August 12, 2018

Photo Derek Cattani


This photograph was in 1970 with Christian and Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna in the English countryside.  Christian had outgrown London and we waited there for months for permission to take Christian back to Kenya to be rehabilitated by George Adamson of Born Free fame. This is where Christian celebrated his first birthday on 12 August 1970.  His friend Unity Jones, who played with him every day in London, brought him a meat cake from London on the train.

For those of you unfamiliar with Christian’s story, I posted more details last year on his birthday, and the full story is on the website or in our book A Lion Called Christian.

BORN FREE FOUNDATION: see this video where a short version of Christian’s story is recounted by Virginia McKenna and her son Will. The photographs of Christian (by Derek Cattani) are beautiful. The Born Free Foundation is soon to return a lion called King to Shamwari in South Africa, and we all wish him well.

SONY: SONY bought the film option to our book A Lion Called Christian nearly a decade ago. It has never looked like going into production.  In the 1960s the book and film Born Free told the story of Elsa the lioness and her return to the wild. Joy and George Adamson were played in the film by Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, and it is a wonderful film which changed the attitude of millions of people to animals worldwide.

Christian’s story may not be in the same league, but it does seem to appeal to many people and it could contribute to raising awareness of the disastrous tipping point we have actually passed in regard to the survival of many animals.

Lions, like other animals are in an extinction vortex. Estimates of course vary, but I have read that there were  approximately 100,000 lions in Africa in Christian’s time in the 1970s, and now there are under 20,000. In 2009 there were under 2000 lions left in Kenya.

Cats celebrating Diwali at the Darjeeling Animal Shelter

WORKING FOR ANIMALS: At our animal shelter in Kalimpong, India, we are buying adjoining land to build a cattery. I am particularly thrilled about this, as we all know how cats need space. Any contributions from fellow cat lovers are very welcome. I am on the Committee and hope to attend the opening when it is built. I visited our animal shelters in Darjeeling (DAS) and Kalimpong (KAS) a few years ago. They are beautifully situated in the most spectacular mountain region.  For our work see workingforanimals I particularly admire how rabies is kept under control in the communities.  We do need vets from time to time and it is an extraordinary opportunity for them.



CHRISTINE TOWNEND: The profits from Christine Townend’s book A Life for Animals are going towards our Darjeeling  (DAS) and Kalimpong (KAS) animal shelters that she and her husband Jeremy founded.  The book describes Christine’s journey from founding Animal Liberation in Australia (1976), and Animals Australia with Peter Singer (1980).  It is an interesting history of the period – and how she felt she had to leave Australia, such was the hostility towards her for protesting on the wharf against live sheep exports in the 1970s.  The book also describes her many years working for animals in India where she is highly respected, indeed revered.

FIAPO: I had hoped to attend The India For Animals Conference in Hyderabad 26th -28th October 2018.  I have attended and spoken at previous conferences and they always have very interesting speakers and address important issues. The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisation continues to grow into a very extensive and mutually beneficial grouping of like-minded animal welfare advocates and animal shelters.

LIVE SHEEP EXPORT: Christine Townend, now Chair of Animals Australia, ironically sees her objections to the live sheep export trade in the 1970s, still unresolved. This has been one of the main animal welfare scandals recently in Australia. 2400 sheep recently died on board in appalling conditions and heat on the way to the Middle East.

The licence of the company was suspended, and this inhumane trade will have to be phased out. Animals Australia and the RSPCA have led a very effective television campaign and protest.

See How NZ banned the live export of sheep for slaughter 15 years ago

New Zealand ceased live sheep exports in 2003 and has successfully continued with a “boxed” meat trade.  Some are still exported for “breeding purposes”.  Australia exported nearly 2 million sheep in 2017, and we don’t as yet have the facilities to “box” so many animals here.

I have recently been to New Zealand several times and adored it. My main criticism is that the dairy industry has polluted what one would assume to be pristine water ways and this has contaminated some town drinking water and coast lines.  The dairy cattle dilemma is like coal in Australia, and backed by equally powerful vested interests.

Bob Marchant’s 1989 painting of George Adamson and lions was recently exhibited again

MEAT:There are more and more vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Sydney (the Little Turtle in Enmore, Sydney, is a current vegan favourite).  In Europe last year it was quite hard to find good vegetarian restaurants. I have now been vegetarian for quite a few years and it has been an easy transition.

All my life I have been appalled by butcher shops – those grisly images of carcases being carried from the truck into the butcher shop!  So hygienic!  See this video if you want to be put off meat!


Some serious people do predict that to be sustainable, the world will have to become vegan. Too much land and water is devoted to “farming” animals to eat and growing crops to feed them.  Clearing more and more land is destroying animal’s habitats and degrading the soil.

Unfortunately, the meat for our pets’ food contributes 1/3 of the environmental impact of the meat industry.  Yes, I confess I feed my cat meat although I try to encourage her to eat other food.  Apparently there are 9 million cats and dogs in Australia, 163 million in the USA, and a fast growing number in China.

