It is just over 50 years ago when Joy Adamson wrote the book ‘Born Free’ telling the life of Elsa. Elsa was found orphaned with her two other brothers. They were sent to a zoo but Elsa the smallest of the litter was reared by Joy and George Adams. The published book in October 1960 was an instant success. To celebrate the 50th anniversary a TV documentary and re-publication of the book was issued.
Till such time there was an era of killing instead of conserve the wildlife of Africa which also was called the dark continent. Schoolboys dreamed of being once the big hunters and they were on the same pedestal as fighter pilots and racing car drivers. Joy Adamson’s started to draw attention to preserve the life of animals with her book and showed their personality, love and loyalty. It was followed by two films, biographies and TV dramas. The stars of the film Virginia McKenna and he husband Bill Travers were so impressed that themselves got involved and founded the Born Free Foundation in England.
A further great impact from the success was that the Kenya government began a conservation programme and Joy Adamson was the founder of World Wildlife Fund. Till such time the Kenya government refused to stop hunting even in reserves. So, Elsa in her short live certainly turned the world around and days of the glorious big white hunter was over. After she was set free she had three cups. Elsa died of a blood disease which is like malaria. What happened to the cups is not known.
Although Joy and George Adamson became great celebrities and had such a wonderful success to return a tame lioness back into a wild animal their life was not a happy one. Apparently Joy had a dreadful temper and had endless affairs. George couldn’t take it anymore and when the film was finished he went into the bush with the three tame lions used in the film. He also released these lions into the wild. He worked with lions until he was 83 and was murder by Somalian gunmen.
Joy went to the Shaba game reserve and raised leopards and released them to the wild. In 1980 she was killed and her body was found at the roadside. It was first thought that she was killed by wild animals but then they found stab wounds. It was discovered that Paul Nakware Ekai, a member of her staff, killed her. He and other witness described her in court as dangerous and bad tempered. She was shot at anybody who upset her and then paid for the medical cost to cover it up. As one witness stated that she was a very unhappy woman. It is sad after all she achieved for the animals and the wildlife her own personality throws a shadow over it.
Elsa was buried at Meru Game Reserve and covered with a concrete cairn. Joy was cremated and her ashes place in Elsa’s grave Conservationists from all over the world still visit their graves