Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story
Full Episode

2010 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of “Born Free” – a book and then a film that changed forever the way we think about wildlife. What has happened to lions since this story? What has happened to the people featured in the film? And what has “Born Free” taught us? Buy the DVD. This film premiered January 9, 2011.

How has Elsa’s story changed the way you view lions and other wild animals? Share your story.

  • Scott W. Franklin

    I’m not emotionally attached to cats in the usual way, but am impressed both by their beauty and by their success in a biological sense. That they are wonderfully adapted predators is reflected in the huge range in size from the largest to the smallest species with scarcely any change in form and behavior.

    Many thousands of people keep these large cats, lions and tigers, as pets, no doubt in part at least as a result of the “Born Free” book and movie, certainly a risky pastime. I have to wonder, though, if a house cat would be safe to have around if suddenly enlarged to the size of a lion. Would we then resemble food instead of companions?

  • Linda Anne Chancler

    Thank you for this wonderful film. I was a young child when Born Free came out and it certainly inspired me. Born Free taught us that wild animals are owed the grace to live their lives as they were intended, wild and free. Sadly there are few good reports, all seems to be getting worse. It is a wonder to know that people such as Joy and George lived such grand lives, and tried to make a difference.

  • Andy Baker

    For someone who lived in Africa for nearly six years, including one year working as a photographic safari guide in the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia, this film was more than captivating to watch. There is no parallel environment on this planet that can rival the intense experience of living in a tent in the wild African bush. The variation of species, large and small, harmless and dangerous, surround you with their voices and visits both day and night. The two animals I feared most were lions on the land, and crocodiles in the water. To be in a small vehicle surrounded by a dozen cats all preparing for the evening hunt is very humbling. To encounter lions on foot, as I did several times, is to know that keeping your cool and your distance may keep you out of the food chain. This healthy respect aside, the reality of a lion’s life in the wild, as the film shows, is one ruled by the harsh rules of nature.

    After watching this film, I can only wonder that unusual Elsa may have never had a chance in the wild as a cub given her greater capacity for intelligence and human companionship. There are not too many “nice” lions out there and she may have been the most extraordinary exception known to humans. If you want to see what is left of the “Real Africa”, take the journey to Lusaka and then to Mpika and then down the escarpment to North and South Luangwa National Parks. There you will find free roaming lions and elephants with a minimal intrusion of humans. It is not safe but it is wild, and that would be the point of going there.

  • Mary Bowen

    Thank you for this historic look back at this wonderful story, as I too, was inspired as a young child by Born Free. It is sad to think that we may be approaching a day where lions will no more be wild and Free. Please allow this film to propel you to do something to help! In the states you can get involved with Born Free USA at http://www.bornfreeusa.org

  • Mike Bennett

    While watching this episode I had very mix feelings about how honest and factual these people truly were.

    Sure, there is commentary about the actual reality of returning a captive lion back to the wild vs. what was portrayed in the movie, but just how many wild lions did these people kill to allow this captive pride to successfully establish territory?

    Establishing a captive pride of lions within a wild pride’s territory undoubtedly meant that the humans involved had to kill off members of the attacking wild resident pride.

    How is this recorded a success? I personally think it is highly unethical and a terrible commentary on humanity.

  • Lina Melton

    I also had mixed feelings. I think that it was great that they took care of the lions; but mixing the lions with the wild ones knowing that if they came in contact with humans they would kill. How is that helping?

  • Carol Bylsma

    It is really difficult to realize lions are now endangered and in my lifetime have gone from plentiful seemingly everywhere when I was in Kenya in 1984 to this today. I feel a great sadness for all things wild and their survival in today’s crowded world.

    My thanks goes out to George and Joy Adams and all others that have helped us humans to relate to wild animals and realize they are individuals with hopes and joys of their own and have as much right to live free or maybe more than us humans.

  • Patrick Lin

    Lions are endangered because of hunters

  • Daneil Chan

    This episode is so sad.

  • Jacqueline Olave

    Enjoyed watching the program on Elsa’s Legacy. I remember seeing the movie “Born Free” when I was a child. It’s very sad to know that these beautiful animals may not be around in the future someday because of human selfishness.

  • Xian Marxer

    This has to be my all time favorite ‘Nature!” The home movies, photos, and details about shooting the movie were priceless. All animals do have their on qi (spirit) that makes them different from all others….But what a sad ending—not killed by wildlife, but murdered by own kind…

  • Alison Smith

    What had happened to Elsa’s Children?

  • Fredrick Ingram

    This was an awesome episode. Watching this reminds me of why I decided to study Environmental Geosciences in college. When I was a child my parents took me to see this movie. After watching Born Free, I was hooked. I knew I wanted to understand the processes that shape our planet. In the grand scheme of things, most people don’t realize just how delicate our existence is on our little planet. Life is truly an endless pursuit of knowledge.

