August 12, 2016

High res Ace and Christian

Ace with Christian, 1972. Photograph courtesy GAWPT.


Christian was born on the 12th August 1969 in an unprepossessing and long closed down zoo in Ilfracombe, Devon, UK. Who could have imagined after five generations of captivity in Europe, he would be returned to Africa, and be successfully rehabilitated by George Adamson of Born Free fame?

For those unfamiliar with Christian’s story, see his website

I am most often asked what happened to Christian. No-one knows. Christian was last seen by George Adamson in early 1973 when he was nearly four years old and was growing into one of the largest lions George had ever seen. He had survived the most dangerous years, although life as an adult lion would also always be very challenging. George thought he was looking for a territory of his own, away from the aggressive local lions of Kora. We like to think Christian created a pride of his own and lived at least the average 10 -12 years of lions in the wild.

Christian remains very popular and I continue to get many emails from nearly everywhere – often in waves from another round on Facebook, or as other countries discover him – like India more recently.

It was the posting on YouTube in 2008 of our reunion with Christian in Kenya in 1971 which brought Christian’s story back to a new and wider audience (100 million+ views), and our clip was recently listed as No. 5 on the top 20 to 1 Viral Sensations (Channel 9).

Sony bought the rights to our story in 2008. Given Christian’s enduring popularity, and the many relevant issues his life exemplifies, I am disappointed that many years have now gone by and sadly we are no closer to going into production. My feelings are exacerbated by the fact that there is such a crisis in wildlife, indeed we are at a tipping point for many species, not only lions, elephants and rhinos. Christian’s story could possibly make a contribution to generating more urgent action on behalf of animals in the hope of saving and protecting lives.

I’m relieved I’m not presently writing or commentating about the precarious state of the world which has unravelled even more dangerously than when I last blogged. We all deal with uncertainty and anxiety in different ways. I find it very relaxing living near the water, beside a National Park on the edge of Sydney.  I like to walk, garden, read, spend time with friends and family, listen to Radio National, spoil the cat, and even do some interesting work! Despite the criticisms – and the costs to Brazil and the local population, I’m loving watching the Olympic Games and am, so far, finding it life-affirming.

Leo DiCaprio GAWPT photo

Rhinos from Leonardo DiCaprio’s Facebook page. Photograph courtesy GAWPT.

GAWPT:  Leonardo DiCaprio is such a great advocate for the environment and through his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has recently donated US$15.6 million in grants – towards wildlife and habitat conservation, to aide indigenous rights, and to combat climate change and solve environmental issues. Visit his Facebook page here.

Included among the “grantees” in Africa are the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust (GAWPT)/ Mkomazi Rhino Sanctuary, and the Elephant Crisis Fund (in partnership with Save the Elephant) – both very worthy recipients.

WFA: Working for Animals has a new website primarily about the WFA animal shelters in Darjeeling and Kalimpong in India. I am on the Committee of WFA and will contribute to News and Blog items from time to time. The founder, Christine Townend, is very well known internationally for her pioneering work in animal welfare and rights, and is well informed about the most pressing animal issues and debates world-wide.

We both hope to attend the upcoming Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) conference in Mumbai 21-23 October 2016. We spoke at the last FIAPO conference in Jaipur in 2014 and look forward to hearing wonderful and dedicated people talk about the successes and advances made in animal welfare in India, despite the many challenges.

WFA will continue to post information about various campaigns – and I remain especially concerned about canned hunting in Africa, and the continuing captivity of Tony the Tiger at the truck stop in Louisiana.


Tiger in Ranthambore National Park 2016. Photograph Ace Bourke.

TIGERS:  I remain very excited about seeing tigers at close quarters in the Ranthambore National Park in India earlier in the year. On my return I watched several fascinating David Attenborough tiger documentaries, but as they were made several years ago, I hope the poaching and sale of tiger body parts and skins, and the flawed assessment of tiger numbers in the wild etc, are now more closely scrutinised and policed. Many issues conflate including the pressures of balancing sustainable tourism, competition for resources, the danger of wildlife to local villagers, and the expansion of wildlife corridors etc.

Officially, there are 2266 tigers approximately in India at present and 70% of the world’s tigers are in India. The most recent WWF survey states that 3890 tigers remain in the wild. I think seeing tigers up close reminded me of just how privileged I have been to know – and love – a big cat, and to be reminded of their magnificence, their power, and how they need us to fight – harder – for their survival.



  1. Jessie Says:

    Happy 50th birthday christian
    Since i watch your story in youtube
    Im become fan of you, i search all to have access what happen next to youre story even ,gorge and joy adamson, tony fritzjohn , virginia makenna , bill travers , elsa the lion , jhon and ace to know if there is happy ending to youre story.
    Anyway happy birtjday again

  2. Jo Holder Says:

    Very stripped down – but both lion and Ace look gorgeous!

