Christian, Lions, Australia, NSW Bushfires, Climate Change, Politics, Great Barrier Reef, USA, Espionage, Sylvia Ross, Birds, Art etc
November 12, 2013
This is another still from my footage of our 1972 visit to Christian in Kenya, which was the last time we saw him. Some of you have inquired about my short, unedited home movie. In The Final Farewell on YouTube you can see equivalent (and more professional) footage from the same visit, while mine is just a little more close up and loving.
This, surprisingly, was the last time I was in Africa and I’d love to go back soon. I later discovered India and visited many times, including staging exhibitions and cultural exchanges in India on behalf of the Australian Government.
LIONS: You can sign the AVAAZ petition here to ask President Zuma in South Africa to protect lions by banning the trade in lion bones. There is of course no evidence these these “potions” have any efficacy. This trade, like ivory, especially to Asia, just has to be stopped and urgently. Depressingly, a subspecies of black rhinos, the Western Black rhino has recently been declared “officially extinct”.
NSW FIRES: Thanks to many of you who were concerned about the bushfires around Sydney. They are terrifying and to date, it is unbelievable that no-one has died. The fire fighters – many of them volunteers, are heroic. Some fires are still burning and new ones have broken out, but seem “contained” for now. I have a National Park at the top of my garden, and many many people will be on alert all of this summer. Apparently people are better prepared about evacuating their pets than they are about themselves. Horses are a logistical nightmare to evacuate quickly, and they can smell the fires well ahead of humans. Organisations like WIRES do an amazing job of treating and caring for injured wild animals.
Christiana Figueres, the UN Climate Change Negotiator, stated that extreme weather and the frequency and intensity of bush fires are a result of human induced global warming, and our PM responded by saying she was “talking through her hat”. The most common causes of fires are fallen power lines, and arsonists. New suburbs have always been spreading into bushland, but hopefully tighter regulations and more fire resistant houses will offer more protection in the future.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Apparently the extreme weather is, once again, making Australians more concerned about climate change, and the government will appear more and more out of step – with the world. Our thoughts and sympathies for the many people in the Philippines and region who have died or lost everything because of Typhoon Haiyan, one of the worst typhoons on record. The scale of the catastrophe is still unfolding, with at least up to 9 million people effected.
With Rupert Murdoch owning 65% of our media, and the media exposure of climate deniers like the ubiquitous Andrew Bolt, it is hard to move the discourse beyond “is climate change real?”, to “what do we do about it?”. There is a very good article News Goes Feral by Robert Manne on Rupert Murdoch and his insidious influence in The Monthly. An analysis of articles and reports about climate change in the Murdoch media indicates very clearly scandalously unbalanced reporting. Ex PM John Howard has been in England addressing a group of climate sceptics. Howard obviously lied to us when he pretended to support action on climate change, when he was trying to win the election in 2007. Now, rather than believe scientists, and after reading only one widely discredited book (by Nigella Lawson’s father!), he says he would prefer to rely on his instinct, which told him predictions of doom were exaggerated!
The first budget cuts by the government were bodies concerned with climate change and science, no specific Minister of Science was appointed, and 1/4 of the scientists at the pre-eminent CSIRO science and research institution have been among the first of many expected job losses.
Although in danger of being “wedged” by the government over climate change, and held responsible for high electricity charges, the Labor Party has affirmed support for a carbon trading emissions scheme. The government never seems to be able to produce a reputable scientist or economist to endorse their alternative Direct Action plan where we tax payers pay the polluters to pollute, and presumably, to encourage them to stop. This scheme will now hopefully be examined for its likely effectiveness – or as widely suspected, will be found to be completely inadequate, which is probably the original intention.
Our current bi-partisan target of a 5% cut in carbon emissions by 2020 is widely regarded as inadequate, which should apparently be around 15 -25%. Although we are a small economy and population, we are the 3rd highest polluter per capita in the world, and we dig up and export so much coal.
I think Australia is now embarrassingly on the wrong side of history over climate change, and the government is not even bothering to send a Minister to the international climate change negotiations in Warsaw. Our Minister of the Environment, who seems to consult Wikepedia for advice rather than scientists, cannot attend as he is so busy “repealing the carbon tax”!!!! It is very Monty Pythonesque and would be funny if it wasn’t so serious.
GET UP! The SYDNEY DAY OF CLIMATE ACTION is on Sunday 17th November in Prince Albert Park, Sydney at 11am – see full details here. This protest is Australia wide, and I hope many people attend to demonstrate our concern and dissatisfaction with a government that does not listen to the conclusions based on research and examination of empirical data, by impartial scientists.
POLITICS (AUS): Our PM recently invited several leading Murdoch journalists to dinner – reputedly as a “thank you” for their efforts helping him get elected, and Abbott recently dined with Alan Jones – one of the worst shock jocks. Apparently Murdoch also wants his “pound of flesh”, and would like the government to make it easier for him to acquire Channel Ten.
Even Coalition supporters are surprised by the new government’s secrecy, lack of transparency, and disregard for accountability. Abbott, who has only spoken in slogans for the last three years, seems to be having difficulty stringing whole sentences together. While hungry for publicity in Opposition on a daily basis, the government is refusing to give information on nearly anything! In comparison, the now Opposition have three very formidable, reasonable and professional spokespeople in Bill Shorten, Tanya Plibersek and Chris Bowen.
