New Year 2011

January 22, 2011

Southern swell by Australian Kah Kit Yoong, Runner Up "Wild Places" category / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010

WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR 2010: This seems an appropriate photograph to lead with this year, with the power of water very much on all our minds with disastrous flooding in three states in Australia, and in several other countries.  Currently showing at the Australian Museum, Sydney I did not find this exhibition as breath-takingly good as last year – but it is still quite inspirational.  I love the wide participation and interest generated from many nationalities and from all age groups, and the spotlight on the often ravishing beauty of our increasingly endangered nature and wildlife.  You can take your camera and practise your photography on selected museum specimens.

FLOODS: Much of Australia has had drought conditions for many years, and there have been debates about water use, the condition of river systems, irrigation and desalination plants.  But many people have been fighting for their lives or losing everything in recent floods in Queensland, NSW and Victoria. There have also been floods in other countries including South Africa, Sri Lanka, The Philippines and landslides in Brazil where many lives have been lost.  However, extraordinary qualities have been demonstrated – courage and heroism, stoic acceptance, outstanding leadership and great community spirit.  Over 100,000 volunteers turned up at the weekend to clean up Brisbane!

Little owls on top by Ilia Shalamae, Highly Commended "Behaviour of Birds" category / Wildlife Photographer of The Year 2010

PETS: Animals have of course been as much at risk as the humans and their stories here have been equally poignant and heart breaking.  At first, evacuation centres refused to take animals but that was swiftly overturned.  Trapped horses “screamed”.  Some cows knew to head to higher ground before people sensed the imminent danger.  Dogs have turned up days later. The veterinarian clinic at the University of Queensland became a “Noah’s Ark”.  In Brazil there was that very upsetting photograph of a dog sitting for several days on the grave of the owner.

On another note, in Spain they have just celebrated the annual Luminarias religious festival held on the eve of St Anthony’s Day which commemorates the patron saint of animals, but the photograph showed a man riding his horse through flames which seemed entirely inappropriate!  Anthony is my Christian name, and I’d forgotten St Anthony was the patron saint of animals.

Swamp heaven by Mac Stone, Highly Commended "Animals in their Environment" category / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010

LEADERSHIP: The Premier of Queensland has earned wide admiration for her leadership during the crisis, managing to strike the right note and appearing “real”, while our PM sounded awkward.  Our government has become so enslaved to focus groups, polling and media cycles, like many governments in the world. They seem cowered and cautious, with most responses and actions seeming so scripted and careful at a time in our history requiring strong and intelligent leadership.  Barack Obama also seems to have struck the right note talking about the shooting in America in Tucson when he said we must “remind ourselves of all the ways that our hopes and dreams are bound together”.

The uprising in Tunisia, which has many other neighbouring despots feeling justifiably insecure, was partly provoked by information disclosed by WikiLeaks. This is why in principle I support WikiLeaks, which I hope will lead to more transparency, not less.

In a recent article “Time to turn traditional enemies into allies” (SMH 15-16th January 2011), Stephen Kinzer (author of Reset:Middle East), argues that there has to be a new paradigm for the Middle East as America’s allies are failing them very badly.  Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have proven to be too duplicitous.  Kinzer argues that the West has much more commonality with countries like Turkey, the world’s most democratic Muslim country. The US-Iran relationship he describes as the “most dysfunctional in today’s world”.  Many people in Iran are well educated and would like democratic reform, and are against the radical Sunni groups like the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They could  actually help to stabilise Iraq and Afghanistan. Kinzer writes that the wisest policy would be to “try drawing Iran and Israel out of their isolation, and ultimately make them feel safe enough so they can make the security concessions the world needs them to make”.  I remember Obama early in his presidency spoke initially in a conciliatory way about Iran, and was derided for it.  I recently saw Annie Leibovitz’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and her photograph of Bush, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc was the most chilling photograph I have seen for along time, and the world is still paying the price for what they inflicted on us.

