The story of Elsa the Lioness begins on February 1st, 1956, when George Adamson, a wildlife conservationist, was forced to kill a lioness that had charged at him in self-defense. Unbeknownst to George, the lioness’ aggressive behavior was caused by him being near the presence of her three cubs.
Shortly afterward, George and his wife, Joy, discovered the lioness’ young cubs. Realizing that he had orphaned three lion cubs and that death was imminent in the absence of their mother, George and Joy took it upon themselves to adopt and raise the cubs.
They named them “Big One”, “Lustica”, and “Elsa”.
Big One and Lustica — meaning “Jolly One” — were the biggest, strongest, and most vocal of the three lion cubs.
The Adamsons treated the three cubs like domesticated pets and because they lacked a mother figure, these cubs were fed “unsweetened milk mixed with cod-liver oil, glucose, bone-meal, and a little salt.” They were also initially fed through a flexible rubber tube before baby bottles were obtained which they quickly became accustomed to.
The cubs were also allowed to roam the surrounding area under a watchful eye and enjoy quite a bit of freedom, except at night, when they slept in an enclosure of rock and sand leading off from their wooden shelter.
After six months in Adamson’s care, Big One and Lustica were adopted in the Netherlands, with Elsa, the smallest cub, remaining with the couple. Joy also recognized that it was time for Elsa to learn how to act like a proper lion so that she could live freely in the wild as an independent adult.
Elsa was provided with the education and training she needed to successfully integrate back into the Kenyan wilderness as an adult lioness. And after months of living with the Adamsons, she was set free to live independently and thrives in the vast wilderness.
The Adamsons’ perseverance clearly paid off, when Elsa paid them a visit with her three cubs in her third year. The two male cubs were named “Jespah” and “Gopa,” respectively, and the female was named “Little Elsa” after her mother.
Unfortunately, as is common with semi-domesticated wild animals, the locals’ opinion of Elsa and her family began to deteriorate. The Adamsons began to consider moving them out of the area, but Elsa died soon after from babesiosis, a blood disease that is normally transmitted by ticks to wild cats, and it is similar to feline malaria.
She was laid to rest in the Meru National Park.
Elsa’s untimely death also left her three cubs without a mother, and the cubs became wary of human contact. Despite their mother’s relationship and trust with the Adamsons, the cubs withdrew and began to distrust them after their mother’s death.
They became a nuisance to the local farmers, killing their livestock. Joy became concerned for the cubs’ safety as a result and to protect them from certain death, it was decided that they would be captured and relocated which was done so successfully when they were eventually captured and released into the Serengeti.
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