August 12, 2015
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.
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: 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.
August 12, 2014
Christian was born on the 12th August 1969 in Ilfracombe Zoo, Devon, UK. As most of you are aware, we don’t know what happened to Christian. He was last seen by George Adamson in 1973 setting off in the direction of Meru National Park, Kenya. We like to assume he created his own pride and lived happily for quite a few more years. Free. Lions live approximately 10-12 years in the wild, although up to 18 years in captivity.
These photographs are stills taken from my Super 8 footage on our visit to Christian in 1972. I never saw Christian (or George Adamson) again.
I don’t advise kissing lions – unless you know them very very well! George Adamson loved lions above all other animals, especially their capacity for love and trustworthiness. However, he did say “why should we expect lions to be more trustworthy (and predictable) than humans?”.
Miraculously, we did not have one incident with Christian. He could be mischievous, naughty and boisterous – but he was never anything but loving with us. He seemed to know our circumstances were unique, and that he could trust us implicitly.
Of course I appear a hypocrite now, protesting about wildlife sanctuaries that farm lions and encourage cub petting and walking with lions. Our circumstances and our relationship with Christian were different however, although we now accept we should never have been allowed to buy him and that we were participating and perpetuating the trade in wild animals.
Part of Christian’s rehabilitation by George Adamson in Kenya was to minimise his contact with humans as in the future they would be a threat to him and vice-versa. This is probably why Christian was initially cautious as he walked down the hill towards us when we had our first reunion with him in 1971.
World Lion Day was celebrated everywhere. Thanks for your responses – and apologies to any organisations and websites I didn’t mention last blog – like Great Cats of The World. They re-blogged, and linked to similar blogs and Facebook pages. View here.
Last night I attended a lecture by Professor Peter Singer of Animal Liberation fame. He was asked when did he become aware that animals have feelings – are sentient beings. He replied it was just obvious growing up with the family cat Buddy. I think most of us have had similar realisations. Of course his lecture about the major issues we face – like poverty, farming of animals, climate change etc was hugely instructive. Apart from becoming vegans, he did emphasise that if we want to contribute, we can donate to the many causes close to our hearts.
TONY THE TIGER URGENT ACTION: We have been asked to urgently circulate and sign these petitions by August 17th for Tony the Tiger, still in his cage at the truckstop in Louisiana, USA
Petition 1 – Sign HERE.
Petition 2 – Sign HERE. After signing this petition, an email will be sent to you & you must click the link in the email to verify your signature and make it count!
Tony’s continuing imprisonment despite the efforts of so many people makes me feel very frustrated as a blogger and an animal rights advocate. However, I am told that when I ask if you would consider signing petitions I think are important, there is a discernible spike in signatures and that makes me very very appreciative of you all. As a group – we can make a difference!
But this is Christian’s day. HAPPY BIRTHDAY. I find it extraordinary the spell he still casts over me – and many of you. Now more than ever we need to make the world and all who share it more united, compassionate, loving, thoughtful, and caring……
Christian, Jiawei Shen, David Attenborough, Australia, Bradley Manning, Middle East, Malala, David Bowie, Dr Chris Brown, Orlando The Marmalade Cat, etc
August 12, 2013
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN!
Artist Jiawei Shen, who as I do lives in Bundeena on the edge of Sydney, has painted this portrait of Christian and me – me as I am now obviously.
Jiawei said he wanted to paint this portrait for several reasons: Christian is an experience that will always be part of my life; it is a story that the internet has introduced to a new generation; and for what it says about human/animal relationships. Obviously he is a big fan of Christian and the story has touched him. In Eternal Hug he wanted to capture and express some of the deep and various emotions this image generates.
Jiawei Shen has an international reputation, and has painted “well known” people such as Princess Mary of Denmark (who is from Australia) and he has recently exhibited the first part of a huge and epic painting of 300 historical figures active in China between 1936 and 1937.
When I first saw Christian’s painting reproduced, I thought I looked a little worried. But when you see the actual painting I do have love in my eyes. I think he has captured the most amazing likeness of handsome Christian, and as the old saying goes, never compete with animals or children! Jiawei says he never realised just how individual lions looked until he painstakingly painted Christian’s fur stroke by stroke, and compared him with other lions.
I also love the smaller quick study of me which he painted (above left) and generously gave to me.