MISC. STATS: 30,000 deaths from guns in the US each year – and gun sales have recently escalated; 800 million Indians live on under $2 per day, and the legislated minimum wage is about $3 per day; according to the FAO, there were 100 million less undernourished people in the world last year, but still leaving 925 million, although this represents 1 in 7 as opposed to 1 in 4 40 years ago; the average life span has risen from 59 to 70 years, and people are healthier, wealthier and better educated. In Australia apparently we have less violent crime, and are smoking less and taking fewer drugs.

LAST BLOG: I have remembered a few other things I wanted to say about India: although I was in the tea estates of Darjeeling and Assam, I didn’t have one cup of tea I enjoyed and loved getting back to my Dilmah!  In my hotel in Mumbai the staff surprised me by singing  Happy Birthday and producing a birthday cake which I found very touching, if embarrassing; and the exhibition of my Indian tribal art collection (Cross Art Projects, Sydney) is now in April.

Frozen moment by Fergus Gill, Winner of the 15-17 years category / Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2010

CHANEE / KALAWAIT: Click here for Chanee’s latest news. He is seeking partners for a kloss gibbon conservation project.

SAVE THE BEES: Click here for AVAAZ’s petition to ban toxic pesticides that seem to be responsible for billions of bees dying which is endangering our food chain.

Moon Bear - Mr Sunshine

FREE THE BEARS: Mary Hutton, founder of Free the Bears Fund Inc. sent this photograph to a friend of mine who made a donation.  Mr Sunshine and his sister, freed from a cage, now live in an enclosure where they can roam and forage.  Click here to view the Free the Bears website.

TARONGA FIELD CONSERVATION GRANTS PROGRAM: Click here for information about Partnerships for Conservation.  They are partnering in projects that protect endangered species, save and regenerate natural habitats, and work with local communities. See information on the grants available in 2011.

WATCHING: I’ve been enjoying the cricket even if we were humiliated by our colonial masters the English, and tennis, which I especially like.  I am about to go to Melbourne for the Australian Open.

PLAYS: I’ve been lucky enough to recently see Cate Blanchett in Uncle Vanya, although I did not enjoy the performance or play as much as A Streetcar Named Desire last year when she was unforgettable as Blanche. I’ve just seen Geoffrey Rush in The Diary of a Madman and his performance was also a “tour de force”. I saw him having a fag at the stage door on the way in…

TONY FITZJOHN: I have adored reading Tony Fitzjohn’s Born Wild. He had begun working for George Adamson between our 1971 and 1972 visits. Christian was the first lion he met and they became great friends and he says they learnt and grew up together. It was one of his life’s “most valuable relationships”.  Whenever volatile Joy Adamson came to camp, he and Christian went and stayed down by the river, which I find particularly sweet. It was a miracle that Tony materialised, and with his personality and many practical skills he helped George maintain his lion rehabilitation program, and the camp at Kora, for many years up until George’s murder.  He describes the deteriorating situation and great dangers in the 1980s at Kora – indeed Kenya.  In addition to photographs I hadn’t seen before, I particularly liked more information about Christian and I cried, or sobbed, quite a few times. Tony felt that as he was the same age as us, he was a sort of substitute for us in Christians’s mind.  I didn’t realise Christian had had such a hard time from the local wild lions. He luckily grew very big and somehow negotiated a “truce”  with some of them, and was actually seen sitting with Scruffy, a particularly tough lion. Ultimately however, he had to find somewhere else to live. Tony writes very well about some of the unique qualities George had; “There was a quality of peace and stillness about him that clearly put the lions at ease. Everything he did, he did competently, deliberately and calmly”. With his knowledge gained over many years, George could accurately anticipate most animal behaviour. The book also details information about the leopard program Tony initiated (a leopard fell in love with him), and everything he has achieved subsequently at Mkomazi Game Reserve in Tanzania.  He continues George’s work as Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust, and he describes the recent rehabilitation and plans for Kora. Christian was last seen heading for Meru National Park in 1973, an indication of his successful rehabilitation. I can only agree with Tony when he said: “We were proud of him but, God, I missed him”.