  • Joan Sorko from BC

    I also cannot view the videos you display. I am truly disappointed that PBS cannot give Canadians the right to view these videos. For years I have enjoyed the programs presented by PBS, but cannot understand why this “rights” thing has not been resolved. As we all know, we in Canada support this programming in a big way. I would really like to have this question of “rights” ANSWERED on-line for all of us in Canada to see

  • Ross Fenton

    Having not shed a tear in months, this certainly moved things along for me in many regards. I found that the slow death scene showing indigenous clansmen spearing a wild, adult male lion to be gut wrenching & rage provoking…..despite the cultural significance. May they too be snuffed out slowly in the clutches of a big cat, a fitting end full of duress and unthinkable terror.

    This includes those “canned lion” Safari hunters who convince themselves to sleep at night by thinking what “good” they’re doing by adding money to African economies. And how does this help the lions persevere again? Hmmmm. May they return to empty, family free homes to find their way through life without their usual and accustomed family support networks. Lost in a blink.

    It is animal suffrage resulting from the unseen after effects of shattered pride orders that I think need to be addressed. It’s not just big cats……it’s our megafauna worldwide going through the same torturous existence and end at the hands of those who are wicked & greedy.

    I think George and Joy Adam’s greatest personality attributes were their inherent distrust of humans; tell me we all don’t share that sentiment deep down? I do, and I’m not afraid to say it either. Yeah, the Elsa story was good research, but you obviously see what I got from it.

  • Lynne Sinclair

    We missed the Elsa episode on TV, and are no longer able to access your videos
    over the internet – very disappointing. I had the original book and saw the original movie.
    Can’t remember if we just didn’t catch the episode, or if it wasn’t even aired here -
    this sometimes happens, where an episode which is advertised by you as upcoming
    in fact does not air here. What gives?
    We are located near Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and receive TV via satellite.

  • AnnaFiona

    Just wonderful, thank you. I have not had TV in over 15 years, do not miss it a bit with exception of my PBS! It is such a blessing to have these programs/video’s online to watch, thank you so much. The original movie, Born Free (though a dramatic pc.) had an enormous impact on me as a child, that movie and the first full feature article about Jane Goodall in Tanzania with wild chimpanzee’s in National Geographic (with color pictures!). From that point on, I dreamed of going to Africa, it took me 25 years but I finally got there and it is even more amazing than I had ever imagined. I was so fortunate to see Kenya, Rawanda and Uganda where I worked in a sanctuary for orphaned chimpanzee’s in lake Victoria. There is something about Africa that is life changing. It is like nowhere else in the world. I am happy that had a chance to see at least some of wilderness and it’s glorious and majestic inhabitants, especially since I do not believe that man will allow any of our wild lands or wildlife to continue live. It seems imminent with the continued population explosion that it will be wiped away within the next 40years. It makes one almost happy that you don’t live forever, I do not want to live in world where all that beauty is gone and we are only left with only man and his violence, the insatiable need to destroy everything that is within his reach. And now they are building a highway through the Serengeti.
    http://www.savetheserengeti.org/issues/stop-the-serengeti-highway/#axzz1CfSxLJ00

  • jess d

    VERY COOL! I HAVE NOT WATCHED THE MOVIE,BUT THIS EPISODE MAKES ME WANT TO.I TRUELY FEEL INDIVIDUALS ARE SMART,BUT PEOPLE ARE STUPID.I’M TOLD THAT HUMANS ARE THE SMARTEST OF ALL ANIMALS….REALLY?EITHER ITS A MASS DELUSION-WE HAVE NO NATURAL SPECIAL SKILLS OR PROTECTION OF OUR OWN,WE HAVE TO MAKE IT.OR WE REALLY ARENT ALL THAT SMART AS A SPECIES..AFTER ALL,HOW MANY ANIMALS HAVE WE DESTROYED,WIPPED OUT COMPLETELY?HOW MANY HAVE WE PUSHED TO THE BRINK,LEARNED OF IT,YET CONTINUE TO PUSH?NOT TO MENTION THE DEVISTATION OF THE LAND,FORESTS,OCEANS,ALONG WITH THE OUTRIGHT KILLINGS OF OUR OWN KIND?WHAT OTHER ‘ANIMAL’ CAN CLAIM,OR WOULD WANT TO CLAIM,THAT PRIZE?NONE!WHAT KIND OF WORLD ARE WE LEAVING OUR YOUNG ONES,WHAT ARE WE TEACHING THEM??THAT IF YOU WANT IT JUST TAKE IT,CONSEQUINCES BE DAMN?IF WE ARE NOT CAREFUL,IF WE DO NOT STAND UP WITH COMMON SENSE WE WILL LOSE ALL THE BEAUTY THAT THIS WORLD HAS TO OFFER.I DO NOT WANT OUR CHILDREN TO HAVE TO LEARN ABOUT LIONS AND THE LIKE FROM A BOOK BECAUSE WE LEFT NOTHING BUT A WAST LAND FOR THEM TO LIVE IN,DO YOU?THEY,AND THE ANIMALS DESERVE BETTER THAN THAT.HAVE COMPASSION,USE COMMON SENSE.FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL REACTION.LETS MAKE IT A WORTHY REACTION

  • Anonymous

    Every ounce of love into a cat. I have never heard of such affection

  • Karen Parker

    this was a great movie to watch, it brought out so many emotions for me. I watched this movie as a child too
    and its so sad that the lion population has dwindled like it has and many other populations of the animal kingdom.
    I try to do things on my own in small ways to help animals and will do some stuff on the born free site as well.’
    Thanks for showing this wonderful movie.