The impact of cattle emissions on climate change is the next battle ground. Australia’s carbon emissions are 13% from agriculture, 35% from electricity generation, and 17% from transportation.  70% of emissions in agriculture are from the potent green house gas methane produced by cattle.


AUSTRALIA:  To think I used to complain about a lack of leadership! I hope you are all doing alright in this quite changed and even more unpredictable world.  In Australia, our conservative government, rather than administering our country and planning for the future, are bitterly self-sabotaging themselves, fighting over the best way to hold Australia back somewhere in the last century. Consequently we have no energy policy.  Scientific evidence about climate change is challenged, experts discredited and the government is hostage to the vested interests of the coal and fossil fuel lobby. They are supported in their disinformation by Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian  newspaper(Sky News, and Fox News in the USA etc).

A current article in The Monthly is entitled How the world’s oceans and all marine life are on the brink of total collapse.  It makes chilling reading – the damage from rising temperatures, acidification, plastics, oil spills etc.  In the last decade there are 1/3rd less large fish in Australian waters.  Our famous Great Barrier Reef is dying and supposedly to save it, our government has just made “the single largest investment in history”  – $440 million dollars – to a private foundation,  without a tender process.  It is developing as a huge scandal.  The Great Barrier Reef Foundation avoids the words “climate change” and “global warming”, has a staff of 6, and the Chairman’s Panel includes CEO’s from fossil fuel companies, even Peabody Energy, notorious for funding climate-deniers.

We are in severe drought throughout NSW and Queensland,  there are horrific and deadly wildfires and floods around the world, and the record temperatures in Europe.

Global warming experts warn that the earth is already halfway to the point of no return.

Such is the present uncertainty in the world – and the plight of millions of displaced people, the environment and animals are fighting to be heard.

In Australia however, we do have many people dedicated to animal’s rights and welfare.

Donalea Patman loves lions and works tirelessly on their behalf.  She successfully lobbied for Australia to ban the importation of lion animal body parts or trophies. Trump’s son likes hunting animals and is “rolling back” equivalent USA legislation – issuing more Lion Trophy permits. Donalea has recently been participating in a Parliamentary Enquiry into the unregulated domestic trade in ivory and rhino horn. She and another tireless advocate Lynn Johnson ( have both been producing effective ads discouraging the unregulated trade in ivory and rhino horn.

I do want to acknowledge the sad death of Tony the Tiger, and despite the efforts of so many, never left the Louisiana Truck Stop in the USA.

Artist Nafisa at Animal Works ( recently staged Tiger Tales, an exhibition raising money for tigers. She was assisted by Imogen and Sara Menzies, cat lover extraordinaire, who now concentrates on protecting and conserving big cats in Africa through the organisation African Cat Project

Coincidentally, Animal Works is staging a 4 day exhibition of Christian’s photographs  at H’Art Matters Gallery, Mosman, Sydney – for World Lion Day 10th August, and finishing on Christian’s birthday – today 12th August!

Today we celebrate World Elephant Day!

Champion race horse Chautauqua

HORSE RACING AND GREYHOUNDS:  I have to admire the handsome Chautauqua, the Grey Flash, an eight year old champion horse that has won nearly $9 million in prize money. Recently he has refused to leave the barrier for the sixth time. Bravo!  Racing is still dogged by accusations of doping, corruption, wastage and cruelty.  Banning use of the whip would create a level playing field.

A few years ago the NSW State Government for very good reasons after several scandals, abruptly banned greyhound racing.  This was handled appallingly. There was a backlash, and then a back flip.  Now emboldened, despite a mass grave of greyhounds found recently, there is to be a Million Dollar Chase in Sydney later in the year! The NSW Government put in $500,000!

George Adamson and Christian

George Adamson and Christian

We have always been asked how long did Christian live and how big did he grow?  This is him at his biggest – and probably early 1973.  George Adamson said he had grown into the one of the largest lions in Kenya. So he was in good condition when he presumably set out to create his own territory and pride in early 1973 in the direction of the more bountiful  Meru National Park.  The wild local lions at Kora had made life very difficult for him from the start, but he had survived.

He was never seen again, and may have lived another 10 years.

Happy Birthday to Christian and my best wishes to all of you.


  1. Carlos Castro Says:

    In 2019 we will have Christian’s 50th birthday.

  2. Sabrina Winton Broussard Says:

    Thank you Ace for continuing your blog. I look so forward to reading it each time. I re-watch the documentary on Christian from time to time and the videos of the reunions you and John had with him.
    Absolutely the very best story ever!!! I love to think that Christian lived a long life after the last time he was seen. Happy birthday old friend, Christian!!

  3. Manel Dias Says:

    Where ever CHRISTIAN may be HE should be well & Happy is my earnest wish for him…
    When Christian was in Kenya, it seems I too have just came to live in Tanzania with my husband….I totally fell in love with Africa and also know the beauty of these animals…

  4. Frances Witherspoon Says:

    It’s always so good to see your blogs. Please continue your efforts to educate a recalcitrant world. Thank you and best always. Fran

  5. Avi Gupta Says:

    Happy Birthday Christian. We all miss him allot. You are doing so mny things for animals. I always admire your work for them. You are one the best person I know. It is great to have a friend like you. It motivates me towards my passion. You are wonderful. We all love Christian. Take care and keep going.

