion Boy killed his longtime assistant Stanley. It was George who put the big cat down, and he never really did recover fully from that shock. As per George’s wishes, he was buried in Kora National Park next to his brother Terrence, his lion Boy and another lion called ‘Supercub’. Rest in peace George Adamson, Baba wa Simba, the world is a better place because of you.