Aired Sunday January 9th, 2011 at 7:00 pm on KUED HD Ch. 7.1
Joy Adamson's book, Born Free, first published in 1960, tells the dramatic story of becoming the surrogate parent of an orphaned lion cub named Elsa and her eventual release back into the wild. Adamson's book sold millions of copies around the world. Her story became a catalyst to a global fight for the protection of wild animals that still resonates today. Born Wild was one of the earliest representations of animals as individuals, and had considerable repercussions in the world of conservation.
The idyllic story portrayed in the 1966 film, Born Free, that went on to win two Academy Awards, was far from reality. Behind its romanticized depiction of Joy Adamson, her husband George and the lion cub Elsa is the compelling story of a daring and controversial life the Adamsons chose to live. But their story is also a celebration of how a simple act of kindness showed the world how to see animals in a new light. Nature: Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story premieres Sunday, January 9 at 7:00 p.m. on KUED Channel 7.
Nature goes behind the scenes of the film Born Free to examine the genesis and aftermath of this landmark story. The documentary takes viewers through challenges in the making of Born Free and the real-life drama the Adamsons lived as pioneering conservationists. Illuminated by George Adamson's journal entries, archival home movies, and conversations with the Adamsons' close confidants, the film reveals shifting attitudes about their impact on Africa's wildlife.
"Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story is an insider's look at the world's first environmental icon," says Fred Kaufman, Nature Executive Producer. "There's no question that Elsa became an ambassador of wildlife preservation because of the Adamsons and their story. Looking at Elsa's legacy, we're able to see wildlife protection then and now and how one animal made a world of difference."
The Adamsons practiced their idea that wild animals should be treated as unique individuals and fostered the concept of saving lions by directly relating to them. But the African bush paradise and Elsa's rehabilitation described in the book and film can be misleading. The Adamsons' approach to working with lions, successful in many ways, left people vulnerable to unpredictable attacks. When a child was mauled and a wildlife reserve worker was killed by one of the lions, much of the public perception of the Adamsons switched from wildlife heroes to eccentrics in the bush.
"Born Free is a myth and it is a lovely encouraging myth that we are at one with nature and that nothing awful ever happens," says naturalist David Attenborough. "Death and destruction and pain and agony is not part of that myth. It happens to be part of the natural world."
In a dark twist ending to the Adamsons' extraordinary lives, Joy was brutally murdered by a disgruntled staff member at her reserve. And nearly 10 years after Joy's death, George was gunned down by poachers who wanted to shut down his camp.
Since the heyday of Born Free, experts estimate Africa's lion population has plummeted by 80 t0 90 percent, partly due to the ever-increasing human population that shares their habitat. With only about 20,000 lions left now, the pressure is on to save them.
This episode of Nature can also be viewed:
Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 @ 7:00 pm on KUED HD Channel 7.1
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