For a scathing assessment of Tony Abbott and why many people are very worried about him, see Victoria Rollison’s Open Letter to Laurie Oakes. Oakes is one of several journalists complicit in the Labor Party election loss, and Coalition win.
The media is getting restless and angry with the government for starving them of material, and with parliament resuming this week, it will not be so easy to hide. Wealthy Clive Palmer finally won his seat in Parliament, and through a few senators in his newly formed party will have a balance of power. He is a rogue conservative who makes outlandish accusations, and should prove to be a headache for the government.
After the hottest summer, winter and decade on record, this year many plants have flowered at least four weeks early. Complex and fragile natural cycles are consequently getting interrupted. I love the grevilleas especially, and at this time of the year all over Sydney one can see colourful patches of the mauve/violet Jacaranda trees.
GREAT BARRIER REEF: There will be an early test for the government in regard to the Great Barrier Reef, which UNESCO has listed as already “in danger”. The Federal and State conservative governments seem to regard environmental regulations and protections as just an obstacle to business. Decisions are expected from these governments in relation to 5 new or expanded coal ports along the Queensland coast. The subsequent dredging (and dumping) will put the Reef at even greater risk. The nearby Galilee Basin holds so much coal that if it is mined, it alone could push global temperatures up past 2 degrees. This is also true of the Tar Sands in Canada where the transportation to the Alaskan coast (en route to China) also puts this area in great danger.
There are many factors threatening the health and beauty of the Great Barrier Reef, including the destructive crown of thorns star fish, and it is inconceivable that we let it be destroyed. A recent book The Reef by Iain McCalman, is a “passionate history” which includes the dangers the reef posed to early navigators such as Captain Cook, the formation of the coral, and the future the reef faces.
USA: It was almost a relief to know that Obama was spying on world leaders like Angela Merkel, and not just us ordinary citizens. Hacking into Google and Yaho0! has angered many people. There seems to be no end to Edward Snowden’s fascinating revelations. Australia is part of a US-led global espionage network, and we are spying on our neighbours. While this should not surprise anyone, countries in the region have expressed appropriate indignation. The Abbott Government’s relationship with Indonesia is particularly uneasy at the moment, and their initial attempts at diplomacy described as “inept”.
Congratulations to the extraordinary Serena Williams who had a 78-4 win-loss record in 2013, won 11 titles, and earned $US12,385,572. Unfortunately up to 50% of Americans are not so lucky and are living with “financial insecurity”. One in five children live in poverty. In Australia we are staggered by America’s low minimum wages. The esteemed Joseph E Stiglitz has said America is a “rich country with poor people” He wrote an excellent article in the New York Times earlier in the year titled Inequality is Holding Back the Recovery.
The $20 billion cost of the Tea Party-led shut down of the US Government was an inexcusable waste of money, and trashed their own reputation. Perhaps the Republicans should have put the media spotlight on the many inexcusable teething problems over the introduction of Obamacare, rather than themselves.
WEALTH: 35% of Russian wealth is in the hands of 110 billionaires, which is the highest level of inequality in the world. Putin was recently named by Forbes magazine as the world’s most powerful man – through the power of the office he holds I gather and the largesse he can distribute. Some are predicting however that Russia’s economy is faltering and this will change everything.
The median wealth of adult Australians is the world’s highest at $233,504 (US$219,500), although the Swiss beat us when measured by average wealth. In Australia the richest 10% have gained almost 50% of the growth in income over the past three decades. In America the richest 1% gained almost half the growth in individual income over the same period.
The New York Times recently had an article with the headline: Rich People Just Care Less. Apparently research has found the wealthy to be more selfish, less empathetic, less generous, and less compassionate. It is an interesting and thought-provoking article, especially about what this social and economic inequality means for the future. Americans however, do have a great tradition of philanthropy, which is, sadly, not very evident in Australia.
MIDDLE EAST: Poor Secretary of State John Kerry zig zagging around the Middle East with such volatile issues to negotiate: Syrian chemical weapons, Iran’s nuclear future, Mursi’s trial in Egypt and much else no doubt. Israel’s decision to build 1500 new Israeli homes in East Jerusalem is extremely unhelpful to the “peace” negotiations with the Palestinians. I/3 of Syrians have left their country and we won’t forget those images of Syrians finally escaping from their neighbourhoods where they had been imprisoned. Some had resorted to eating cats, dogs and grass. Australian soldiers are finally leaving Afghanistan which has cost us $7.5 billion, the deaths of 40 Australians and many injured, and an unknown number of civilian deaths.
BIRDS: In a recent poll the Fairy Wren was voted Australia’s favourite bird. Magpies and Kookaburras (see images above) were the runners up. I particularly like Kookaburras – they have lots of attitude.
MISC STATS: In Australia: 65% of Queenslanders are overweight or obese; many of our trainee apprentices are illiterate and enumerate – as are a truly alarming % of Tasmanians; 25% of jockeys, and 40% of apprentice riders are now women; 30% of women in their 20s have tattoos.
SHADOWS: We are all appalled by the level of corruption by some Labor politicians in NSW over the last decades which has been exposed at recent inquires, and should result in criminal prosecutions. Also extremely depressing are inquires here into child abuse in institutions, with the Roman Catholic clergy the principal, but not the only, offenders. The reputation of the church is being fiercely protected ahead of concerns for victims. There are estimates that 50% of Roman Catholic clergy (worldwide) enjoy active consensual sex. So much for celibacy. In Ireland ¼ of Irish women have been abused as children, and 1/3 of men.