21 Responses to “New Year 2011”

  1. John Collis Says:

    Dear Ace Bourke
    Although you must have received letters enough in praise of A Lion called Christian, I should somehow fail if I didn’t tell you what an impact the book has had on me. For all its funny moments, it has an underlying and haunting sadness. But the love, commitment, loyalty and care that you, John Rendall and your friends showed to Christian, and that he showed to you, are uplifting and heartwarming. These qualities, now so widely known, should thrust into an ever more glaring light those in authority who are indifferent to the welfare of wildlife and of animals in general, and to the conservation of endangered species.
    The book has also evoked a time in London that I remember well, with a wave of nostalgia. I never knew Christian, but the narrative is so vivid and immediate that I have begun to feel I did know him. It comes as a bodily shock when one looks up from the page or sees a film clip to realise that it all happened 40 years ago. Yet Christian and his message live on and will inspire greater efforts in our disjointed world to save and conserve what we have. Those of us who try to help in however modest a way can say, like me, that we do it because of Christian.
    Last week I visited Moravian Close to pay my respects to Christian, you and John Rendall, George Adamson, Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, and to think about what you all did, and are still doing. It was peaceful, but I almost thought I saw a beautiful and boisterous young lion charging across the green or hiding behind the bushes.
    If I had known Sophistocat’s street number, I would have been able to say that I had seen the house where Christian lived. I looked for a blue plaque, but there was none on the fronts of today’s cluster of shops. There surely must be one soon.
    All best
    John Collis

    • acebourke Says:

      I am touched by your comments, and yes I too do try and help in Christian’s name or on his behalf. I think there is now an apartment block where Sophistocat once stood in World’s End.

      • John Collis Says:

        Many thanks for your reply. I called in at the new Sophistocat in Putney Bridge Road earlier today and spoke to the lady who runs it. She pinpointed the site of the old shop for me and said that the recent development is a rotten replacement for the characterful World’s End area of old. The English Heritage criteria for a blue plaque are quite rigorous, but Christian and his story are so extraordinary and significant that he should have a memorial in London. And this was the place where it began to unfold. I would like to approach English Heritage, but wouldn’t do it if you objected, and it may be that others have tried already.



      • acebourke Says:

        I would leave this entirely to your judgement. I’m glad you met Jennifer-Mary – she was very much involved with Christian.. Best wishes ACE

  2. Susan Boyle Says:

    Dear Anthony,
    I can’t thank you enough for all that I’ve learned from you – I love how deep your thoughts and compassion run – and how elegantly you express and share them with the rest of the world – I am an American and I hope you realize that we are all not like President Bush, we do many good things in this world and we truly care a great deal about other people and countries. I began this blog addressing you as Anthony because from the pictures I’ve seen of you, you are an Anthony – How did the name Ace come about? I would love to know. Bless you for all that you do in stirring our emotions and giving us a reason to stop to think of others and of course think of our beautiful animals!!!!!
    I truly hope to meet you someday
    With love, Sue

    • acebourke Says:

      I of course admire much about America and love visiting. Only my mother calls me Anthony and I tend to feel reprimanded when addressed as Anthony! My father nicknamed me Ace when I was very young. It evolved through several other related nicknames, and then followed me to school, boarding school etc.

  3. Diane Imus Says:

    Hello Ace
    This is the first time responding on a blog. I must say feels weird to write to soemone I have heard about through books/ TV but not met. I Iam an avid letter writer to friends. Anyway, I just finsihed reading Tony Fitzjohn’s book and I had bougght it because of the documentary I had seen on your lion Christian. Your and his story were very moving and I felt all the emotion of “saying goodbye” to all the characters that came into Tony’s life. I am quite quite attached to my two cats so I can only imagine the deep love and respect you would have for a magnificant creature as a big cat. I don’t know much about Africa, but what I found sad in Tony’s book was the level of violence and corruption against their own people in Kenya. I was also saddened by the deaths of Bugsy and Squeaks. I hope that Tony finds his next lion and relive that love and wisdon in a new generation of cat! I don’t know if you are in touch with Tony , but if you are you can pass on he has another fan in from his stories- a wonderfully written tale. Thank him for taking the time to share his story with the world and I hope it makes heaps of money for his next project, Kora!! Cheers and happy writing, Diane

    • acebourke Says:

      Thanks for your response. Why don’t you email Tony Fitzjohn directly and tell him how you feel about his book? I am sure he will appreciate hearing your comments.(

  4. Hélène Says:


    Thanks again for more information about Australia flooding. I was pleased to learn that veterinarians are mobilized to rescue animals during this difficult period.