Christian was born on the 12 August 1969 – 44 years ago in Ilfracombe Zoo, Devon. In the wild he may have lived to be 10 or 12 years old, and some lions can live up to 18 years old in a zoo. Some of you may have seen his good looking parents Butch and Mary in our original documentary, pacing up and down a small concrete cage enclosure. Such was his size, frustration and anger, Butch once or twice smashed his way out, no doubt creating havoc! We only found out a few years ago that Christian and a sister were hand reared by a staff member which may explain why he seemed to fit so easily into our lives.
Jaiwei Shen’s portrait is based on a 1970 photograph by Derek Cattani, taken when we were living in the country with Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna while waiting for permission to go to Kenya.
On the YouTube video entitled Christian The Lion- HUG! you can see the same image as Christian jumps up on me when I enter his specially built compound.
We celebrated Christian’s first birthday there, and Christian’s great friend, Unity Bevis-Jones brought Christian a mince birthday cake with one candle on the train from London. She was heart-broken when we finally left for Kenya soon after.
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: Now aged 87, with a new titanium knee and a recently fitted pacemaker, David Attenborough did not miss a beat at his recent appearance in Sydney. He was touring with a Q & A show which reflected on his extraordinary career, illustrated with excerpts from many of the programs he has produced or narrated over so many years, that have changed or illuminated our understanding of the natural world. The audience was a heartening mix – of everyone! I have to say he seemed much warmer than the equally indefatigable and admirable fellow English octogenarian Jane Goodall.
It was only at the conclusion that David spoke about climate change and the world’s present ecological tipping point. He has seen the effects over years with his own eyes, and the consequent diminishing habitats for wildlife, and the loss of species and biodiversity.
The Iberian Lynx, native to parts of southern Europe, is the most endangered cat species in the world. There are estimated to be just 250 left in the wild. They may become extinct within 50 years as there are fewer rabbits, which are their main source of food, and their habitats are shrinking.
Also alarming is that only an estimated 12,400 cheetahs remain in the wild.
AUSTRALIA: Sorry to go on about Australia, especially as I have many more readers in the rest of the world. I do try not to be too parochial, but I would imagine many of you would find parallels in your own countries.
Our Federal election has been called for September 7th. As I have said, I think Australians face an appalling choice for Prime Minister between Kevin Rudd or Tony Abbott who has so far mostly reiterated slogans rather than costed policies.
ASYLUM SEEKERS: Both Rudd and Abbott are involved in a “race to the bottom” over the treatment of asylum seekers which contravenes our legal and international responsibilities to them.
Many of us are deeply ashamed – of our harsh treatment of them, of our politicians who have demonised them, and of the majority of Australians who seemingly feel no compassion for them.
We are now dumping these traumatised people on a malaria-infested island in neighbouring Papua New Guinea, one of the world’s most impoverished countries.
ECONOMY: The growth record of the Australian economy post GFC has yet again been recently described as remaining the “envy of the advanced world” and partly due to “sensible macro-economic management”, according to one of the world’s foremost economists Willem Buiter.
The National Australia Bank’s CEO Cameron Clyne also recently said that as an AAA rated country the government should “issue more debt to fund desperately needed infrastructure”, and that debt can be used productively (read the article here). The Opposition, however, has successfully convinced many in the community that the government is economically incompetent.
The government has been unable to construct a positive narrative of their considerable achievements, which has not been helped by some bad political judgments, disunity, and some truly appalling corruption allegations – especially in my home state of NSW.
I have been interested to learn recently that in the last conservative Howard /Costello government (which I found repugnant in many ways), it was their unnecessary granting of tax cuts as vote buying “middle class welfare” that accounts for a $40 billion revenue shortfall today!!!!
MURDOCH: Rupert is unashamedly backing the conservative Opposition – as he did unsuccessfully in the US with the Republicans. As he owns 66% of our print media this is very unfair. The Daily Telegraph newspaper began the election with the headline “THROW THIS MOB OUT”! His supposedly more highbrow The Australian is sometimes so partisan that you just cannot believe that professional journalists and columnists allow themselves to be so manipulated. Another factor could possibly be that he may view the government’s National Broadband Network as a threat to his own Foxtel cable TV monopoly.
CLIMATE CHANGE: As I have said several times, the Coalition has a pretend policy on climate change. Depressingly and ashamedly, we may be the only country going backwards on this issue, although various countries in financial difficulties are reconsidering various “green” initiatives. Our Prime Ministerial contender Tony Abbott recently described the carbon price he has promised to abolish as a “so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one”, while ex PM John Howard now says “there’s more serious questioning of the science”. This is just untrue.
