In 1969, on a whim, John Rendall and Ace Bourke bought a lion cub from London's Harrods and named him Christian. They were two young recent college graduates and they had great fun going about London with their lion cub who lived with them in a posh pad on Kings Road. The three of them developed a close, warm and loving relationship.
But in time the 35 pound cub grew to 185 pounds and his days as a house pet were coming to an end. Too many exotic pet owners at this stage tend to "dispose" of them in some convenient fashion. But to the credit of Rendall and Bourke they looked for a better solution and got an introduction to George Adamson (he and his wife, Joy, raised an orphaned cub Elsa who became the subject of book and the movie "Born Free"). Adamson was able to successfully rehabilitate Christian into the wild in Africa.
A year later Rendall and Bourke decided to visit Africa and find Christian -- the YouTube hit video (seen by millions) shows this reunion (see below). They went to Africa looking for Christian, despite being warned of the danger. After days of searching they finally find Christian and there is a moment in the video when the three first spot each other. As the lion starts approaching you wonder if he will attack and you stop breathing for a minute. Then suddenly the lion breaks into a run, leaps up and hugs and kisses the two men, clearly the lion is overjoyed at seeing his old friends. It is very touching to see such love displayed. There were other visits in succeeding years with the last one in 1974.
Adamson's associate, Tony Fitzjohn, was inspired by Christian to establish the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust when Adamson was murdered by bandits in Kenya in 1988. This Trust was formed in England in 1979 to raise funds for the work being done in the Kora National Park in northern Kenya by George Adamson and his assistant Tony Fitzjohn. The Today Show on NBC recently did an update on this story and interviewed Rendall and Bourke, read more here. Both men are still support causes that preserve wildlife.
This story is a premier example of how animals bring love and joy to our lives and make the world a more wonderful place. Photo credit: John Rendall
Related Post: Christian the Lion: New Book, Story Behind the YouTube Sensation