    January 28, M. David Suzuki was Québec’s first winter Summit. On this occasion, Laval University has awarded to him an “honorary doctorate”. Then, David Suzuki has made a speech on the environment in which he outlined his vision of the current environmental situation and the threats closely linked to climate change. He also said his opinion about the exploitation of shale gas in Quebec and He expressed little confidence in the future because the interests are based on the laws of market and economic growth.

    We can observe extremes of temperature since a few months. The climatic phenomenon “the Nina” is really very powerful southern hemisphere as Cyclone Yasi(scary…!!).

    I ordered Tony Fitzjohn’s book “Born wild” and I can’t wait to start reading as soon as I receive it in a few days.

    Hélène X

  5. Ace Thank you again for your touching post. Love your blog!!. I watch the clip of Christian when ever I need a good cry. The first thing I want to say on Animal Planet/ Facebook, it was posted that a restaurant in Arizona U.S.A. was going to put Lion meat on it’s menu,they said because they were captive lions it should not be a problem. thank God it was stopped.And of course can’t leave this out I am a American, If we would close our borders and stop helping every Tom Dick and Harry we might get out of the mess we are in. I pray for World Peace,Hunger and all the Victim’s of this Crazy World.

  6. Kassie Says:

    Thanks for another thought-provoking and touching post! Just a quick question, is that Christian with Tony on the book cover? I wish I could say I can recognize individual lions, but I guess I cannot.
    And just to pipe up as another Yank, I agree with you that the legacies of those persons pictured in the Leibowitz photograph are indeed still with us. I wish politics could be divorced from issues such as conservation and world peace, but alas, it can’t. Very best wishes, and prayers to those coping with the flood aftermath.

    • acebourke Says:

      I thought it looked like Christian on the cover too but it isn’t! I received one offended email about the Leibowitz photograph and will reply when I have time with a LONG LIST. Obama inherited such a mess and has been judged too harshly, too early. No magic wands unfortunately. Must check thecluelessgardener. best wishes ACE BOURKE

  7. Carolyn Says:

    I have just finished reading my pride and Joy and Tony features in that too. Thanks. It was great reading a chapter on Christian …. the most beautiful and charismatic lion ever!! Good Luck TJ.

  8. ………………………………………………………………
    Hello Ace,

    Simply subscribing has jetissoned me into your writing. Nice one! I, the computer maven? Hardly. I found the owl photo heart wrenching.

    Thanks again, Ace. j

    ps. I had surrendered to poor posts, overdone design and too many ads from the Internet. This is crisp; clear. Thank`you.

  9. Teresa norton Says:

    The story of Christian is such a wonderful yet bittersweet story he obviously loved you so much. If you had to do it all over again would you still take him to Africa? I have cried quite a lot wondering what happened to him. Also was there a reason you and John did not return after 1972? Thank you for this blog and the wonderful story of Christian.

    • acebourke Says:

      Taking him back to Africa for him to take his chance in the wild was a miraculous opportunity – all other options would have felt like a betrayal. I did not return after 1972 as he was last seen in the first months of 1973……I don’t mind not knowing what happened to him – I just hope he lived at least another few years with his own pride.

  10. Michelle Johnson Says:

    “I recently saw Annie Leibovitz’s exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and her photograph of Bush, Rice, Cheney, Rumsfeld etc was the most chilling photograph I have seen for along time, and the world is still paying the price for what they inflicted on us.”

    Dear Ace, I have a little bit of a problem with your comments above and that’s that I don’t understand your motivation behind posting them. The individuals you spoke of are no longer in power, so why even post about them? It just doesn’t appear to be relevant, in my humble opinion.

    I am a proud American and yes, I am a Conservative and I did not vote for our current President, but I support him because I want our country and its’ people to succeed.

    “the world is still paying the price for what they inflicted on us”

    America is a wonderful country and I think you know that and yes, we’ve had some not so wonderful leaders, who’ve made some not so wonderful choices, but that is part of our recent past and while the problems our last administration had are still plaguing the current administration, don’t you think it would be better for all of us to just move on and look forward to making this world the best it can be while trying to downplay poor choices made years ago?