Unfortunately neither party can be relied on to protect the environment. For the conservatives “economic factors” seem to be the “principal consideration” in all decisions, overruling everything else. However the Labor Party has just approved two iron ore mines in the Tarkine region of Tasmania which is a unique wilderness area. This also poses a threat to the Tasmanian Devil population which is already decimated by a contagious face tumour disease.
BRADLEY MANNING: Whistleblower? Traitor? Hero? Manning still faces up to 90 years in jail, even if he has not “aided the enemy”! The prosecution had difficulty finding even one example of someone harmed by his “Wikileaks”.
There have been more espionage prosecutions under Obama than all other Presidents combined. Apparently we should watch to see if the military judge Colonel Denise Lind gets a promotion.
I’ve just looked again at Youtube and viewed the horrific footage that Bradley Manning thought we should see of those Americans shooting innocent civilians and two Reuters reporters in Baghdad from the Apache helicopter in 2007. It is appalling in many ways: cold blooded murder; the cynical attitude of the Americans as they shot them and then shot the people that ran to help them; shooting the children in the van; the Pentagon saying the Americans had done “nothing wrong”; and that no-one was charged. On the other hand, people called for Manning’s execution, and he was subsequently locked up and tortured.
I’d also like Bush, Cheney, Blair, and Howard to be finally called to account for their lies, actions and resulting innocent deaths, and the “basket case” that is their legacy in Iraq.
Apparently 55% of Americans view Edward Snowden as a “whistleblower”, while 34% view him as a “traitor”. Both Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are ironically being protected by two countries with appalling records on press freedom and human rights.
MIDDLE EAST: Let’s just see how the Israeli/Palestinian negotiations play out….but I can only be cynical. Unfortunately I have come to the conclusion – late in the day and reluctantly, that while the Palestinians “have never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity”, Israel has no intention of ever allowing a Palestinian State, and the continued building of their illegal settlements on Palestinian land is to ensure that this will soon be an impossibility. They are just playing for time.
I wish the Egyptian General al-Sisi would take off his dark glasses and we can see who Egyptians are actually dealing with. Incompetent as the Muslim Brotherhood were in governing Egypt, one does have to wonder what the reportedly charismatic General’s own ambitions are in the power vacuum he has created. The Egyptians do have a propensity for a strong military leader. Mediation seems to have failed so far, and one fears the imminent removal of the Muslim Brotherhood protesters can only result in more bloodshed.
Unfortunately Assad in Syria seems to be regaining territory, but at what a price – whole neighbourhoods and suburbs of cities seem to have been entirely flattened.
MALALA: Shot and badly injured by the Taliban in Pakistan, who will forget the courage and leadership of young Malala Yousafza and her address to the United Nations Youth Assembly about the importance of education?
WATCHING: I loved a recent documentary on David Bowie who was emerging with his Ziggy Stardust persona in the early 1970s as the world moved on from the 1960s “Carnaby Street” and the “Kings Road” era. Isn’t it interesting how some music is the backdrop to our lives at various stages. I do think Bowie was much more innovative and interesting that most of the others.
I did not enjoy watching the film Behind the Candelbra. While I loved the performance of Michael Douglas as Liberace, they were all rather horrible people to have to spend a few hours with. Many years ago with friends I met Michael Douglas and Jack Nicholson in Sydney when they were promoting One Flew over The Cuckoos Nest, and they both bought art from my first gallery, Ace’s Art Shop.
CHRIS BROWN: When we appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show several years ago, of my own volition I took tapes of Chris Brown’s Bondi Vet television program. Chris is the son of a family friend. I thought he would be great on the Animal Planet channel which I think Oprah had just acquired an interest in. As an excellent vet with a personable manner and movie star looks, he could be a huge success in the USA, as he is in Australia. Chris is finally about to make his debut on US television on CBS as Dr. Chris: Pet Vet. Starting on September 28th, the program is aimed at teenage audiences.
My godmother loved cats and she presciently gave me this book Orlando (The Marmalade Cat) His Silver Anniversary when I was born and it is my favourite book. Isn’t it interesting how we remain so attached to our childhood books and I still cannot give any away. My mother had a garage sale many years ago when I wasn’t paying attention, or out of the country, and I still have to resist the urge to replace several books that went missing, especially some that had beautiful illustrations.
