Saturday, October 2, 2010

George Adamson

I never like reading websites or blogs that bash George Adamson and his work. I feel very protective of his memory, his reputation, and his work. As with many conservationists, he has his fair share of critics. However, Adamson was a pioneer in the field of lion conservation. His work took place roughly forty years ago when lion conservation was in its infancy. Even though the lion population throughout Africa in the 60's and 70's was relatively stable, Adamson had enough foresight to see that the species was in trouble. He witnessed the increase in poaching and hunting, loss of habitat, and resistance to conservation efforts by game wardens and other officials. He knew that the lions were in trouble. And he was right, as we're sadly witnessing today.

Below is a comment I wrote in response to a criticism of Adamson.

Your statement "Many of the tame lions released by Joy and George Adamson (of 'Born Free' and Christian the Lion fame) starved to death, were killed by people and wild lions or, in some cases, killed people themselves and were shot"

is partially true. It's a "glass half empty" point of view.

Adamson released a total of seventeen lions into the wild. Of the seventeen, he was forced to shoot the male lion Boy when Boy attacked one of Adamson's assistants (who died from his injuries). Four of the lions were killed by other animals (not unusual deaths for wild lions) and Adamson speculated that four others were killed by poachers, hunters, or herdsmen (again, not unusual deaths for wild lions). The remaining eight lions survived and made their own lives in the bush. Adamson followed the success of many of their cubs, all of whom were born in the wild.

So, Adamson's success rate was almost 50%, not bad considering he had limited funding and staffing to assist with his release-to-wild projects. And this was forty years ago so the science of releasing lions back into the wild was in its infancy. The normal survival rate of lions in the wild at that time was one in four.

Although Adamson had his critics, well known authorities on predators recognize the value of his work.

George Schaller, Vice President of Panthera Corporation, wrote the following in an introduction to the 1987 edition of the book Born Free:

"The Adamsons gave us truths about the species that cannot be found in a biologist's notebook ...

Their efforts at reintroduction and rehabilitation taught the scientific community invaluable lessons and the conservation community will for ever be indebted to them ..."

Both George Adamson and his wife Joy deserve the credit due them. Their conservation work opened the world's eyes not only to lion conservation, but wildlife conservation.

George with his beloved lion Boy

George with Boy and Christian

George with the lioness who started it all: Elsa

If you'd like more information on George Adamson please go to This website is dedicated to his memory and contains a wealth of information about Adamson plus many rare photos.

Animals Matter.

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