  • Dalvinder

    we all know that wild lions are not reliable….but frankly neither are humans.

    its sad because today we have so much technology, knowledge, and resources, but yet we are letting lions and other animals slip out of our hands.

    And i really think that problem is people in general dont think its important to save a species like the lion….like what is the point? well say for instance we kill of all the lions, then there wont be any predators to keep herbivores numbers down, herbivores then will over graze the land wiping out vegetation, grass and, trees (not giving it enough time to regrow), then there will be no trees and plants to protect the savanna and forest floor, which then increase the temperature of the climate and not to mention there wont be plants and trees convert the carbon into oxygen that WE need. the increased temperature will then create infertile soil that WE need for food, sea level will rise because of increased global temperature and melting glaciers, eventually putting most of the coasts under water (we have seen this in florida)….oh and were do most people live? ALONG THE COAST!….so basically we are screwing up our future by removing one animal that YOU dont think to be important….

  • steve woods

    I used to be able to come here and watch your videos but for some reason there is a rights restriction to my area
    can you tell me why I can’t view your videos here in Canada?

  • David Fiedler

    I finally got around to watching this episode online after realizing it had been deleted from my DVR because of too much content on the hard drive. I am glad I did; it is simply outstanding! I shed more than a few tears viewing it. Tears for George, Joy and the sad demise they met, but mostly for the plight of lions as conditions now exist. It tragic indeed that man as a species has become so inclined and comfortable to systematically eliminate species such as lions not out of necessity of survival but more often strictly out of convenience and because we can. My hope is that films such as this Nature episode along with recent films by National Geographic and Disney may create awareness among a new generation of youngsters to save lions and other endangered big cats. It is left to young people to take up this cause and become the next George, Joy, Tony, Johnny, etc. In the meantime those adults of us that care but lack the age and ability to become active in the effort can encourage provide encouragement through education and financially to the fine organizations such as Born Free, AWF, WCS & WWF.

  • Brian Miller

    Well done show! Of course, the reality of rehabilitating lions was not quite like that portrayed by hollywood. I suppose that the romanticising makes for good copy, so to speak. Maybe deep down we (at least some of us) yearn for that harmonious state of existence, or perhaps it harkens to a time when the world wasn’t to harsh. Was there ever an Eden, where harmony truely existed between species?

    The Jews of many thousands of years ago believed the earth was destroyed by a flood caused by God because He was disgusted with people and creation. But, it is very interesting that the first thing God said when he told Noah and his family to come out of the ark was to “BRING OUT EVERY KIND OF LIVING CREATURE THAT IS WITH YOU–THE BIRDS, THE ANIMALS, AND ALL THE CREATURES THAT MOVE ALONG THE GROUND–SO THEY CAN MULTIPLY ON THE EARTH AND BE FRUITFUL AND INCREASE IN NUMBER UPON IT.” Whether you believe the story or not, it is still provides insight into an ancient people in terms of what they believed God would want. Animals are good in, for, and of themself. They have a right to exist for their own sake.

    Hats off to George and Joy. Whatever their religious beliefs were, they knew in their being that the wild creatures had a right to exist. The faith that they had was displayed in the lives they led and was an inspiration for all to see. They were truely human.

  • ibou seck

    Who in the hell are these people coming To Africa from Europe to tell us africans to cave in and let them dictate to us how to live our lives, how to handle wild animals in our land according to there own fantasies ? Africa belong to the africans and like any other people we have the uncompromising right to do what we want with our beloved land.It is about time that these invaders stop taking Africa as there playground .They are the ones that killed most of the lions in Africa anyways . This movie is nothing but a demonstration of imperial power from two fools who believed that you can tun beast into pet.

  • Jean Greenough

    Could you please explain why Canadians are not able to view the full length videos of Nature when at the end of each episode we are assured that we can view it on line? This is most annoying particularly when we support our PBS station. A very large proportion of financial support for KSPS comes from Canada.

  • Greg

    What an emotional ride, this revisiting of Elsa, and my heroes George, Joy, Tony Fitzjohn, Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers was! I have vague memories of seeing the movie as a child, and believe that it has colored my life from that day forward in numerous ways, especially my love for nature and all things wild.
    It seems we are on the cusp of the end of nature as we’ve known it, and with it’s loss will be our ultimate demise as well. Do we have the will to make the difficult changes necessary to avert this end? Sadly I believe those that do are in the minority, and therefore will not prevail.
    I pine for those long ago days, those simpler and better days!

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