    My grandfather use to say, “I’ll talk about anything, except politics and religion.”

    Peace and love,


    • acebourke Says:

      The Republicans and conservative forces think they deserve to be in power, and are ready to get back into power so I think it is important to remember our very recent history and not have amnesia about it – the mess that is still Iraq (no-one even considered the Reconstruction), ditto Afghanistan (abandoned for Iraq just when the Taliban were on the run), hundreds of thousands of civilian and military deaths, trillions of dollars, and from WikiLeaks learning even more about the double dealing – like the propping up of the dictator Mubarek in Egypt (why Saddam and not him taken out?), and the betrayal of the Palestinians. So much for “democracy”. Pity it wasn’t convenient when Hamas won the election. Australia was dragged into this as well as a blind and uncomplaining complicit ally and we had 10 very miserable years here if you believe in the things that I find important – like equality for Aboriginal people for a start, looking at our history honestly, or being a caring, compassionate, intelligent country, and not interfering in other countries for our own purposes! The Leibovitz exhibition was extremely good and varied, but that photograph just sent a chill down my spine – so that is why I mentioned it. The antithesis of peace and love. It looked like an American Inc/Halliburton Board meeting – and they couldn’t even run the economy or financial system effectively giving the world the GFC. And they gave oxygen to a seriously dumb but dangerous woman in Sarah Palin who is still lurking. (Her not knowing the difference between North and South Korea IS very scary). I am disappointed in most leadership these days so I try not to appear too one-sided in my criticism, and I realise it is rather off-putting. I try not to be too obviously on my soap box – but that is the beauty of a blog – to speak up for what one believes in. People can agree, disagree, or stop reading – or write their own! I have been fortunate to come from a fairly privileged background and a wonderful family that believes in fairness, but I am old enough to have observed at first hand how conservatives – to generalise – look after themselves primarily, and the rest of the community – well, Good Luck!!! Or Bad Luck!!! The debate about Health Care in the USA illustrated this. I believe we have a responsibility to share our wealth and good fortune, and look after the most needy in society, and a government should shoulder a responsibility for it. I am very conscious of people who care for animals, but treat people badly. There are so many people in the world just surviving and until they are happier and better served and lead by their governments, they are not going to look after themselves, their communities – or their animals. Thanks for taking the time to comment. best wishes ACE BOURKE

  11. Louise Delacour Says:

    Happy New Year Ace.

    Another inspirational blog, thanks Ace.

    Please let me know details of your Indian tribal art collection (Cross Art Projects, Sydney), I’d love to see it.

    Hope you’re enjoying the tennis.

  12. Heulwen Says:

    Dear Ace, – Thank you for the most generous revelation of the disaster that’s happening to parts of Australia, and I feel deeply for all the people involved, whether or not, in part, it’s because my uncle emigrated to Australia years ago, that I feel so connected to your country. I was actually wondering about the animals at risk as well as the humans, and it was heartbreaking watching (on video) the horses trying to cling on to a rooftop with a third of their bodies submerged in water, it still upsets me to think about it.
    I’m rather taken to Mr Sunshine – ‘Moon Bear’, a real character looking.
    Re, christian, Tony Fitjohn’s materialisation at the Camp in Kora – again as I’ve always thought..was meant to be, some things in life are fated to happen, especially when ‘energised’ with love. I can well believe that you sobbed – being overwhelmed with so many memories – its understandable. You never get over something that intense.

  13. Francois Says:

    Always great to read your blog and all about the diverse news which somehow are all connected. Here in Egypt people are following the events in Tunisia with a sense of solidarity and resignation that this cannot happen here. But without the help of the West, America and Europe, those dictators would not be in power in the first place. Crushing people for politics in this endless game of Imperialism can only create more resentment everywhere. People are very politically aware here, of the injustices they have to endure, of the hypocrisy of the West and yet manage to be so welcoming and kind and good humoured, full of humanity. I am ashamed of France reacting so slowly to support the people, but then again France supported Ben Ali for so long. A poor move for a countrythat prides itself for liberty and freedom of expression.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: