2009-04-25

Walking with Lions - The Letters of George Adamson

Dedicated to George Adamson
1906-1989
The Father of Lions

Sometimes I write articles about those issues concerning the threat to already endangered species. My concern for the greater world around me stemmed from the work of two people. George and Joy Adamson. In this post I have chosen to focus on the work of George Adamson in his later years at Kora National Reserve and a series of letters he had written between 1982 until his tragic death in 1989 when he was shot by Somali Bandits. Joy too in 1980 had been murdered by a disgruntled servant - despite this both George and Joy Adamson left a lasting legacy for generations of conservationists. I can name another who fought and died for the love of her cherished Mountain Gorillas. Dian Fossey too was murdered for her daring to risk everything to protect Digit and the others from poachers. Today the Gorillas still exist thanks to her dedication. In Kenya and in South Africa too - a new generation of dedicated conservationists work to save endangered species through rewilding projects. George Adamson pioneered rewilding long before anyone else had ever proposed to do so.

Through his work at Kora both captive raised Lions and Leopards were successfully returned to the wild. In his letter of May 1982 George wrote of the successful reintroduction of the original captive lions back into the wild and of the conflict with herders and the deadly Coopertox cattle dip which was frequently used to poison off the lions and other predators.

By the end of 1980, all of the original lions which had come with us from out of captivity had been sucessfully rehabilitated and had gone off to do their own thing, inspite of always being well fed at Kampi ya Simba. Some had crossed over the Tana River which forms the Northern Boundary of the reserve, others had made their way down along the river into country inhabited by tribesmen and their livestock.

Once out of the reserve the lions become vunerable to poachers and reprisals by stock owners. No doubt, some have been killed or poisoned for these reasons. Unfortunately, there is no control over the sale and distribution of "Coopertox" Cattle dip which is a deadly poison which can be and is used illegally to poison lions and other predators.

Within the same letter he takes the reader into the life of the lions he was in contact with. In this excerpt Adamson writes of (then) five year old Koretta and her bad habit of neglecting her cubs. The caring for those same cubs by three year old Naja and of his thoughts that perhaps their wild mate Blakantan had been responsible for eating Koretta's first litter -

...Koretta was not a good mother, prone to easy seduction by Blakantan the wild lion, leading to the neglect of the cubs. Naja, three years old, a much smaller lioness has two cubs Fritz & Fitz aged nine months. She is an excellent and selfless mother. Without her help none of Koretta's cubs would have survived.

Often, even when hungry, she would carry meat to the cubs even before satisfying her own needs. As if to make up for her earlier irresponsible behaviou,r Koretta with an abundant supply of milk, would give all the cubs a feed. At one time, I entertained the suspicion that Blakantan was responsible for the loss of Koretta's first litter of four beautiful cubs and that he had killed and eaten them!

I though seriously of getting rid of him but decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. It was as well that I did so, as he has turned out to be a model and indulgent father, allowing the cubs to rough-house him, pull his tail and bite his ears. Although shy and suspicious of humans, he is gaining confidence and often comes to the camp with the others and fairly shakes the place with his mighty roars at night. Always he chooses a position where the echoes off the hills can be heard to best advantage. Perhaps he likes to hear his own voice or maybe wishes to intimidate his visitors?

Each and every letter tells of successes and failures. The conflict with poachers, authorities and of loss. These letters walked me into the world of the man who walked with lions. I walked with him through his words and was taken into his world and that of his beloved lions. Take a moment if you can to read one of those letters. I know I will return time and time again and take a walk once more with the Father of Lions.
Walking with Lions

2 comments:

  1. Fantastic man madbush - every time I see his photograph I am struck by how like a lion he looks too.
    There is a sudden interest here in the video of Christian the Lion -have you heard of it. George Adamson appears briefly in that. I have read some of his letters, they are so interesting.

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  2. Hello Weaver Yes I have heard of Christian the Lion the interest is because of this business over Zion Wilderness Gardens and the fall out between the Lion Man and his mother. To be honest I have come the conclusion that some people are just way over the top with their obsession over one person. I doubt he will ever end up back there despite this petition they've started in the UK. Hard to know. George Adamson was the Lion Man and still is as far as I am concerned. He was a true conservationist not a showman.

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