This image from the exhibition FERAL by Sylvia Ross (co-exhibiting with Emanuel Raft) shows the beauty of a pigeon, widely considered a pest in Australia. Sylvia Ross is an artist, long time Head of the School of Art (COFA UNSW), social activist and dedicated animal lover.
Sylvia sent me these dog photographs which are amusing.
MAIL: I have been asked lately where to buy the A Lion Called Christian DVD and the best source is via Amazon or Blink Films, and via Amazon for the book. I am encouraging anyone to write and post their animal stories, or their feeling about Christian, on www.alioncalledchristian.com.au. It is my fault that it is not as up to date as it should be and I’m checking back for stories I have overlooked. It will be a marvellous archive of your touching and interesting animal stories.
READING: Ashamed by my confession of my lack of reading last blog, I threw myself into the biggest book I could find – Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Often named by people as their favourite book, it was extremely readable, and it provided a very thorough context for what was to happen in Russia in the early 20th century. Anna was a fascinating character beautifully created by Tolstoy, although I could not quite conjure a mental picture of how she looked or her age. I became a little exhausted by the spell of her beauty and her melodramatic life, and I was always quite relieved to read about the duller Levin in the country, thinking about seemingly lost love, farming, labour, the landscape and the seasons. He thought he had “lived well but thought badly”.
QUOTE: Winston Churchill apparently said “A dog looks up to you, a cat looks down at you, but a pig looks at you as an equal”.
ART: The Art Gallery of NSW is currently holding an exhibition entitled America Painting a Nation. I attended the crowded opening and can’t really yet say how successful I think it is as an overview, especially in comparison with the curation of the Australia exhibition in London which has been extensively criticised. America certainly has many superb paintings and I always love seeing Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings especially. I was unexpectedly surprised by a stunning blue painting by Lee Krasner in the exhibition, and I am more attracted to the contemporary American artists.
Edmund Capon, ex Director of the Art Gallery of NSW has hosted a comprehensive three part series The Art of Australia which has just been aired. It illustrates with some of our most interesting art, how art and artists have helped shape Australia’s national identity.
VALE: Recently the Australian art world has lost three important and influential artists: Marea Gazzard; Roy Jackson and John Peart. They were much admired and dearly loved.
BOURKE: I’ve come to Bourke for a few days with a friend, the well-known photographer and fellow conservationist Jon Lewis. Bourke is in a remote corner of NSW, the so called Gateway to the Outback. There are 24 indigenous languages spoken here. I have found it surprisingly attractive, with some beautiful historical buildings, and wide streets and green spaces. Everyone has been very friendly and we are loving it. It is a little strange seeing my name everywhere…..more next blog!
Christian The Lion, AWLNSW, Elsa, Australian Election, AWC, World, Nick Brandt, Art, USA, William Abbey etc
October 4, 2013
When we returned again to Kenya to visit Christian and George Adamson in 1972, I took a super 8 video camera. I’ve finally had my very amateur footage transferred to DVD, and this photograph is a still from it. The footage is a loving portrait of Christian – I remember thinking I will never remember just how beautiful all his markings were. He was growing into a very big lion, and was increasingly independent. We didn’t know that we would never see him again. I recently showed this short, unedited footage for the first time, at a fund raising art exhibition for the Animal Welfare League NSW in Sydney.
Animal Welfare League NSW: I have visited the two animal shelters in Sydney (Ingleside and Kemps Creek) run by the Animal Welfare League NSW where dogs and cats wait to be “re-homed” to a suitable household. The shelters are very well administered, in attractive settings, and depend on donations, sponsorship and the loving care of volunteers. Animals are well looked after and are assessed and monitored by vets and animal behaviourists. The AWL also campaigns, for example, against puppy farming, and acts on reports of animal cruelty.
Artists who generously participated in the AWL fund raising exhibition included Joanna Braithwaite (below), and Janet Laurence. I recommend you watch Laurence’s beautiful and meditative series of animal and nature videos here. Many artists these days are imaginatively examining human/animal and environmental inter-relationships. They share a great love of animals and generously support causes related to animal welfare and rights.
MAIL: Thanks for the responses to the last blog, and many of you also seem to enjoy Christian’s birthday. People loved and commented on Jiawei Shen’s portrait. Michele, for example, found the painting “mesmerising”. She also wrote “Christian is born in the month of Leo and has the life path of 9. He was born to be a spiritual gift to the universe – he was the consummate LION. The LION of LIONS!!
ELSA: A few weeks ago I watched the documentary Elsa: the lioness who changed the world (you can view some of the clips here). The phenomenal success of Joy Adamson’s 1960 Born Free book (translated into 25 languages), and the subsequent film did help change how people thought about animals – especially “wild” animals. They were now viewed as individual beings, and hopefully this has made us more mindful of their futures. There were interviews with Virginia McKenna, who had played Joy Adamson in the film, and with Tony Fitzjohn who was George Adamson’s assistant at his camp at Kora and is now the Field Director for the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust.
Joy Adamson took the most marvellous photographs of Elsa, who was, like Christian, an exceptional lion. George realised that they should have retained the three cubs, instead of sending two to a European Zoo, as this would have made it easier to rehabilitate Elsa. Subsequently, he knew to build a pride around Christian.
