Can Man and Beast Live in Peace?
“I felt as though I were on the doorstep of paradise; man and beast in trusting harmony.” Thus Joy Adamson described a scene alongside Kenya’s Ura River as she watched a variety of birds and animals come to drink. A fascinating part of the scene was the animal peacefully sitting next to her—a full-grown lioness!
Was there something exceptional about this particular lioness, Elsa, whom millions came to know through the book Born Free, by Joy Adamson? No, she was an ordinary lioness. The difference was that she had learned to live peacefully with humans.
Later, when the film Born Free was made, a number of tame lionesses were used to portray Elsa. One was called Mara. She was suspicious at first, and then she was very possessive, not allowing her new human friends out of sight. To calm her down, Joy’s husband, George Adamson, moved his tent against Mara’s enclosure. Eventually, he moved his tent right inside the enclosure! “For the next three months,” he wrote in his book Bwana Game, “she slept regularly inside [my tent], usually stretched out on the floor alongside my bed and sometimes on it. . . . She never gave me cause for anxiety regarding my personal safety.”
“One of our favourite games,” wrote Mr. Adamson, “was for me to lie flat on the ground hidden behind a tuft of grass. Mara would stalk me with great stealth, belly low to the ground in proper lion fashion and then there would be the final lightning rush and she would land on top of me. Always she kept control of her formidable claws and never hurt me.”
Another lioness who played the part of Elsa was named Girl. When the film was completed, Girl was returned to the wild, where she mated and produced two cubs. Two of Adamson’s friends located the lair. Adamson wrote: “With the most remarkable trust and good nature Girl permitted the two men, who were taking a considerable risk, to approach within a few feet [a meter or so] of the birthplace . . . Girl’s behaviour was the more remarkable as [one of the men] was a comparative stranger to her.” As for Adamson, Girl even permitted him to touch her cubs, whereas other lions were driven away.
Taming a Vicious Lion
Characteristics differ from lion to lion. While Joy Adamson was raising Elsa, farther south in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), a game warden, Norman Carr, was doing the same with two male cubs. One of the cubs, Big Boy, was very friendly. The other, Little Boy, was inclined to be sulky. Regarding the latter, Carr wrote the following in his book Return to the Wild:
“When Little Boy is in one of these moods, I squat beside him as he snarls at me, just out of range of his paws which he is quite liable to use in a vicious hook with two-inch razor claws extended. Patiently I try to woo him by talking to him soothingly as I inch up closer and closer; and when I eventually make contact he is still snarling but in a less determined manner. As I put my arm around his shaggy shoulders and caress his chest, he will visibly relax as if all his tensed-up muscles have been deflated. . . . He puts his head in my lap, inviting me to fondle him.”
In the foreword to Carr’s book, the Earl of Dalhousie, who was governor-general of the country, relates an incident he witnessed when the lions were over two years old and roaming unattended on a plain near Carr’s camp. Carr whistled, and this is how the Earl described the response: “They came bounding up to their master’s whistle and rubbed their mighty heads against him, at the same time thundering out their happy but terrifying greeting. Their affection for him had certainly not diminished.”
Lions have a natural fear of man and normally seek to avoid him. This instinctive reaction found in lions and other beasts is accurately described in the Bible. (Genesis 9:2) Without it man would be a most vulnerable prey. Yet, some beasts become man-eaters.
“Exceptions to the Rule”
An expert on this subject, Roger Caras, explains: “Among almost all species of big cats there seem to appear a number of abnormal individuals who seek man as food. They are exceptions to the rule . . . Man can generally live pretty much in peace with [the big cats].”
Many animals do not seem to recognize man when he sits concealed in a vehicle. In this way humans are able to take close-up photographs of lions. “But,” warns the book Maberly’s Mammals of Southern Africa, “considerable danger is invited if you open your door, or attempt to get out close to lions, because they recognise the human presence, and the suddenness of the appearance adds to the shock of fear which may very easily prompt an attack in supposed self-defense. . . . There is less danger in actually coming face to face with a lion in the bush than in suddenly appearing out of a motor car in front of him!”
What About Leopards?
Leopards that become man-eaters are also exceptions to the rule. Jonathan Scott explains in his book The Leopard’s Tale: “Unmolested and in good health, the leopard is a shy, retiring creature showing a marked fear of man. If confronted it will usually flee for the nearest available cover.”
