Thanks to a Lioness named Elsa and a Leopard named Penny, wildlife conservation went mainstream and the idea of returning animals back to the wild helped slow the depletion of many endangered species especially in East Africa.
The book that started it all was Born Free written by Joy Adamson based on the journal of her husband George. Joy was born in Austria in an aristocratic family. She left Europe as the Nazi threat loomed taking with her a new husband who was both wealthy and a devoted naturalist. On the voyage over she met and fell in love with an Englishman named Peter Bally who was heading to Nairobi to work at the museum as a botanist. She eventually married Peter and settled in Nairobi.
George was born in India where his father worked training troops for a Maharajah. George was sent to boarding school in England and at 18 went to Kenya to work on his father’s coffee plantation a life that did not suit him. He secured a job as a game warden which was more to his liking.
He met Joy and in 1944 they were married. Twelve years later, in search of a man-eating lion he came upon a lioness and her cubs. The lioness charged and he had no option but to shoot her but did take the cubs home to Joy, the youngest of which was named Elsa.
When it was time to introduce Elsa back into nature, Joy chose a rocky outcrop in Meru national park which was the site of George’s original campsite and is the location of Elsa’s Kopje today. This luxury resort made up of only eight cottages offers stunning views and elegance. The camp is considered the best location to view rhino in their natural habitat.
As you enjoy sundowners overlooking the valley you are reminded of the images of Joy and Elsa on a similar outcropping nearby. The book, Born Free, and its two sequels inspired the movie and George Adamson served as animal trainer on the film. The books made them celebrities but while Joy liked the limelight George was indifferent and they began to lead separate lives.
Joy took on a new project and book with Penny, a Leopard who she raised and released in Shaba another game park. The book was titled “The Queen of Shaba”. In that same area today is another luxury resort appropriately called Joy’s Camp since it is built on the site of Joy Adamson’s tented house in Shaba National Reserve.
This camp offers ten luxury tents and unsurpassed game viewing. Both camps are owned by the same husband and wife team and at certain times of the year, Martin Clarke who worked with Joy in re-introducing Penny the Leopard back to the wild will spend some time at both camps discussing the Adamson Legacy.
In 1980, Joy Adamson was killed by a disgruntled employee close to the camp in Shaba and George pledged to continue her work. In 1989 at the age of 89, George was working at yet another camp in Kora when he intervened with some Somali poachers to protect some German tourists and both he and two assistants were killed.
Their legacy lives on however, in their foundations, their books, their commitment to the animals of Africa and the many individuals that they inspired to take on an active role in conservation.
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