There was some good footage of Christian, especially with Tony Fitzjohn. Christian was the first lion Tony had met, and he said they were both like new boys finding their way in the wild.
NICK BRANDT: Source Photographica in Melbourne is having another exhibition of the majestic photographs of Nick Brandt from 5 -27 October. The exhibition is the final volume in a trilogy which has been presenting a “complex and deep portrait of Africa”, and it has been fascinating to watch Brandt chart this through his powerful and exceptionally beautiful photography. It is hard not to be depressed that many of the subjects of his photographs are facing extinction, and that there is so little effective action to save them. 80 elephants have just been poisoned in Zimbabwe. It should be inconceivable that we may see the end of the elephant, for example, in our life time, on our watch.
A recent radio interview referred to Indira Gandhi’s Project Tiger which she started in India in 1973 when the tiger was on the brink of extinction. From an estimated 40,000 in the early 20th century, numbers had shrunk to approximately 1800 by 1973. She introduced the Wildlife Protection Act in 1973, and hunting tigers was banned and reserves created. Unfortunately, after the assassinations of her and her son, the Indian government from 1992 up to the present have made bad and late decisions and neglected necessary reforms, and tiger numbers are now down to an estimated 1700.
AUSTRALIAN ELECTIONS: OK, my side lost the election and I’m a bad loser! It was inevitable however, and I hope the Labor Party rediscovers some fundamental values. It has been a hung parliament yet despite an adversarial, negative and policy-free Opposition, alot of legislation was passed, and some major reforms of national significance initiated. But it has not been a pleasant time, and has felt like one long election campaign. It is sort of a relief that it is finally over, even if it is back to the future.
There is only one woman in Prime Minister Abbott’s 20 person cabinet (described as “pale, male and stale”) and he is dismantling our Emissions Trading Scheme and any institutions associated with climate information or policy. The climate sceptics are showing their hands, and there is not even a Minister for Science. Their replacement scheme Direct Action is not taken seriously, but perhaps will now be under scrutiny. David Suzuki, who has been visiting Sydney, has written and spoken about how Abbott is “dooming future generations”, and that “willful blindness” should be an offence.
The recently released latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that there is a 95% certainty that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming in the atmosphere and the ocean.
In the SMH, RossGittins writes that in the election the public didn’t really like either contender, confirming my own feelings, and that Labor is the eternally dissatisfied party of “reform”, while the Libs are the conservatives, “satisfied with the world as is and trying to stave of disruptive change for as long as possible”.
In contrast to his noise and daily photo ops in opposition, the Abbott government has been almost invisible, and the politicians muzzled. There were a few spiteful sackings of public servants. The Minister of Defence wants to keep up a “war momentum” and has his hopes on possibilities in Pakistan. There was an immediate spat with Indonesia, our closest neighbour, just before Abbott visited.
Rupert Murdoch had a big election win after a blatantly partisan campaign against the government in his newspapers. Too many of his journalists tarnished their reputations. A loose cannon self proclaimed billionaire got 3 Senators and possibly himself elected (subject to a recount), and also holding the balance of power are some wild cards with very few votes who got into the Senate on preference deals.
READING: I’ve actually been watching so much sport (from Rafa winning the US Open, to football finals etc), I haven’t been reading books but I’ve heard or read interviews about:
Starting with Max is by Ying Ying who came to Australia from Hong Kong with her family, and who describes how having a dog has changed her life. After the family cat “decided not to come to Australia and died”, she promised her daughter a dog in Sydney, much against her own wishes. She of course fell in love with Max the dog and her daily walks in the park “awakened her senses”, and opened her own eyes to the natural beauty of Australia. He touched her heart and “made her a better person”.
FERAL, a recent book by George Monbiot, an environmental journalist who I have quoted in the past, is about our need for re-wilding – ‘to recover the animal in ourselves and in the Earth”. He imagines forests regrowing, and animals returning – like the brown bears have in parts of Europe. Wolves were exterminated from the Yellowstone National Park, but since their reintroduction there has been a restoration of plants, trees and soil, as the deer have been forced higher up the mountain. There is an ongoing debate about deer in Bundeena – a family of deer live at the top of my garden in the Royal National Park. As an introduced species, their eating habits do create environmental problems.
Australian Wildlife Conservancy: Recently the Australian Wildlife Conservancy arranged for 6 artists to visit Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary, their 6000 square kilometre conservancy in the Kimberley region of West Australia. The resulting excellent exhibition was opened by scientist/conservationist/writer/academic Tim Flannery – just sacked by the government as the chief climate commissioner!
I think conservancies and the buying up of tracts of land are an excellent future direction that offers the best protection. In Africa various conservancies are trying to preserve or link uninterrupted corridors of land used as traditional migration routes for animals.
The AWC owns 23 properties in Australia covering 7.4 million acres. They believe in “practical land management informed by strong science”. These properties are offering protection to more than 1200 native animal species, and the AWC runs fire management and feral control programs. It is possible to visit and stay at some of their properties, observe land management practices, see wildlife and many birds, and fly in helicopters over spectacular scenery.
For visitors to Australia this would be a unique opportunity to visit a remote and beautiful part of Australia, especially with the opportunity to view Aboriginal art in places like Broome.
Needless to say, feral cats are the AWC’s Enemy Number One!!!!
