Elsa became world famous as the real life inspiration for Joy Adamson’s autobiographical book Born Free (1960) and the subsequent film adaptation starring actors and Born Free Co-Founders Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers (1966), which sparked their passion for wildlife conservation.
Orphaned when only a few days old, Elsa was adopted by George and Joy Adamson, brought into their home, and cared for as she grew. Joy, who shared a special bond with Elsa, was determined that she should return to freedom in the wild, and the couple set about teaching her the essential skills that would enable her to survive on her own.
The iconic image of Elsa lying on top of a Land Rover is one of the most recognisable scenes from the film.
After her eventual release into Meru National Park, Elsa successfully integrated with the wild lion population and went on to have cubs of her own.
Even though Elsa died in 1961, long before the Born Free Foundation was established, she is the inspiration for our charity and her legacy lives on through our work in Meru.
Kenya’s lions increased by 25% to 2,500 from 2010 to 2020 which is great news for the species. Across the country, Born Free works collaboratively with our partners to provide ongoing initiatives within communities to monitor and observe wild lions, promote co-existence with local communities to ensure the conservation and survival of wild lions.
Together we can secure a forever future for lions. Please donate today.
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Top: Elsa's sculpture, depicting the scene from the iconic film. Bottom, Virginia and Bill with young lions during the filming of Born Free.
Image credits: Columbia Pictures. Artistic representation by Gillie and Marc.