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Adamson Timeline

1906 – George Adamson is born in India.

1910 – Friederike Victoria Gessner (Joy Adamson) is born in what is now the Czech Republic.

1924 – George Adamson moves to Kenya. At the time, Kenya is still an English colony.

1938 – George joins Kenya’s game department as a warden of the Northern Frontier District.


1944 – Joy and George marry.

1947 – Joy begins a series of paintings to record tribal life and customs. The project takes six years and includes 700 portraits.

1956 – George, now senior game warden, kills a charging lioness while searching for a man-eating lion. He takes her three cubs back to the camp. Two of the cubs, Big One and Lustica, are taken to a zoo but Joy fights to keep the third cub, Elsa.

1959 – George begins efforts to reintroduce Elsa into the wild.

1960 – BBC Presenter David Attenborough travels to Kenya to do a piece on Elsa.

1960 – “Born Free” is published. It is hugely successful, selling 5 million copies and is translated into 24 languages.

1961 – Elsa dies of tick fever and is buried in Meru National Park.

1961 – George retires as a game warden and focuses exclusively on his work with lions.

1963 – Joy founds the Elsa Conservation Trust, an organization committed to wildlife conservation.


1965 – George heads an effort to reintroduce three lions featured in the Born Free film – Boy, Girl, and Ugas – back into the wild.

1966 – Columbia Pictures releases the film Born Free. It becomes a box office hit all over the world and stars real-life husband and wife Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. They are deeply inspired by their work on the film and become wildlife activists.

1968 – The lion Boy attacks a child. Although he survives, the incident tarnishes the reputation of his rehabilitation program.

1970 – George moves to Kora to continue the program.

1971 – George’s assistant, Stanley, is killed by Boy. George is forced to shoot Boy.

1980 – Joy Adamson is killed in Kenya. Initially thought to be a lion attack, it is later proven that her murderer was an angry employee.

1980 – George’s brother Terence Adamson is mauled by a lion. The Kenyan Government refuses to allow any new cubs to enter the rehabilitation program.

1984 – McKenna and Travers establish the Born Free Foundation, an International wildlife charity working to prevent animal cruelty and suffering.


1986 – George publishes his autobiography, My Pride and Joy.

1988 – The Kenyan Government reinstates George’s program and he is given three orphan cubs to rehabilitate into the wild.

1989 – George Adamson, aged 83, is shot dead by bandits in Kenya. He is buried next to his favorite lion, Boy.



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