WORLD: Obama was made to look “ham fisted” over Syria, and Putin took the chance to question American exceptionalism – in the New York Times. The chemical weapons issue just gives Assad more time to continue killing and displacing his own population. The difficulty is – especially post Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya – another American intervention would be another grave mistake.
Sectarian violence is worsening In Iraq. Banning the Muslim Brotherhood and forcing them underground in Egypt seems extremely provocative – they did actually win the election! Some commentators are saying the Arab Spring has been replaced by Islamic terrorism, as most recently demonstrated in Nairobi. Oil has begun to flow again in Libya. The new President of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, has been surprisingly/suspiciously conciliatory to the US after 30 years. Pope Francis is sounding encouragingly human.
ECONOMY: From my perusal of business reports in the media, some people are unfortunately warning about a new wave of global financial turmoil. Apparently new money from the printing presses of the US, EU and Japan have caused “a sucking of funds from emerging markets” i.e. countries like India, Indonesia, Brazil, Turkey and South Africa.
Fortunately China remains “reasonably robust”, and, according to the leaked internal memo Document 9, the Chinese leadership seems more worried about the dire threats and dangers posed by discussions of “democracy”, “universal values of human rights” and a “free press”.
LONDON: A large exhibition entitled Australia has opened at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. There are 200 paintings from 200 years with 146 artists, with the broad theme of “landscape”. While it contains most of our major artists and some iconic paintings, it has been criticised for being too general, and curatorially old fashioned. One critic described the Aboriginal art as “tourist tat”. As some of the most widely admired Aboriginal artists are represented, few would agree with him. Australian art has been overlooked in the UK for a long time, and this now quite controversial exhibition may – or may not – lead to an interest in more focused exhibitions of Australian art.
USA: I have to mention even more mass shootings in the US recently. As the mother of a victim said about Congress “Who else has to die before you get it?”. I think in Australia we find it hard to imagine how the National Gun Lobby is so powerful and even seem to be extending its influence.
Apparently in The Right Nation, John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge argue that the “centre of gravity of America opinion is much further to the right” than in other rich countries. The Republican Party can seem very heartless, especially at present with the current threats to defund Obamacare, and to “shut down” the government.
The sophisticated American Ambassador to Australia, Jeff Bleich, is returning to America. When asked how similar Americans and Australians are, he said we are 80% the same and 20% different. In Australia “there is a great levelling of all people and a great appreciation that no one should think too much of ourselves” and that successful Australians “wear their celebrity and their accomplishments very lightly”.
William Abbey, who grew up in England and lives in Florida, has shared interests in some of the subjects I write about and like many of you, emails me about them. I appreciate this, especially any information concerning animals and how we can help them. William loves panthers and polar bears especially. Click here and here for two articles he has recently sent about the rehabilitation of the Florida panther, and organisations working for the protection of polar bears and their habitat.
I recently enjoyed the exhibition Talk Show where artists responded to the “televisual landscape of this genre of syndicated entertainment”. I bought a painting of Oprah Winfrey from artist Anney Bounpraseuth’s Wailing Wall series. Part Two, Talk Show (after the break) opens at Kudos Gallery, Paddington, Sydney on 15th October. I spoke to co-curator JD Reforma about appearing on Oprah and The View etc, and the exhibition did make me reflect on the “notion of celebrity”, and the “socioeconomic construction of failure and success”. It was never one of my dreams to go on Oprah. It was a big audience to fail in front of! While it was brilliant for Christian’s story of course, I personally found the whole experience rather nerve wracking!
August 12, 2012
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN! Thanks to Derek Cattani, Christian’s photographer, for this gorgeous Birthday Card. Remember on his birthday last year Derek wrote beautifully about photographing Christian when I asked him which was his favourite photograph. Many of you do ask about photographs of Christian, so do check out his archive (and another Birthday Card) as well as the ALCC site.
This month also marks 40 years since we last saw Christian. By 1972 Christian had grown into what George Adamson thought may have been the biggest lion in Kenya – close to 500 pounds, and with more growing to do. To quote from our book A Lion Called Christian, and my letter to my parents.
“We saw Christian every morning & evening for a walk and a chat. He is much calmer & much more self assured than last year, and stunning to be with. Just as silly. Huge. Jumped up on me only once as before on his hind legs and he did it extremely gently. He licked my face as he towered over me”.
Despite his size, the local wild lions were still unrelenting in their opposition, and Christian was spending extended periods away from Kora and George assumed he was looking for somewhere more suitable to live. We realised this may mean we may never see him again…..
See our second and last reunion with Christian in 1972.
MAIL: Thanks to George from Florida for this fantastic photograph of a lion having a paw manicure and story. George asked “did you ever do this to Christian?” While he loved us, I’m not sure he would have allowed us, although his friend Unity Bevis- Jones probably could have!
Thanks to Gay for forwarding this beautiful slideshow titled Beaute Sauvage.
From Devi “I do believe our beloved Christian’s Birthday is approaching…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR MOST CHARMING AND ENIGMATIC LION, CHRISTIAN. May your story continue to be told around the world for future generations. Celebrate in Paradise with your friends my beloved Christian. Will always love you”.
I couldn’t say it better myself.
ALDF: The Animal Legal Defence Fund have had a fund raiser for the various court cases they are fighting, and I know many of you support their efforts for Tony the Tiger especially. I just cannot bear to think of the months and years of his captivity…
ACE BOURKE: A COLLECTORS JOURNEY: For personal reasons I am overdue responding to various emails, and I will. I have also been very busy preparing for my exhibition which opened yesterday at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre in southern Sydney. The exhibition is dedicated to my mother Patricia Macarthur Bourke (11th May 1922 – 23rd July 2012).
