Happy Birthday Christian

August 12, 2015

Happy Birthday Christian. Photograph by Ace, 1972.

Christian at Kora Photograph by Ace, 1972.

Christian was born on the 12th August 1969 at Ilfracombe Zoo, in Devon, UK. His parents were Mary and Butch.  A few years ago we were told that Christian was actually hand-reared by one of the staff. This probably explains why Christian seemed so comfortable with us right from the start.

We are often asked how long do lions live?  I usually say 10-12 years but they can live longer in zoos.  Christian was last seen in 1973 and even at four years old was growing into one of the biggest lions George Adamson had ever seen.  He proved to be courageous and smart and survived the most dangerous years.  Ironically, George regarded Christian, the lion from London, as one of the most successful rehabilitations.

The murder of Cecil the lion by an American hunter in Zimbabwe continues to be condemned around the world.

Let’s ensure Cecil’s death was not in vain. There are several petitions in circulation relating to Cecil  –  the AVAAZ petition is to the EU and the USA authorities asking them to classify lions as an endangered species and to ban the import of any hunting trophies. This is probably the most effective way to stop these senseless deaths, and you may want to sign here.

The United Nations has recently passed a Resolution “Tackling the Illicit Trafficking in Wildlife”.

All of us must redouble our efforts to fight canned hunting, and Cecil’s death will add momentum to the campaign against the breeding of lions for hunting, and the importation of animal body parts and trophies. I ring travel agencies that advertise tours to Africa and ask airlines about their policies on these issues. All volunteers and travellers to Africa should look at this updated Volunteers in Africa Beware Facebook page to ensure they are supporting reputable wildlife sanctuaries.

Kevin Richardson and Ace Bourke Photograph by Jeannette Lloyd Jones

Kevin Richardson and Ace Bourke Photograph by Jeannette Lloyd Jones

Last Monday was World Lion Day and I cannot resist sharing last year’s message from Kevin Richardson and Tau the Interrupting Lion – who roared throughout! Watch the clip here.  I met Kevin when he was in Sydney recently and he posted this photograph of us on his Facebook page and there are of course wonderful photographs of lions on there too.

I am told our YouTube reunion with Christian in Kenya in 1971 is circulating on Facebook again and I am receiving emails, especially through the website, www.alioncalledchristian.com.au, from people just discovering Christian’s story.  For example, Monique has just emailed “And wasn’t Christian just the most remarkable being? He took everything in his stride and managed to bridge the animal and human worlds wonderfully”.

Many of you have let us know over the years the influence Christian’s story has had on you, and we of course will never know the full extent of his legacy.  I also recently received an email from a volunteer at Stichting Leew (Lion Foundation) in the Netherlands. I was thrilled to read that the owner was so inspired by Christian’s story and his successful rehabilitation that 3 years ago he opened his own big cat sanctuary to rescue animals from circuses, zoos etc. Their aim – see here – is to look after all animals that come to them, but to return purebred wild cats to the “semi-wild” where possible.  This is of course a very complex indeed contested issue.

Also based in Holland is AAP and I do know much more about their marvellous work with rescued animals, especially big cats, after meeting their representatives at the Animal Studies Conference in Delhi in January.

AAP are soon to officially open their Spanish branch, Primadomus, and the first occupants – 2 lions and 2 tigers rescued from a French circus wagon, are already in residence. See here.

George Adamson and Christian

George Adamson and Christian

GEORGE ADAMSON: The 20th of August is the anniversary of George Adamson’s murder at Kora in 1989. I love this photograph of George and Christian as it shows the love and familiarity of two good friends.  Christian looks so big I think the photograph must have been taken early in 1973 and is possibly the last photograph of him.  George, we thank you for your giant contribution to our understanding and protection of animals, and Christian…how can I express what you still mean to us and to so many others?

 OK, I confess, as it is his birthday I’ve just watched the Youtube reunion and sniffled through it as I did with Born Free last weekend.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN.


19 Responses to “Happy Birthday Christian”

  1. Annica Says:

    Happy birthday, beautiful Christian!! We still think of you.

    Love from California

  2. Happy Birthday to the most beautiful and charismatic lion and thank you Ace for rescuing him, loving and caring for him and for returning him to a natural life in Africa. I hope he had a long and happy life.

