Paperback release

May 12, 2010

I would like to thank all the members of Christian’s Facebook page, now over 20,000, for their continuing interest in Christian. Talking about him again recently with the release of the paperback, I just get more and more fascinated by him myself – how charismatic he was, how lucky we were to meet him, and what does it mean that he is still affecting people all over the world so many years later? I try to remember what it was like looking into his eyes, what his fur felt like, what he smelt of (musty lion!), how easy he was to read sometimes, and how unreachable and unknowable he could also be. What I remember primarily is what a marvelous personality he had, and what fun he was. George Adamson described him as “cheerful” (and “mischievous”), and he was. After just reading Born Free for the first time, and enjoying the marvelous photographs, I can see why Elsa’s story created such huge worldwide interest in the 1960s.

DOGS

Ace with Sally and her 13 pups

In case I am accurately accused of being cat-centric, this photograph was on the front page of the local paper in Newcastle, NSW, where I grew up. I think I was about 9 and it was about the mid 1950s. I am alarmed to see that the design on the jumper has been making a comeback! Mum and Dad both grew up with dogs, and after Sally the Pointer, we had two Labradors which we loved. My sister and I both had cats later on and still do. I was worried to read that dog attacks here have increased 41% in the last 3 months, and that Staffordshire bull terriers were the main offenders. When there are so many reliable and attractive breeds of dogs, and dogs in shelters and pounds needing homes, I really don’t understand people breeding and buying Staffordshires that you would always have to worry about? I mentioned Psycho dog man on YouTube last time and his scary imitation of them!

SYDNEY MORNING HERALD (SMH)

 The Sydney Morning Herald is my daily newspaper, and luxuriously, is delivered to my door. Actually I stagger down a rough path to the road, just out of bed, hoping no-one sees me. I read it before I do anything, with several cups of tea. The journalistic standards are mostly good enough but we have to be cautious, as we do with all media, about the accuracy, bias, and emphasis. Several of the contributors and writers are extremely good. So any Sydney readers of my blog will have déjà vu from time to time, with various comments, news and photographs all regurgitated from the SMH, and all hopefully credited correctly so I do not get arrested or prosecuted for plagiarism and copyright infringements! I also buy The Australian newspaper on Saturdays and it usually takes all weekend to read my way through both. This newspaper also has some very good writers, but unfortunately The Australian is sometimes very unprofessionally biased against the government, having the lack of objectivity of Fox News, for example, also owned by Rupert Murdoch. My other regular reading is The Monthly magazine, articles drawn to my attention by friends, Time and Newsweek and local papers if travelling, and sometimes Vanity Fair, to remind me that there is a sort of glamorous world out there, although it may be an illusion.

 I love watching the news on television, current affairs programs and documentaries. I don’t surf the net extensively or widely for the information that interests me, although obviously I use it all the time for my work, email and correspondence, and researching specific information. Reading other blogs or looking at related websites can be a luxury, or chore, or extraneous, depending on how busy I am. Lately I have admired the serious investment in environmental efforts of Leonardo Di Caprio (leonardodicaprio.org), watched some TED TALKS, peaked at Bindi Irwin’s site, but seem unable to connect with National Geographic’s webcam streaming live out of Mashatu Game Reserve (http://video.nationalgeographic.com/video/wildcamafrica).   I am a Luddite when it comes to technology, and yes, I did have to have help getting my blog up and running! In fact it is still a work in progress…..we are still having trouble making it easy for you to upload pictures of animals for example, and I look forward to receiving more photographs and your (concise) animal stories shortly.

This beautiful looking hybrid Bengal tiger, Kinwah, from Mogo Zoo in NSW, is only 10 months old but certainly big enough to inflict serious harm. He will have to be restricted more and more from human contact. Tigers are solitary animals and not as gregarious, friendly and family-orientated as lions, despite appearances in this photograph (from the SMH) with Clive Brookbanks.

CLIMATE CHANGE

There was recently a conference on climate change in Bolivia which seemed to concentrate on the less developed countries and the implications for them, how to live with nature more sustainably, and foregrounding indigenous people, who have been overlooked to date, especially as we should be turning to them for their traditional knowledge and practices.