In the exhibition I examine the idea of “collecting” and all the material we accumulate in our lives which provides a map or diary of our lives. As an art curator – and traveller, I have collected alot of art, but most of us live surrounded by items of great sentimental significance and interest – which includes for me, memorabilia about Christian. An interview or “conversation” with me about the exhibition has been posted on http://www.youtube.com/hazelhurstgallery
This is one of my favourite photographs as it sums up the relief in 1970 of finally getting Christian to Kenya after months of delays, and the necessary vigilance over his well being and everyone’s safety in England. The photograph represents for me the freedom from restrictions, the beginning of Christian’s natural life, and to just…be. Happy Birthday Christian.
AVAAZ Lion Petition, Christian The Lion, Mugi, Kora, Lonesome George, Gorillas, The Aspinall Foundation
July 1, 2012
KORA: It is particularly exciting – indeed historic, that lions are being re-introduced to Kora in Kenya, the first since George Adamson’s death in 1989. Tony Fitzjohn, Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust who of course lived at Kora with George (and Christian), is overseeing the rehabilitation of Kora and George’s camp, among many other projects. After Tony sent me this photograph of Mugi recently, I asked him many questions on our behalf. What is Mugi’s personality like? How old is he? What care does he require at this stage? Can we help???? The spots on Mugi’s legs remind me of Christian’s spots that gradually faded. I think I also recognise that expression. Apart from Mugi’s curiosity about the camera, he is about to playfully pounce!
I was very touched when these drawings of Christian were emailed from Italy, where these school children had just discovered Christian’s story. Thank you so much!
” We saw a story about Christian at school. He becomes our LOVE at first sight. We were so moved so touched .. SO SO MUCH! we are so happy for
Christian and all of you.
In memory of your beloved Christian we decide to draw something for you and John. We have drawn Christian and after we have made a stickers.
Some of these we are sending you with an attachment. And if you want, we will be very happy to send you also some another via ordinary mail. Only we need your addresses.
Thank you both, including late George Adamson. CHRISTIAN FOREVER!!! MUCH LOVE
Kids from Italy, Croatia and some other places living in Trieste,
Giulia, Lorenzo, Martina, Gessica, Anna, Francesca, Greta,
Francesca, Martin, Leo, Vera, Valentina, Alen, Giovanni,
Francesco, Beatrice, Dario, Andjela, Anna, Marko, Anna, Ana,
Anja, Dario, Denis, Vladan, Christopher, Noemi and Olga, teacher “
I also received an email from Nancy which I thought summed up very well the feelings many people have about Christian and the subsequent journey some embark on – reading relevant and fascinating books, and getting more actively involved in supporting wildlife and conservation issues and causes.
“I was pleasantly surprised to receive your answer; I continue to “obsess” over Christian. I read Adrian House’s book “The Great Safari” The Lives of George and Joy Adamson, as you recommended and spent weeks on it. With my iPad in hand I must have researched every animal, person, national park, tribe, et cetera while reading it. You had mentioned in one of the many You Tube videos that this sensational interest in Christian is a cry for Africa. Indeed it is! I had never considered myself even a conservationist until Christian and since have begun to contribute to organizations. I believe it is no coincidence that he was named Christian as I see God’s hand all over this.
I also read Beryl Markham and am now going onto Elspeth Huxley. I repeatedly continue to view the reunion and am thankful Google has photos as well. I hope you and John realize the import of what you did and that you really have been used by God to change the hearts of men as certainly as I am proof. I will never be the same. “
AVAAZ: It is hard to believe that hundreds of South African lions are being slaughtered to be used for “bogus” sex potions, and are also farmed for trophy hunters. Perhaps only 20,000 wild lions remain in Africa and may soon be as endangered as elephants and rhinoceros. This petition is designed to put pressure on President Zuma with as many people as possible signalling that this brutal trade will hurt South Africa’s image as a tourist destination. Please sign the petition here.
GOOD NEWS: The Sumatran rhinoceros is critically endangered and there are fewer than 200 of the breed alive. So the birth of this baby in Indonesia – the last refuge for them – is very good news. It is only the fourth birth in captivity in 100 years.
VALE: No such luck with Lonesome George, the last known member of the Pinta Island tortoise subspecies (from the Galapagos Islands),who has died, aged at least 100. Despite years of efforts and various temptations, he was unfortunately unable to reproduce.
GORILLAS: I was of course very moved seeing Damian Aspinall return to Africa for his reunion with a gorilla called Kwibi who he had returned to Gabon in Africa five years before – one of 53 The Aspinall Foundation has returned. The emotion both of them felt was very beautiful and extremely touching. Just as we were not frightened of Christian as he ran towards us in our reunion because we could recognise his excited grunts and facial expression, Damian says he was not afraid as he recognised the gorilla “love gurgle”. It is heart breaking when Kwibi followed him along the opposite side of the river and called out to him during the night. We have footage of Christian with a very worried expression padding behind our vehicle as we left Kora one time which can still make me cry (like now). When we had Christian in London Damian’s father John Aspinall was well-known for keeping tigers on his country estate. I suppose this was a ” least worst” option we may have had to consider for Christian, and so fortunately avoided. Damian took over 2 Wildlife Parks in Kent that were founded by his father, but he has a “deep loathing” for zoos and intends to return as many animals to the wild as he can.
