George Adamson

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George Adamson
George Alexander Graham Adamson

(1906-02-03)3 February 1906
Died20 August 1989(1989-08-20) (aged 83)
Cause of deathAssassination by gunshots
Resting placeKora National Park
Other namesBwana Game, Baba ya Simba
  • Wildlife conservationist
  • author
Spouse(s)Joy Adamson
(1944 – 1970; separation)

George Alexander Graham Adamson MBE (3 February 1906 – 20 August 1989), also known as the Baba ya Simba ("Father of Lions" in Swahili),[1] was a Kenyan wildlife conservationist and author. He and his wife, Joy, were depicted in the film 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 the Adamsons' lives.


George Alexander Graham Adamson was born 3 February 1906 in Etawah, India[2] to English and Irish parents. He was educated at Dean Close School, Cheltenham, England and moved to work on his father's coffee plantations Kenya in 1924. After the death of his parents, he worked a series of jobs, which included time as a gold prospector, goat trader and professional safari hunter,[3] before joining Kenya's wildlife department in 1938,[3] working as game warden. Six years later, he married Friederike Victoria "Joy" Gessner.[3] It was in 1956 that he raised the lioness cub, Elsa, who 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 Senior Wildlife Warden of the Northern Frontier District Province of Kenya (Meru National Park area) in 1961 and devoted himself to raising lions that 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. George is buried in the Kora National Park next to his brother, Terrance and two lions named: Super Cub and Mugie, a lion released in Kora after George's death.[2]

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 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.[4]
  • "The Born Free Legacy" is a BBC documentary from 2010.
  • "Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story" is a Nature PBS documentary episode from 2011.


  • Bwana Game: The Life Story of George Adamson, Collins & Harvill (April 1968), ISBN 978-0-00-261051-3
  • A Lifetime With Lions, Doubleday (1st ed. in the U.S.A.) (1968), ASIN B0006BQAZW
  • My Pride and Joy: Autobiography, The Harvill Press (22 September 1986), ISBN 978-0-00-272518-7


  1. ^ "George Adamson, Friend of lions... Father of Lions". Retrieved 5 May 2008.
  2. ^ a b "WildlifeNOW | Home". Archived from the original on 1 November 2016. Retrieved 3 February 2017.
  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. ^ Eisner, Ken (14 June 1999). "To Walk with Lions Review". Variety. Retrieved 5 May 2008.

Further reading[edit]

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