Elsa the Lioness
In 1966, everyone was either singing or humming “Born Free,” the Academy Award-winning song from the like-named movie about Elsa the lioness. The story of the great cat reared by a couple in Kenya was already a best-selling book, and the film laid the foundations for more movies and a TV show.
The golden-haired star of Born Free is buried in Meru National Park in Kenya, not far from where she died—in the arms of George Adamson, one of her human “parents”—in 1961.
Elsa was a tiny cub in 1959 when Adamson, a game warden, shot her mother, who was about to charge him. He then discovered Elsa and her two sisters, and realized that the lioness had been protecting them when she charged. He and his wife, Joy, raised the three cubs through infancy. After a few months, two of her cubs went to a European zoo, and Elsa, the smallest, stayed with the Adamsons until she could be returned to the wild.
To get her to that point required months of training, teaching her how to hunt and survive on her own. Finally Elsa was released into Meru.
She never lost contact with the Adamsons. When she was about 3 years old, she showed up at their home with her own three cubs. She died two years later of a tic-born disease called babesiosis.