MAIL: My condolences to Ray who lost his beloved dog Snoot, and I’m hoping Hélène’s ill diabetic cat Hermione is recovering. Our animals play such an important role in our lives and are a re-connection with the natural world we are increasingly estranged from. They are family, and it is devastating when they are ill or if we lose them.
Jon Lewis, The Intervention, Tony the Tiger, Ross Gittins, Jenny Kee, Australia, Koalas, Bees, Prince William, Obama, Christian the Lion
May 21, 2012
JON LEWIS: It is the annual Head On Photo Festival in Sydney, and there have been photography exhibitions everywhere. I love this echidna image by Jon Lewis from his exhibition From the Ranges at Damien Minton Gallery. He has lovingly and poetically photographed the land around where he lives in country NSW. His Classic Bondi portraits from the mid 1980s are also on show at the Bondi Pavilion until June 3rd. Jonny is a well known photographer and conservation activist of long standing. See his website here.
THE INTERVENTION: I wrote about the Intervention in Aboriginal communities last time – you can protest against it here, especially as the Stronger Futures legislation to extend the Intervention is currently being debated in the Senate.
Noel Pearson is an influential Aboriginal leader and the Intervention seemed to emerge from his unexpected relationship with John Howard in his last year as PM. He has been an articulate critic of indigenous welfare dependency, but the cancellation of Community Development Employment Projects ( a form of subsidised employment) has left many in remote communities without employment and the ability to make a much needed contribution to the community. Noel Pearson writes regularly for The Australian – on a wide variety of topics, and I did wonder why academic Marcia Langton, another influential Aboriginal leader, thought it was necessary to recently write her defensive “Why I continue to be inspired by Pearson” article for the same paper.
The Intervention is very unpopular with few positive results so far. In some respects it contravenes human rights, and was an opportunistic and clumsily implemented unsuitable one-size-fits-all paradigm. Aboriginal community leaders who were not initially even consulted, need to be listened to about their particular priorities, ideas and solutions. The challenge is to create an economic basis for these remote communities – and not relocate them off their traditional lands to “growth centres”.
I think some of the most exciting Aboriginal art being made today is by the painters on bark from North East Arnhem Land, in the Northern Territory. Among quite a few very talented “young guns” is the innovative Gunybi Ganambarr. He is true to his traditional values and beliefs but imaginatively uses new conceptual approaches and mediums to express them. For example, Buyky (above) is natural earth pigments but on incised laminate board. See more dazzling paintings from his exhibition from my mind online at Annandale Galleries, Sydney and Ganambarr is one of 20 artists in the overdue and just opened UnDisclosed, the second National Indigenous Art Triennial at the National Gallery of Australia, in Canberra until 22nd July.
TONY THE TIGER UPDATE: The case was back in court recently but I can’t quite decipher the result or the next step. It seems it’s at the discretion of the state government whether or not they enforce Tony’s relocation. It just drags on and on. Does the local press follow Tony’s case sympathetically – if at all?
ROSS GITTINS: I often read (and quote) Ross Gittins, an economics journalist with the Sydney Morning Herald, as he appreciates we live primarily in a society, rather than an economy. He has just been awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Sydney.
Gittins recently wrote about some fundamental differences between European and American approaches to life. It helped me understand some of the very occasional emails I get about “infringements of my freedoms”, and complaints about “big government” etc.
A sample of Europeans and Americans were asked: “Which was more important – being free to pursue your life’s goals without interference from the state, or for the state to play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody was in need”.
In the US, 58% favoured individual freedom, and 35% favoured ensuring nobody was in need. It was the reverse in Europe where in Britain, for example, only 38% favoured individual freedom.
Interestingly, despite the American belief in the opportunities open to all citizens, and President Obama’s example, Americans actually have the lowest degree of social mobility.
Gittins accepts, as I do, “the need for the community to pull together towards common objectives, for us to be led by our elected leaders and for the better-off to be required to assist the less-well-off. I don’t resent having the taxman redistribute a fair bit of my income to those less fortunate”. He concludes that overall the ideal attitude to life lies somewhere in the middle. Read the full article here.
SURVEYS & REPORTS: In other recent surveys: apparently we worry most about our careers; the majority of people think at the end of their lives that they worked too hard and should have spent more time with their families; and at present there is only a “middling” concern in the community for the environment.
There have been recent reports on how the education system is failing to engage with many indigenous and non indigenous teenagers alike, and the judicial system is failing them with high rates of incarceration and recividism. There is an epidemic of marginalised and quite fearless young people – a danger to themselves, and the community. Sydney has also had nearly nightly drive-by shootings in the suburbs.
JENNY KEE: Unusually for me, I attended Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Australia to see my friend Jenny Kee’s showing of her famous silk scarves – draped extravagantly around motionless models that we walked around. It was both reminiscent of the excitement of her fashion parades for Flamingo Park (with Linda Jackson) decades ago, and something new – and a new younger audience who have discovered her. See her scarves here. I’m not sure if Fashion Week drew many international heavyweights – but bloggers got a lot of attention – especially Bryanboy – who interpreted a tweet from one of our local glamazons as a real death threat. Checking out their sites, I loved Tommy Ton’ photographs in The Word on the Street and his pick of the best off-runway fashion statements of 2011.
