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A Pet Lioness

Rhona Lewis

In northKenya, in 1957, Game Warden George Adamson and other hunters were trying to capture a man-eating lion, when a furious lioness charged a fellow warden. George Adamson shot her. Moments later, he realized that she had been so courageous because she had been trying to protect her three cubs who were hiding in a crevice in a rock. Since the cubs were too young to survive on their own, George took them home to his wife, Joy. Thus began the story of Elsa, the pet lioness.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

lion cubsAn Unusual Gift

Joy Adamson was born in 1910 inSilesia,Austria-Hungary(nowOpava,Czech Republic). Although hunting was a favorite sport on her family’s estate, after she shot her first deer she promised herself that she would never kill for sport again. Always ready for an adventure, she traveled toKenyain 1937, where she married George Adamson Senior Game Warden of the Northern Province of Kenya. Their home, near the tiny town ofIsiolo, was surrounded by a thorn fence to keep out elephants, lions, zebras, giraffes, and antelope.

Joy was enchanted by the lion cubs her husband brought home from work and began to feed them milk every two hours. She named them Big One, Lustica, and Elsa.


All Grown Up

At three months the cubs started eating minced meat. Joy would often save tidbits for Elsa who was weaker than the other two cubs and would have missed out on her fair share. Elsa said thank you by sucking Joy’s thumbs, taking care not to nip Joy with her sharp teeth.

After six months, caring for the cubs became more difficult. The two larger cubs, Lustica and the Big One, were sent to a zoo inRotterdam, but the Adamsons kept Elsa and a very close bond developed between them as they spent the next three years caring for her. She enjoyed sleeping on Joy’s bed and would hug her with her paws. She also loved knocking Joy over and pinning her down with her 300 pound (140 kg) body, even though Joy tried to discourage this game.

Since George was a game warden (a person who looks after animals), the Adamsons were able to take Elsa on safari often so that she’d get used to other wild animals. Although she’d chase them playfully, her instinct to hunt was not yet fully developed and she always came back when she was called.


Separation Anxiety

Every evening, the Adamsons would take Elsa for a long walk. As she got older, she sometimes refused to walk home, forcing them to fetch the Land Rover to pick her up. Elsa would hop onto the canvas roof of the vehicle and be driven home in style. One evening, when she was nearly two years old, she once again refused to come home. When George arrived in the Land Rover to drive her home, she had disappeared. Roars of wild lions filled the surrounding air: She had gone to make friends! Five hours later she came back home. After this adventure the call of the wild grew stronger and sometimes Elsa would spend two or three days away with wild lions. But she always came back home.


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