  6. Happy Birthday Christian.
    I first read your book 5 years ago, and Christian has been a part of my life ever since. Thank you for the detailed and thought-provoking post, and hope all is well.

    Best wishes from Japan,

  7. Best Wishes to you and Happy Birthday to Christian. And thank you so much for all that you do and have done for animal welfare.

  8. Ashe Barraclough Says:

    Hello darling Ace i have been hearing a lot from francois now that he has that job at Zoe shop. I feel terrible about not being in contact with you. Saw Joan yesterday she’s a terrific girl thanks for sending blog for Christian . We will have to meet up for cafe’ when you have time we all send out love xxA.

    Sent from my iPhone


  9. Debra Says:

    Thanks for the information. Very telling if as you say the Great Barrier Reef Foundation avoids the term “climate change” in any of their publications.
    That is what I read – that they avoid using the words as much as possible. I haven’t been through all their publications/work though.

  10. Monique Says:

    Happy Birthday Christian! His incredible story warms my heart and restores my faith in love & humanity.
    Thank you for this blog Ace and the updates. Although there are many concerns, there is hope. The more I learn about Permaculture, the more I am convinced it is the way forward in creating a regenerative future for all!
    Love and Blessings,

  11. Hélène Says:

    A very special day and a very special thought for an exceptionnal lion and his so beautiful story. Happy Birthday dear Christian !!

  12. colleen paul Says:

    I really did fall in love with your wonderful lion Christian and your great adventure. Wishing you health and happines

    God Bless you

    Colleen Paul

    Sent from my Galaxy Tab E Lite

  13. François Says:

    Always wonderful to recall the amazing story of Christian and thank you for the reminders and updates on the Earth condition and the need to switch to a vegetarian diet. We easily blame the energy industries while wanting to forget that meat production is the major polluter and cause of global warming .

  14. Coreene Kennedy Says:

    How lovely to read your blog on Christian’s birthday anniversary. We have just opened champagne and drunk a toast to him, to you and ‘old’ friendships. Warmest wishes, Coreene Kennedy

    Sent from my iPad


  15. britt lilja Says:

    Thank you so much for your informative, nice blog. I Always look forward to this day when I can say: “Happy Birthday Christian”. I know he is with us and have a fine life. Warm greetings from Sweden.

  16. Coreene Kennedy Says:

    Ace,how lovely to read your blog. I remember you with the greatest affection from 1980’s at The Rocks, Australian Craftworks. We (my son now 45!) shall raise a glass to Christian and you this evening and be glad that our paths crossed. Such memories make life sweet , Coreene Kennedy

  17. Bonnie Weiss Says:

    I love getting this post every year on Christian’s birthday. I think of him often. There is always something I see, hear, or read that makes me think of him and everyone involved in his amazing story. Ace Bourke, John Rendall, Virginia McKenna, Bill Travers, and George Adamson are truly some of the most remarkable people on the planet for what they did and the lengths they went through to give Christian love and a life. I will always feel grateful to them.
    Happy Birthday Christian.

  18. Roger Goldfinch Says:

    Ace, great to get your news and views! Best wishes Roger.

  19. Mrs. Dean Walburn Says:

    Thank you, Ace, for reminding me to remember beautiful and sweet Christian on his birthday. My husband was doing some of his Ear, Nose, Throat training at St.Thomas’s Hospital in London in the Fall of 1969, and we saw Christian and his sister at the Harrod’s zoo. And then to learn of his remarkable story several years ago because of you, John, George Adamson and others, made Christian’s story all the more special to us.

    I heard from a friend in Michigan last year with whom I had shared Christian’s story via, and she said that her granddaughter’s class in school had also studied his story. She was so happy she also knew the story and could discuss it with her granddaughter.

    Christian was born almost 50 years ago tomorrow. And what a wonderful story he gave to us. He will never be forgotten and his story will be able to live on through the videos and your book.
    RIP Christian and Happy Birthday!

    Dean Walburn (Mrs. James)
    Tuscaloosa, Alabama USA

  20. Maryanna Says:

    I always look forward to your post, Ace, on Christian’s birthday. Christian was SO extraordinary and good natured. He is loved worldwide. So sorry they haven’t made his movie. I, too, am heartbroken that Tony the Tiger never experienced his freedom. Thank you, Ace, for this post and for all of the wonderful information you provided. I look forward to your post next year on August 12th, Christian’s birthday. I pray that all of the long-maned lions near Kora are descended from Christian. I say good night to him every night and pray that he found his own territory and his own pride. I tell him what a great impact he made on the world, that SO many people love him, including me, and that life is not the same without him. Happy Birthday Christian!

  21. Annie Kelly Says:

    Seeing how big Christian became the mind boggles at what Harrods was thinking when they sold you that cute little cub!

  22. Aidan Basnett Says:

    Hi Great post on Christian!




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