In New York an exhibition of the work of two Italian fashion iconoclasts Prada and Elsa Schiaparelli (who could not be more dissimilar) has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Typically Miuccia Prada has said she does not like fashion and wishes she had found a job doing something important! She is a very interesting woman and hopefully her $6.8 billion fortune may one day go towards something she regards as “important”.
AUSTRALIA: We have just had a rather clever sleight of hand (projected) return to surplus budget. It seemed to compensate people for the upcoming carbon tax and supposedly spread some of the mineral wealth. A return to surplus was a foolish, inhibiting promise at a time when economies around the world need stimulation for growth – particularly in Europe. Two tacky sex scandals involving parliamentarians continued to get most of the media attention however, as their votes are crucial in the knife-edge hung parliament.
Despite the endlessly negative (and policy free) commentary from our Opposition, our economy is the envy of the world, especially in comparison to the extremely alarming eurozone crisis, which is already having global repercussions for us all.
I like the cultural diversity (and number of women) in the new cabinet in France, and M. Hollande’s call for more economic stimulation and growth rather than more austerity.
CSG: A recent rally outside Parliament House NSW called for tougher restrictions on the epidemic of coal and coal seam gas mining. It seems no area, even prime agricultural land, is off limits. Interesting to see usually conservative country people protesting and seeing, as the new leader of the Greens Christine Milne pointed out, that they have a lot in common with environmentalists.
KOALAS: Koalas are now officially “vulnerable” and “endangered” in various parts of the eastern states of Australia. I’m not sure just how much environmental protection this will provide, but in twenty years numbers in NSW have fallen from 31,400 to 21,000 in 2010, a decline of 33%.
In NSW, the government is considering allowing minors to hunt feral animals with knives, dogs and high-powered hunting bows in the National Parks – so the government can secure necessary votes from the Shooters Party on other legislation.
BEES: It is of great concern that bee numbers seem to be declining dramatically globally and this would of course be disastrous for the food chain. 65% of our agricultural production in Australia depends on pollination by European honey bees. AVAAZ recently began a campaign against the use of pesticides by Bayer, and a link has been found between another common agricultural pesticide (containing imidacloprid), and colony collapse disorder in which adult bees abandon hives.
PRINCE WILLIAM: Nice to see a new patron for conservation and in a recent speech Prince William wanted to “sound a rallying call” that in Africa there are only 600,000 elephants, 25,000 lions (halved from 20 years ago) and 12,000 cheetahs left.
MISC STATS: 7000 languages are now spoken in the world but only 600 are expected to survive until the end of the century; in the UK despite double dip recession and record unemployment the richest 1000 people are $643.5 billion richer; in Australia under 1% of the population are problem gamblers, but they contribute 40% of poker machine revenue; 37% of Australian people with taxable incomes of $1 million or more make no donations at all; 31.96% of us sign up for organ donation however; there are fewer than 200 violins made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, and 650 by Stradivarius – all worth many millions of dollars.
OBAMA: Congratulations for “evolving” into your support for same-sex marriage, the first American President to do so.
COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT CHRISTIAN:
How many times did you both visit Christian in Africa and when was he last seen?
When we were revising and updating A Lion Called Christian in 2009, even we were sometimes confused about some details of particular visits especially 40 years later! Luckily my mother kept all my letters from that period and that helped us as did subsequently published books. We returned Christian to Kenya in August 1970. After a few weeks we left him with George Adamson to get him used to us not being there, and went on a two week safari in Kenya and Tanzania. We returned to Kora where Christian was very happy to see us. Although the big lion Boy was still not fully accepting Christian, there had been an improvement and we were confident enough to leave him and return to London.
We returned one year later in July 1971 to a marvellous and enthusiastic reception from Christian that has become known as the ”YouTube” reunion and became an internet sensation. We returned again in August 1972 for another visit with Christian. He was now three years old, and was growing more independent and into one of the biggest lions George had ever seen. He had cleverly and courageously survived those early dangerous years. The relentless opposition from the local wild lions at Kora meant George’s male lions increasingly spent extended periods away from the camp. John returned to Kora again later in 1973, but Christian had not been seen since earlier in the year. George last saw him heading off in the direction of the more hospitable Meru National Park which was a much more conducive area for Christian to establish his own territory and pride.
Presuming this happened, Christian would not have been able to leave his pride unattended and return to Kora to see his friends George Adamson and Tony Fitzjohn who he loved. There were never any news or sightings of Christian again. He had grown into such a big and strong lion we hope he may have lived at least another 8 years, and that his progeny may be in Kenya today.
CHRISTIAN: See this recent interview on the BBC – John is interviewed in London in Christian’s garden, and the relocated Sophistocat furniture shop. I loved Virginia McKenna, star of Born Free saying that Christian was “one of the most beautiful young lions I had ever seen. There was just something about him….” I agree!
For a more detailed description of our return visits to Christian – and answers to other frequently asked questions, see our 2009 edition of A Lion Called Christian which can be purchased here.
Christian is mentioned in the excellent books I know some of you have been reading: My Pride and Joy by George Adamson (Collins Harvill 1986); The Great Safari – The Lives of George and Joy Adamson by Adrian House ( Morrow 1993); The Life in My Years by Virginia McKenna (Oberon 2009); and the Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust Tony Fitzjohn’s Born Wild (Viking 2010).