From Opava to Kenya: Legacy of Joy Adamson still alive

17. 2. 2009 17:45
Author of famous book Born Free pioneered African wildlife conservationism

Nairobi - Millions of people know the story of a small lion called Elsa that was raised by people and later set free into African wildlife.

But less people seem to be familiar with the fact that the author of the famous book Born Free Joy Adamson has Czech roots.

Now thanks to an exhibition organized by the Czech EU presidency in Kenya's capital Nairobi, more people can find out. The exhibition of Joy Adamson's life and work, entitled "A long safari from Opava to Kenya", will see a book launch of the same name. It is the English version of the Czech biography wirtten by Zuzana Beranová.

And it is exactly in Nairobi where environment ministers from United Nations Environment Program met Monday to hold debates over climate protection, chemicals and waste management.

The exhibition will only add more importance to the talks about nature. 

"There is no doubt that we have to react to the current economic crisis by implementing the Green New Deal, i.e. investments in the low-carbon economy, renewable energy and energy savings. This is the main topic of the whole Nairobi meeting," said First Deputy Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic Jan Dusík at the press conference of the Czech Presidency in Nairobi.

Fleeing Hitler's Europe

Joy Adamson was born Friederike Victoria Gessner to Victor and Traute Gessner in Troppau, Silesia, Austria-Hungary, today Opava.

She spent her childhood on the banks of the Moravice river. A passionate about nature himself, her great grandfather Carl Weisshuhn planned to build a family mausoleum in a local rock called Kružberg Rock, which is frequently used by mountain climbers nowadays.

Young Friederike left Europe with her Jewish husband to escape Hitler's anti-Jewish policies in 1937. She immediately fell in love with Africa  and soon started to paint and draw. She won British Grenfell Golden Medal for her botanical drawings, which are still used to illustrate botanical books these days. 

Adamson's drawings of Kenya's tribes form a chief part of the Kenyan National Museum, particularly since some of the tribes have died out. Some of her portrayls of the tribesmen are displayed in Kenya's presidential palace.

Pioneering in nature protection

A cub that her third husband brought home one day in 1956 represents a turning point in Adamson's life.

The Adamsons decided to set Elsa free rather than send her to a zoo. They spent many months training her to hunt and survive on her own. Since that moment they became promoters of naturalism and conservationism.

Using her own notes and George's journals about their experience with raising the cub named Elsa, Joy Adamson wrote a book called Born Free. It soon became a bestseller translated into 30 languages. Born Free received largely favorable reviews from critics who were as spellbound as the public. The Adamsons became known the world over.

The 1966 film Born Free filmed in the African bush over the course of many months was a worldwide hit.

Her greatest gift to wildlife and certainly her legacy to all wild animals is the Elsa Wild Animal Appeal which she established to protect wildlife around the globe. Its branches operate in the U.S., Canada, Japan and Kenya.

Adamson cared for any animals, be them wild or less wild, having  nursed back to health all manner of creatures - an owl with a broken wing, a jackal with a broken foreleg, an injured monkey.

Adamson was brutally murdered in 1980 by a former employee of hers whom she sacked for theft. 

autor: Naďa Straková | 17. 2. 2009 17:45

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