  3. Rose Says:

    Happy Birthday Christian! I am yet another person inspired and enriched in many ways by Christian’s life. His story has raised my awareness of lion conservation and is especially meaningful in these times. Christian’s story underscores the pure love you and John had for Christian by your pure act of selflessness in giving Christian his freedom; and the reunion video of 1971 punctuates Christian’s love for you both by his unfettered demonstration of affection. You once said his story was like a cry for Africa; for me it is also a hug from Africa. Totaling amazing! Thank you, Ace, for sharing. I look forward each month to your blog.

  4. Mavadelo Says:

    Happy birthday Christian, thanks for being an inspiration for so many 🙂

    thanks for sharing ACE

  5. Sabrina Says:

    Happy Birthday Christian!! Ace, I am so glad that I tuned in when you and John’s story was being aired a few years ago here in America. Living in London, in the 70’s raising a lion cub, oh my goodness, your whole story was just so very interesting and entertaining if I may. I went directly to you tube, as I had to see more, Googled everything I could on Christian’s story and ordered my own copy of “A Lion Called Christian”. Just so amazing!! I will forever love his story and I hope and pray Christian had a long and glorious life. Thank you for all you do to bring awareness to the plight of animals around the world, your website and most of all for your love you had for Christian. xoxo!!!

  6. Dr. Rex Says:

    Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Happy birthday Christian … the plight of lions should be noted & brought to the forefront!!

  7. Juno Says:

    I have it on my calendar of course! Happy birthday CHRISTIAN! I pray for his soul In my daily prayers and always will. Thanks again to Ace and John for loving him. God bless all!

    Sent from my iPhone


  8. Tomislav Krantic Says:

    With love for lions !

  9. Brenda May Says:

    Happy birthday Christian and I love you Ace Bourke! Xx

    • Brenda May Says:

      And, if you sometimes wonder (as I know you do) that you did the right thing all those years ago, the testaments of how much you have affected people’s lives, mostly total strangers who have come across your story, should put that completely to bed… You are a special human being Ace and yes, you did do a wonderful thing! Ps I’m currently in Cape Town and about to go north on safari to shoot some big game…HUNTERS! Lol! Hope to see you soon…bm

  10. Colleen Paul Says:

    My faith tells me that George and Christian are in heaven together and will be there to greet you when you arrive.

  11. hocuspocus13 Says:

    Reblogged this on hocuspocus13 and commented:

  12. Happy Birthday Dear Dear Christian ❤ May you roar forever in The Hearts of Lion Lovers forever xox

  13. Hélène Says:

    Happy Birthday dear Christian, the only, and unforgettable lion.Your memory remains alive becaus of the so beautiful message of love you left to the World.XX

  14. thecommercialgallery Says:

    Happy Birthday, Christian! x

  15. Caroline ST Says:

    Dear Ace, I just happened upon the youtube video of you, John and Christian a few days ago, and was left in a puddle of water works, of course. I don’t know which I love more – the actual hugging of all three of you, or the looks on your faces just as Christian decides that he knows it’s you. I can’t recall ever having seen bigger smiles on human faces. Really, just the most exhilarating event ever, seeing you two lovely men on that hill waiting, wondering, and welcoming! I’m so happy that you have a blog here! You and John are tremendous human beings and as a freelance journalist, I hope to meet you one day! Thank you for giving us unexpected hope, joy and for being an example of the highest order.

    With love and regards from Germany,
    Caroline Simpson Timmerberg

  16. Helen Armstrong Says:

    I have followed Christian’s story since I was in high school. I got the book out of the library when it came out. What I found so amazing about this story, so groundbreaking – a captive-bred lion was rehabilitated into the wild at a time when the pundits all declared that this was not possible. I read a lot of similar stories and noted the attitudes to wildlife and how they were changing. It was stories such as Christian’s, and your efforts, that helped bring about such significant change.

    We have gone from a sense of hopelessness in the face of increasing extinctions and being told, “Captive-bred animals can never be released back into the wild,” to seeing how this can happen after all.

    Christian was a ground-breaker. The love – well, that was a bonus.

    As I have said to you before, Ace, it was (among others) Christian’s story that gave me the final push to study science and zoology especially. I could see that there was so much to learn and it was exciting.

    Happy birthday, big boy.

  17. Christine Townend Says:

    Great blog Ace – and I note its very short this time!! C.


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