In 1969 a young Australian, John Rendall and his friend Ace Bourke, bought a small lion cub from Harrods pet department, which was then legal. ‘Christian’ was kept in the basement of a furniture shop on the Kings Road in Chelsea, the heart of the swinging sixties. Loved by all, the affectionate cub ate in a local restaurant, played in a nearby graveyard, but was growing fast…

Christian soon grew both in size and popularity and his boisterousness caused quite a stir in the antique shop he called home. But all good things must end and keeping a growing lion in the centre of London became untenable. Relief was at hand when George Adamson agreed to help Christian adapt to his new found home in Kenya and the relocation began.

A chance encounter with Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna led to a new life for Christian. He came to live in a huge enclosure and to sleep in a caravan at their Surrey home. Then in 1971 he was flown to Kenya, his ancestral home, and returned to the wild by lion-man George Adamson. Nine months later in 1972, John and Ace returned to Kora in Kenya. This clip is of their reunion at that time.

It was an emotional reunion: “He ran towards us, threw himself onto us, knocked us over and hugged us, with his paws on our shoulders.”

John Rendall

Christian’s story. Directed by Bill Travers, commentary by Virgina McKenna, founders of the Born Free Foundation.

See http://www.bornfree.org.uk for more about this story.

Christian the Lion is distributed by Beckmann Visual Publishing

In 2008, a clip of the reunion with Christian was posted on YouTube and became an internet sensation. Overnight people wanted to know more about what lay behind this clip.

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