Christian, the lion, was originally acquired by Harrods from the now-defunct zoo park in Ilfracombe, United Kingdom, by Ace Bourke and John Rendall. Rendall, would later recall that the department store was eager to sell the cub, which had escaped from his cage one night and destroyed the merchandise in the carpet department. John Rendall and Bourke purchased Christian for 250 guineas.
John Rendall and Ace Bourke, along with their friends Jennifer Mary Taylor and Unity Jones, cared for the lion where they lived in London until he was a year old. As he got larger, the men moved Christian to their furniture store – coincidentally named Sophistocat – where living quarters in the basement were set aside for him. Rendall and Bourke obtained permission from a local vicar to exercise Christian at a church graveyard, and the men also took the lion on day trips to the seaside.
Christian’s growing size and the increasing cost of his care led Rendall and Bourke to understand they could not keep him in London. When Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the film Born Free, visited Rendall and Bourke’s furniture store and met Christian, they suggested that Bourke and Rendall ask the assistance of George Adamson. Adamson, a Kenyan conservationist, who together with his wife Joy raised and released Elsa the Lioness, agreed to reintegrate Christian into the wild at his compound in the Kora National Reserve. Virginia McKenna writes about the experience in her memoir The Life in My Years, published March 2009.
Adamson introduced Christian to an older male lion, “Boy”, who had been used in the movie Born Free and who also featured prominently in the documentary film The Lions Are Free, and subsequently to a female cub Katania in order to form the nucleus of a new pride. The pride suffered many setbacks: Katania was possibly devoured by crocodiles at a watering hole; another female was killed by wild lions; and Boy was severely injured, afterwards losing his ability to socialize with other lions and humans, and was shot by Adamson after fatally wounding an assistant. These events left Christian as the sole surviving member of the original pride.
Over the course of a year, as George Adamson continued his work, the pride established itself in the region around Kora, with Christian as the head of the pride started by Boy.
Watch the entire story below.
p.s the reunion is especially touching.
The Original Full Length Documentary
For those interested in the original full length documentary film, you can view it below.
Get The NY Times bestseller Book “A Lion Called Christian: The True Story of the Remarkable Bond Between Two Friends and a Lion” at Amazon.