Played by Richard Harris in the film “To Walk With Lions” and portrayed with his one-time wife, Joy Adamson, in “Born Free,” George Adamson was the author of several books, a well-known safari hunter, senior game warden in Kenya, and one of history’s most famous conservationists.
Adamson spent the last years of his life living in a remote outpost in Kenya, where he worked hands-on with dozens of lions, helping to reintegrate them into the wild after being released from zoos and circuses. Even though he was once attacked by one of his male lions, Adamson was never deterred to continue his dangerous work. ”Like people, they can look impressive, beautiful, curious, ugly or plain,” Adamson once said. “The best are adventurous, loyal and brave. All of them have been designed and perfected by nature to kill.”
His work was supported by the Royal Geographic Society and the National Museums of Kenya, but Adamson always had critics who contested his methods for big cat rehabilitation and his nature, his way of aggressively dealing with authorities.
Adamson was shot and killed by bandits or poachers on August 20, 1989, while attempting to help a tourist escape. Adamson’s body was cremated and buried in Kora National Park, a place where he spent his last decades and stubbornly refused to leave even when the violence continued to escalate. He rests next to his brother, Terence, who died two years earlier at the park, and two of his lions.