Dear Friends of Wildlife
I was 38,000 feet above the earth on a Kenya Airways Dreamliner, on the anniversary of George Adamson’s murder, 26 years ago. I was flying to Kenya and it seemed incredibly appropriate. I was to join the Born Free team and our colleagues at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) in Meru National Park, to the north-east of Mount Kenya, the very area where George and his wife Joy, returned Elsa to the wild. It truly is the home of Born Free. Elsa is buried there, under a tree near the river. I was flying out to help the Born Free and KWS teams with a Land Rover sponsored effort to count lions. I think George and Joy would have approved.
Lion numbers across Africa have tumbled by more than 50% in the last 30 years. Some suggest that as few as 20,000 now survive across the entire Continent. However, in Kenya, there may be 2,000 or so individuals and there is still a very strong possibility that with effective conservation measures, wild lions will still roam Kenya’s National Parks and Reserves long into the future. But in order for us to understand the pressures on lions and to mitigate conflict with local communities and livestock, for example, we need to know how many lions there are and measure our success (or failure) based on real numbers.
I won’t go into all the details of what we saw or what we did because this will be revealed, I hope, later in the year in a short film that Chris Scott and I made on this trip. However, I can tell you that on Night 1 we saw three lions; on Night 2, we saw a solitary lioness and, in the glorious, golden evening light on Night 3, we saw four adult females resting on an ant-hill as the sun dipped below the horizon. Could they have been the descendants of some of the lions that featured in the film Born Free - Girl, Boy and Ugas? Impossible to say, but I would like to think so. Again, I think George and Joy would have approved.
Mum summed it up very well when she wrote on our website recently “I wish everyone who cares about animals could have met him (George) as he was someone who opened his arms to all individuals, people and animals and – from my knowledge of him – was without prejudice and, in spite of his strongly held views, was a man of great tolerance, humility, understanding. And humour.
My memory of sitting in camp with George and Bill at the end of the day – sometimes talking, sometimes just sharing the silence, sometimes watching a lion or two contentedly lying outside the camp fence – is one I shall never forget.
We must always remember him, cherish his memory, try and follow his example and follow our hearts as he did, keep alive his deep respect for the individual.
I know I will.”
We will never be able to live-up to his example in full, but if we try then, together, we can help ensure that lions, the symbol of Africa in so many ways, remain wild and free.
That is George’s legacy.