I think the author Kathleen Hale’s illustrations in the Orlando books are superb and I don’t know why the books have never been re-released, although there are so many excellent children’s books on the market. I quite often look online and consider buying ALL of Orlando’s books!
I just loved Orlando and his family, although I was nervous of their Uncle Truffle (above). I was frightened of the Katnapper because he stole cats, although he said he just could not help himself, and that the cats found him irresistible. I think the fish and prawns in his pockets helped. I think I probably also envied him – his house was cat heaven! I sometimes wonder what effect this story had on my life….
So, Happy Birthday Christian. Many of us will never forget you, could never forget you, and we will continue to be concerned about animal and wildlife issues because of you, and in your name.
August 12, 2012
HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHRISTIAN! Thanks to Derek Cattani, Christian’s photographer, for this gorgeous Birthday Card. Remember on his birthday last year Derek wrote beautifully about photographing Christian when I asked him which was his favourite photograph. Many of you do ask about photographs of Christian, so do check out his archive (and another Birthday Card) as well as the ALCC site.
This month also marks 40 years since we last saw Christian. By 1972 Christian had grown into what George Adamson thought may have been the biggest lion in Kenya – close to 500 pounds, and with more growing to do. To quote from our book A Lion Called Christian, and my letter to my parents.
“We saw Christian every morning & evening for a walk and a chat. He is much calmer & much more self assured than last year, and stunning to be with. Just as silly. Huge. Jumped up on me only once as before on his hind legs and he did it extremely gently. He licked my face as he towered over me”.
Despite his size, the local wild lions were still unrelenting in their opposition, and Christian was spending extended periods away from Kora and George assumed he was looking for somewhere more suitable to live. We realised this may mean we may never see him again…..
See our second and last reunion with Christian in 1972.
MAIL: Thanks to George from Florida for this fantastic photograph of a lion having a paw manicure and story. George asked “did you ever do this to Christian?” While he loved us, I’m not sure he would have allowed us, although his friend Unity Bevis- Jones probably could have!
Thanks to Gay for forwarding this beautiful slideshow titled Beaute Sauvage.
From Devi “I do believe our beloved Christian’s Birthday is approaching…HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR MOST CHARMING AND ENIGMATIC LION, CHRISTIAN. May your story continue to be told around the world for future generations. Celebrate in Paradise with your friends my beloved Christian. Will always love you”.
I couldn’t say it better myself.
ALDF: The Animal Legal Defence Fund have had a fund raiser for the various court cases they are fighting, and I know many of you support their efforts for Tony the Tiger especially. I just cannot bear to think of the months and years of his captivity…
ACE BOURKE: A COLLECTORS JOURNEY: For personal reasons I am overdue responding to various emails, and I will. I have also been very busy preparing for my exhibition which opened yesterday at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery & Arts Centre in southern Sydney. The exhibition is dedicated to my mother Patricia Macarthur Bourke (11th May 1922 – 23rd July 2012).
In the exhibition I examine the idea of “collecting” and all the material we accumulate in our lives which provides a map or diary of our lives. As an art curator – and traveller, I have collected alot of art, but most of us live surrounded by items of great sentimental significance and interest – which includes for me, memorabilia about Christian. An interview or “conversation” with me about the exhibition has been posted on http://www.youtube.com/hazelhurstgallery
This is one of my favourite photographs as it sums up the relief in 1970 of finally getting Christian to Kenya after months of delays, and the necessary vigilance over his well being and everyone’s safety in England. The photograph represents for me the freedom from restrictions, the beginning of Christian’s natural life, and to just…be. Happy Birthday Christian.
AVAAZ Lion Petition, Christian The Lion, Mugi, Kora, Lonesome George, Gorillas, The Aspinall Foundation
July 1, 2012
KORA: It is particularly exciting – indeed historic, that lions are being re-introduced to Kora in Kenya, the first since George Adamson’s death in 1989. Tony Fitzjohn, Field Director of the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust who of course lived at Kora with George (and Christian), is overseeing the rehabilitation of Kora and George’s camp, among many other projects. After Tony sent me this photograph of Mugi recently, I asked him many questions on our behalf. What is Mugi’s personality like? How old is he? What care does he require at this stage? Can we help???? The spots on Mugi’s legs remind me of Christian’s spots that gradually faded. I think I also recognise that expression. Apart from Mugi’s curiosity about the camera, he is about to playfully pounce!
