George Adamson

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For the illustrator and cartoonist, see George Worsley Adamson.
George Adamson
George Adamson photographed in 1970
photographed in 1970
Born George Alexander Graham Adamson
(1906-02-03)3 February 1906
Etawah, India
Died 20 August 1989(1989-08-20) (aged 83)
Kora National Park, Coast Province, Kenya
Cause of death Murder
Other names Bwana Game, Baba ya Simba
  • British Wildlife Conservationist
  • Author
Spouse(s) Joy Adamson
(1944 – 1977; separation)

George Adamson MBE (3 February 1906 – 20 August 1989), also known as the Baba ya Simba ("Father of Lions" in Swahili),[1] was a British wildlife conservationist and author. He and his wife, Joy, are best known through the movie Born Free and best-selling book with the same title, which is based on the true story of Elsa the Lioness, an orphaned lioness cub they had raised and later released into the wild. Several other films have been made based on Adamson's life.


George Alexander Graham Adamson was born 3 February 1906 in Etawah,[2] then British India to British parents. Educated at Dean Close School, Cheltenham, England, he moved to Kenya in 1925. After a series of jobs, which included time as a gold prospector, goat trader, and professional safari hunter,[3] he joined Kenya's game department in 1938[3] and was Senior Wildlife Warden of the Northern Frontier District. Six years later, he married Joy.[3] It was in 1956 that he raised the lioness cub, Elsa, whom he helped to release into the wild and who became the subject of the 1966 feature film Born Free based on the book written by Joy.

Adamson retired as a wildlife warden in 1961 and devoted himself to raising lions who could not look after themselves and training them to survive in the wild. In 1970, he moved to the Kora National Reserve in northern Kenya to continue the rehabilitation of captive or orphaned big cats for eventual reintroduction into the wild. George and Joy separated in 1970, but continued to spend Christmas holidays together until she was murdered on 3 January 1980.


On 20 August 1989, George Adamson was murdered near his camp in Kora National Park, by Somali bandits, when he went to the rescue of his assistant and a young European tourist in the Kora National Park. He was 83 years old. He is buried in the Kora National Park near his brother Terance, Super Cub, and Mugi a lion released in Kora after George's death.[2]

He most likely would have had Christian buried next to him as well, but Christian was believed by George to have moved to new territory across the Tana river following a period of time in Kora after being entrusted to George by his previous owners, John Rendall and Anthony Bourke.[4]

Film and television[edit]

  • Born Free (1966), based on the book of the same name by Joy Adamson about Elsa the Lioness, that was rehabilitated into the wild, but remained in a friendly relationship with the Adamsons. The film stars Virginia McKenna as Joy Adamson and Bill Travers as George Adamson. George Adamson served as Chief Technical Advisor.
  • The Lions Are Free (1967) is the true story of what happened to the lions Boy, Girl, Ugas, Mara, Henrietta, and Little Elsa, and other lions which starred in the popular film classic Born Free. George Adamson rehabilitated many of these lions after Born Free was completed. It is a documentary-style film about George Adamson and his lions.
  • An Elephant Called Slowly (1969) is a travelogue featuring George Adamson, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna.
  • Lord of the Lions...Adamson of Africa was filmed in the Kora Reserve in Kenya only months before George was murdered (about 53 minutes)
  • Living Free (1972) is the sequel to Born Free; it stars Nigel Davenport as George Adamson and Susan Hampshire as Joy Adamson.
  • Christian the Lion (1972) is a documentary of Christian the lion and his journey to George Adamson; it was written, produced, and directed by Bill Travers and James Hill, the director of Born Free.
  • Born Free (1974 television series) is a loose adaptation starring Gary Collins and Diana Muldaur.
  • To Walk With Lions (1999), a feature film, starred Richard Harris as George Adamson.[5]
  • "The Born Free Legacy" is a BBC documentary from 2005.
  • "Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story" is a Nature PBS documentary episode from 2011.



  1. ^ "George Adamson, Friend of lions... Father of Lions". Retrieved 2008-05-05. 
  2. ^ a b "WildlifeNOW | Home". Retrieved 2017-02-03. 
  3. ^ a b c "Obituaries: Adamson, George". 1990 Britannica Book of the Year. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. 1990. p. 103. ISBN 0-85229-522-7. 
  4. ^ "Final Resting Place", George Adamson,, Retrieved 22 April 2009
  5. ^ Eisner, Ken (14 June 1999). "To Walk with Lions Review". Variety. Retrieved 2008-05-05. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Sandy Gall, George Adamson: Lord of the Lions (Nov 1991), Grafton, ISBN 0-246-13699-5
  • Adrian House, The Great Safari: The Lives of George and Joy Adamson, (1993), William Morrow & Company, ISBN 978-0-00-272082-3

External links[edit]