Our Australian Prime Minister has shocked many of us by abandoning the Emission Trading Scheme until 2013. Kevin Rudd described it as the “the great moral challenge of our time”, and he put a lot of energy into the conference in Copenhagen. While it is very complex, he never explained the ETS satisfactorily to the public. Copenhagen wasn’t the success we all hoped for, and the public interest has waned. Two out of three Australians are now not convinced climate change is man-made, although luckily not among younger people. The Opposition conservative party (and Greens if you please) blocked the legislation in the Senate, and with an election due this year, Kevin Rudd doesn’t want anything difficult or controversial getting in his way.

Recently we have been criticised by China for our failure to act which was described as “bad for Australia’s image and sends a very negative message to the global community that the global target of limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celcius by 2050 will not be achieved”. The oxymoron “clean coal”, and carbon dioxide sequestration, seems to have been exposed  – hardly unsurprisingly – as a highly unlikely alternative.

It has recently been reported  that in Australia by 2014 clean solar thermal power stations could replace all our coal-fired ones, and a large number are already operational or under construction in Spain and the United States. Does this illustrate yet again the immense power of the coal lobby?

Photograph by Chris Jordan

YUK: this frightening image exemplifies the pollution of the seas, and the cost of human carelessness and laziness. This photograph is of an albatross, one of many killed by a huge mass of plastic refuse building in the Pacific Ocean. To view other images and for more information see http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/a_battle_at_midway/. I was also horrified to read again about the very cruel practice of bear farming for their bile, particularly in China. Fortunately organizations such as the Animals Asia Foundation www.animalasia.org/  are working hard to end this, and no doubt would like our support.

GET UP

Readers will be aware of my interest in the potential of internet activism, and in Australia we have Get Up (www.getup.org.au), an independent, not-for-profit community campaigning group, who “use new technology to empower Australians to have their say on important national issues” and who receive no political party or government funding. Every campaign is “entirely supported by voluntary donations”. They organise online petitions, provide the telephone numbers and email addresses of local MPs, and where necessary, take advertisements in newspapers. They have integrity and are very effective – no politician wants to be bombarded with complaints. Currently they are campaigning against the Government over the ETS, and I have also rung The Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency on 02-6159 7000 and sent an email to communications@climatechange.gov.au to complain. The Prime Minister’s approval ratings are plunging as the Australian public wonders what he actually stands for.  Unfortunately he is no worse than most other politicians around the world and although they have very complex problems to confront, we are all suffering from a serious failure of global leadership and courage.

BIODIVERSITY

A key finding of the United Nation’s Global Biodiversity Outlook, reported in the SMH (May11), states that key natural processes that sustain human life, such as crop production and clean water, face a high risk of “rapid degradation and collapse” because of the record rate of extinction of animal and plant species. Isn’t it the Year of Biodiversity? Let’s hope for some visionary and urgent leadership.

BORN FREE

Joy Adamson acknowledges in the book that much of it was based on George’s diaries and Elsa’s rehabilitation was obviously a shared experience. However, she never gave George any of the money earned. She was a fascinating, talented but difficult woman. We met her once and wrote about it in our book.  She was volatile and excitable, and was often scratched by Elsa and other big cats, unlike George who was much calmer and cooler. The book is a classic, and is illustrated with the most superb photographs. It is clearly written, and we know just how difficult it is to write funny animal anecdotes!

Elsa, like Christian, seems to have been an extraordinary animal. For several years they sometimes took her on safari, or for George’s work as a Game Warden, and she just jumped in the vehicle, with very few worrying incidents.

Oddly, although Christian was five generations removed from Africa and had a London upbringing, his instincts were unimpaired, and George described his rehabilitation as the easiest he had overseen. George was more experienced by then, and he did build a pride around Christian. Unlike the lionesses George brought into the pride and who mated with the local wild lions, Christian was never allowed by them to settle in that area and had to find a new territory.

Elsa had no pride and was on her own, but did have the advantage of being female, and was actually born in Kenya. Her rehabilitation took longer but was ultimately successful, and I am very much looking forward to reading the sequel Living Free!

Buffalo Boy by Gary Lee

Many of my Aboriginal friends have been instrumental through a variety of means (including  the example of their own successsful lives), in breaking  down the stereotypical way indigenous people have been  perceived and portrayed – like the late Michael Riley’s photographs of his very attractive friends. He would have loved to see Samantha Harris breaking through on Vogue, and Buffalo Boy is the image on the invitation for indigenous photographer Gary Lee’s most recent exhibition at Woolloongabba Art Gallery, Brisbane, Queensland.

Cover Girl Samantha Harris

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