I was very touched when these drawings of Christian were emailed from Italy, where these school children had just discovered Christian’s story. Thank you so much!
” We saw a story about Christian at school. He becomes our LOVE at first sight. We were so moved so touched .. SO SO MUCH! we are so happy for
Christian and all of you.
In memory of your beloved Christian we decide to draw something for you and John. We have drawn Christian and after we have made a stickers.
Some of these we are sending you with an attachment. And if you want, we will be very happy to send you also some another via ordinary mail. Only we need your addresses.
Thank you both, including late George Adamson. CHRISTIAN FOREVER!!! MUCH LOVE
Kids from Italy, Croatia and some other places living in Trieste,
Giulia, Lorenzo, Martina, Gessica, Anna, Francesca, Greta,
Francesca, Martin, Leo, Vera, Valentina, Alen, Giovanni,
Francesco, Beatrice, Dario, Andjela, Anna, Marko, Anna, Ana,
Anja, Dario, Denis, Vladan, Christopher, Noemi and Olga, teacher “
I also received an email from Nancy which I thought summed up very well the feelings many people have about Christian and the subsequent journey some embark on – reading relevant and fascinating books, and getting more actively involved in supporting wildlife and conservation issues and causes.
“I was pleasantly surprised to receive your answer; I continue to “obsess” over Christian. I read Adrian House’s book “The Great Safari” The Lives of George and Joy Adamson, as you recommended and spent weeks on it. With my iPad in hand I must have researched every animal, person, national park, tribe, et cetera while reading it. You had mentioned in one of the many You Tube videos that this sensational interest in Christian is a cry for Africa. Indeed it is! I had never considered myself even a conservationist until Christian and since have begun to contribute to organizations. I believe it is no coincidence that he was named Christian as I see God’s hand all over this.
I also read Beryl Markham and am now going onto Elspeth Huxley. I repeatedly continue to view the reunion and am thankful Google has photos as well. I hope you and John realize the import of what you did and that you really have been used by God to change the hearts of men as certainly as I am proof. I will never be the same. “
AVAAZ: It is hard to believe that hundreds of South African lions are being slaughtered to be used for “bogus” sex potions, and are also farmed for trophy hunters. Perhaps only 20,000 wild lions remain in Africa and may soon be as endangered as elephants and rhinoceros. This petition is designed to put pressure on President Zuma with as many people as possible signalling that this brutal trade will hurt South Africa’s image as a tourist destination. Please sign the petition here.
GOOD NEWS: The Sumatran rhinoceros is critically endangered and there are fewer than 200 of the breed alive. So the birth of this baby in Indonesia – the last refuge for them – is very good news. It is only the fourth birth in captivity in 100 years.
VALE: No such luck with Lonesome George, the last known member of the Pinta Island tortoise subspecies (from the Galapagos Islands),who has died, aged at least 100. Despite years of efforts and various temptations, he was unfortunately unable to reproduce.
GORILLAS: I was of course very moved seeing Damian Aspinall return to Africa for his reunion with a gorilla called Kwibi who he had returned to Gabon in Africa five years before – one of 53 The Aspinall Foundation has returned. The emotion both of them felt was very beautiful and extremely touching. Just as we were not frightened of Christian as he ran towards us in our reunion because we could recognise his excited grunts and facial expression, Damian says he was not afraid as he recognised the gorilla “love gurgle”. It is heart breaking when Kwibi followed him along the opposite side of the river and called out to him during the night. We have footage of Christian with a very worried expression padding behind our vehicle as we left Kora one time which can still make me cry (like now). When we had Christian in London Damian’s father John Aspinall was well-known for keeping tigers on his country estate. I suppose this was a ” least worst” option we may have had to consider for Christian, and so fortunately avoided. Damian took over 2 Wildlife Parks in Kent that were founded by his father, but he has a “deep loathing” for zoos and intends to return as many animals to the wild as he can.
MAIL: My condolences to Ray who lost his beloved dog Snoot, and I’m hoping Hélène’s ill diabetic cat Hermione is recovering. Our animals play such an important role in our lives and are a re-connection with the natural world we are increasingly estranged from. They are family, and it is devastating when they are ill or if we lose them.