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Elsa the lioness

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Title: Elsa the lioness  
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Subject: George Adamson, Environment of Kenya, Elsa, Joy Adamson, List of 20th-century outdoor proponents and outdoor educators
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Elsa the lioness


Elsa (c. January 1956 – January 24, 1961) was a Joy Adamson after they were orphaned at only a few weeks old. Though her two sisters eventually went to the Netherlands' Rotterdam Zoo, Elsa was trained by the Adamsons to survive on her own, and was eventually released into the wild.

Her story is told in several books by the Adamsons, as well as the motion picture Born Free (1966).


  • Life 1
  • Books 2
  • Films 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Elsa and her sisters were orphaned after George Adamson was forced to kill their mother when she charged him—​in defense of her three cubs, he later realized. The Adamsons then adopted the cubs.

While Elsa lived in many ways like a domesticated pet when she was small, Joy Adamson, whom Elsa trusted the most, considered her relationship with Elsa to be that of equals. Indeed, after sending the other two to a zoo, Joy was fiercely determined to give Elsa the education she needed to hunt and live in the wild. Her efforts paid off, earning Elsa worldwide fame at the time, when her early life's story was published in the book Born Free. When Elsa was three years old, she brought three cubs of her own to show to the Adamsons, whom the Adamsons named "Jespah" (male), "Gopa" (male), and "Little Elsa" (female). The life of Elsa and her cubs is covered in the book, Living Free, published not long afterwards.

Elsa's life was cut short when she succumbed to Babesia felis, a form of

  • A tribute to Elsa This site contains a huge amount of information and listings of the books, films, many photos and even letters written by both Joy and George Adamson.
  • Born Free Foundation
  • Wildlife Artist Gary Hodges – drawing of Elsa by Gary Hodges in memory of Bill Travers.
  • Elsa the Lioness (1961) Original Documentary

External links

  1. ^ Adamson, George. A Lifetime With Lions. New York: Avon Books, 1968.
  2. ^ Adamson, Joy (1961). Living Free. Fontana Books. p. 142. 
  3. ^ a b "Books – Films – Movies by or about George and Joy Adamson"


  • Elsa the Lioness (1961), 29 minutes; BBC documentary produced, hosted and narrated by Living Free.[2] Filmed just before Elsa's death
  • [3]
  • Living Free (1972), starring Susan Hampshire and Nigel Davenport, based not on the book by the same name, but on the third book of the series, Forever Free.
  • Elsa and Her Cubs, 25 minutes; Extremely rare film footage of Elsa and her cubs Jespah, Gopa and Little Elsa and includes Joy and George Adamson. Although the film begins by saying the narrator is George Adamson, it is not George Adamson speaking.[3]
  • Elsa's Legacy: The Born Free Story (2010), 53 minutes; Documentary marking the 50th anniversary of Joy Adamson's book Born Free. Including home footage of Elsa and her cubs shot by the Adamsons, and interviews with Virginia McKenna and David Attenborough.


  • Born Free 1960 – Written by Joy Adamson; Library of Congress Catalog Card #60-6792
  • Living Free 1961 – Written by Joy Adamson; Library of Congress Catalog Card #61-15810
  • Forever Free 1962 – Written by Joy Adamson; Library of Congress Catalog Card #63-8081
  • Bwana Game (UK Title) 1968, A Lifetime With Lions (USA Title) 1970 – Written By George Adamson
  • My Pride and Joy 1986 – Written By George Adamson – ISNS 978-0-00-272518-7 0 00 272518 5.


This was the last time that the Adamsons would ever see one of Elsa's cubs. [1]

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