Thursday, July 24, 2008

Christian, the lion who lived in my London living room

Daily Mail: He travelled by Bentley, ate in fine London restaurants and spent his days lounging in a furniture shop. The story of Christian the pet lion - and his eventual release into the wild - is as moving as it is incredible. " His story is to be told in a new book, written by the Australian John Rendall who, along with his friend Ace Berg, bought Christian from Harrods in 1969.

I loved this passage in the Daily Mail article: Christian used to lie beside me while I did the accounts at weekends," remembers Jennifer Mary Taylor, who worked there. "And every so often, if I'd ignored him for too long, he'd sock me across the head with one of his great big paws. He liked to stand and put his paws on your shoulders. Does that sound silly?"

Wildlife conservationist George Adamson and his wife Joy, who raised a lion cub called Elsa which was later turned into the film Born Free, were asked to help introduce Christian into the wild in 1974. In that year, George Adamson wrote to say that Christian’s had finally adapted to the wild.

This was a bittersweet moment for all concerned. Nine months later, Rendall and Ace decided to travel to Kora one last time, in the hope of being able to say goodbye, though Adamson warned them that it would almost certainly be a wasted mission. "

Christian stared at us in a very intense way," says Rendall. "I knew his expressions and I could see he was interested. We called him and he stood up and started to walk towards us very slowly. Then, as if he had become convinced it was us, he ran towards us, threw himself on to us, knocked us over, knocked George over and hugged us, like he used to, with his paws on our shoulders." "Everyone was crying. We were crying, George was crying, even the lion was nearly crying. So we each put a hand on Christian's back and he walked with us back to camp."

The reunion party went on all night and into the morning. Leaving his exhausted companions to go to their beds, Christian returned to his pride. "We watched him go back to the two lionesses, who were not at all happy with this man, smelling of nicotine, whisky and humans," says Rendall. "He just walloped the two of them with his paw, then collapsed." And that was the last anyone ever saw of him.

Thanks to John Amato at Crooks and Liars for the heads up on this story. It was a great find.

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