    Best, Jo

    From: Ace Bourkes Blog Reply-To: Ace Bourke’s Blog Date: Friday, 12 August 2016 10:05 am To: Jo Holder Subject: [New post] CHRISTIAN, DiCAPRIO, GEORGE ADAMSON WILDLIFE PRESERVATION TRUST, WORKING FOR ANIMALS, TIGERS, FIAPO acebourke posted: ” HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN Christian was born on the 12th August 1969 in an unprepossessing and long closed down zoo in Ilfracombe, Devon, UK. Who could have imagined after five generations of captivity in Europe, he would be returned to Africa, and be s”

  3. Gilli Sleigh Says:

    Dear Ace, what a lovely blog, so nice to hear thoughts on your beautiful Christian, I hope very much that a film of his story with you and John will be made, but like Mike said, with CGI.

    I’ve had the enormous pleasure of meeting John a couple of times, always makes me feel a little closer to that amazing experience and journey you guys had with dear Christian.

    Incredible to think of how from, seeing him in Harrods and making a series of extremely hard vital decisions changed your lives forever, and in the end gave him the life he deserved, makes me happy-cry every time I think of it, it’s so emotive! what must it be like for you!?

    Happy Birthday beautiful Christian🌾🐾

  4. Happy Birthday to beloved Christian xxx. I was so pleased to see and read your blog today… that photograph of you with Christian is so wonderful. His eyes are full of intelligence, personality and love. To commemorate his birthday I watched the deeply moving reunion video again. Bless you and thank you for all that you do to help wildlife ❤

  5. mike Says:

    Personally I feel that if and when a film recreating christian’s story were ever made, It should be done with CGI, unless the animal actors used are given their chance of freedom too.
    I look forward to ace’s little blogs, they are literally half a world away from the grim post industrial world I live in in Manchester.
    You have to try and keep an interest in nature and wildlife, otherwise it too will wither and
    die, uncared for, in mankind’s futile quest for certainty.

  6. Joan Gregory Says:

    So enjoyed your reading your blog, as always, and celebrating Christians birthday. Each time I watch the reunion video I am so happy it was made available for so many to watch and enjoy the bond you and John shared with this incredible lion. Your devotion, time, and commitment to making sure Christian had the best chance for a life in the wild is greatly admired! Happy birthday Christian and keep the blogs coming!

  7. Hélène Says:

    I love so much that photo of you and Christian, I think it is the most beautiful ! Impossible to forget Christian’s birthday, that majestic lion we’re still loving again and always. Many thanks to you Ace for your blog and HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN !! XXX

  8. Thank you Ace for this beautiful blog. I was so hoping that I would wake up this morning and see it in my inbox. Not knowing if I would, I made sure to wish Christian a Happy Birthday myself and told him how many people love him, what a big impact he has made on the world, that I hoped he found his own territory in Africa and that life is not the same without him. I had sent an e-mail to Neil Moritz from Sony about the movie about Christian. He responded “Hope to make it soon”. Thank you, again, for this blog. I’m SO happy that so many people still remember our sweet boy. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN! ❤️

  9. Anna Parkinson Says:

    ChristianWonderful to see you remind so many of that fabulous adventure .. and the film documenting Christian – I have it like many others – the ending was so heart warming when he recognised you!  I was in Kenya in George Adamson’s time.UnforgettabkleAll the very bestAnna Parkinson

  10. Britt Lilja Says:

    Happy Birthday sweet, gentle Christian. You are always in my heart. Sending kisses and cuddles – I know you are near.
    Warm thanks for this great compassionate blog. Greetings to you and John with much love.

  11. Ed Says:

    Happy birthday Christian..🐾🐾🐾

  12. Deb ------------ Says:

    Ace, once again your blog is an awesome read. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the world and honouring Christians bday.
    I just realised it’s a milestone bday for you this year turning 70!!
    When is or was your bday? I hope you had or have had wonderful celebrations!!! 🍰🎂🎊🎈

  13. Bonnie Weiss Says:

    I also watched the video about Christian last night.I didn’t know that it was on as I was browsing the channels and landed right at the moment for the one year reunion. I just melt when I see him run up to Ace and put his paws around his neck — nuzzling with obvious memory, emotion, feeling and love. No matter how many times I watch that video it’s like seeing it for the first time. Thank God Ace and John came into his life and saved him from who knows what fate. Thank you Ace, John, George and Happy Birthday Christian.

  14. Happy Birthday dear Christian The World will never forget you x

  15. Nice that Christian’s birthday is only 2 days after World Lions Day. Happy Birthday, Christian and God Bless you, Ace!!

  16. Brenda May Says:

    Loving you and Christian and I am trying to leave as small a footprint as is humanly possible. You have made and continue to make a difference Ace. Now let’s hope Sony will pick up the ball! xx

  17. great blog…love your 1972 pic with Christian….

  18. S. Y. Says:

    Happy Birthday, Christian!

  19. S. Y. Says:

    I was waiting for Christian’s birthday blog. What a beautiful day! It is indeed so amazing how many people he has left an impression upon. Really enjoy your blog, Ace.

  20. annie Says:

    Nice to see your blog again. Always a pleasure to read.

  21. Geoff Harvey Says:

    Happy Birthday Christian! Tania and I watched his video again last night Ace and was equally enjoyable this time. Thank you.

  22. thecommercialgallery Says:

    I love receiving these! Xx



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