Scott spent months in Kenya’s Masai Mara Game Reserve studying the movements of a female leopard that he named Chui. Chui gradually got used to the presence of Scott’s motor vehicle, and on one occasion her cubs, named Dark and Light, came right up and examined his car. Scott believes that behind the leopard’s cold exterior lies a potentially warm nature.
Others have experienced the warm side of a leopard’s nature. For example, Joy Adamson raised an orphaned leopard cub that she called Penny. After being released into the wild, Penny mated and produced a litter. When her human friends were in the vicinity, Penny revealed herself and urged them to come and see her newborn cubs. At the lair, sitting next to the proud mother, Adamson described the delightful scene: “She licked our hands while the cubs cuddled between her front legs, all so sublimely happy. The general belief is that leopards are the most dangerous of all African animals, and leopardesses with young especially fierce.” But Adamson stated that her experience with Penny might prove that “most of the accepted beliefs are a fallacy.”
Another “good-natured” leopardess, named Harriet, provided Arjan Singh of northern India with an even more remarkable experience. Singh raised Harriet from cubhood and trained her so that she could fend for herself in the jungle next to his farm. As part of the training, Singh would sometimes encourage the leopard to attack. “When I crouched down and incited her to charge,” he explains in his book Prince of Cats, “she came at me head-on . . . , but when she leapt at me she made quite certain that she went over the top, pivoting on my head and sliding down my back, without leaving so much as a scratch on my bare shoulders.”
The leopard’s method of play with Singh’s dog Eelie was also remarkable. Singh comments that a “film shows [the leopard] sitting up on her haunches and boxing as the dog charges her—but she makes no attempt to knock the attacker down. Her big paws go up one side of Eelie’s neck, over her head and down the other side as softly as dusters.”
This friendly relationship between man, dog, and leopard continued after Harriet left home to pursue life in the neighboring jungle. “If someone says that leopards are not to be trusted,” concludes Singh, “I need only think of the many times Harriet came to [my farm] in the middle of the night and gently woke me to exchange greetings as I lay asleep in the open.”
Eventually, Harriet mated and produced two cubs. When her lair was threatened by a flood, the leopard carried the cubs in her mouth and brought them one at a time to the safety of Singh’s home. When the flood subsided, Harriet climbed into Singh’s boat, inducing him to row her back and forth across the river as she took her cubs one at a time to a new jungle lair.
The African Elephant
It has been said that the African elephant is too wild to domesticate. Many people, however, have proved the facts to be otherwise. One example is the touching relationship between three African elephants and an American named Randall Moore. The elephants were part of a group of calves captured in South Africa’s Kruger National Park and shipped to the United States. In time they were trained for a circus act and performed well. When their owner died, Moore was given the trio and returned them to Africa.
The two females, named Owalla and Durga, were introduced to the Pilanesberg Reserve of Bophuthatswana in 1982. At the time the park had a number of orphaned elephant calves who were in bad shape and needed supervision by adult females. Would circus-trained Owalla and Durga be able to take on this role?
After a year, Moore received reports that his elephants had adopted all 14 orphans and that more orphans were to be introduced to the park. After a four-year absence, Moore returned to see for himself. Anticipating a long search in the Pilanesberg Mountains, he was surprised, soon after his arrival, to spot Owalla and Durga among a large herd. “My first, unprofessional impulse,” he wrote in Back to Africa, “was to run up to them, embrace them and lavish them with praise. I replaced that urge with a more rational approach.”
First, Owalla and Durga had to be certain of the presence of their old friend. They inspected his outstretched hand with their trunks. “Owalla,” writes Moore, “towered above me as if awaiting the next command. The remainder of the herd in frozen posture clustered around. I obliged. ‘Owalla . . . Trunk UP and FOOT!’ Owalla immediately lifted her front foot high into the air and curled her trunk skyward in the classic salute position of those far-off circus days. Who was it who first said that an elephant never forgets?”
Three years later, in October 1989, Owalla’s memory was given another test. This time Moore decided to try something he had not done since introducing the elephants to the park seven years previously. Owalla obeyed his command to stretch down and allowed him to climb on her back. Television viewers in South Africa were thrilled to see him ride her amid more than 30 wild elephants. “I did this,” Moore explained in an interview with Awake!, “not as a publicity act but because I was curious to know the amount of bonding and intelligence possible with an elephant.” The Pilanesberg orphans thrived under the intelligent care of Owalla and Durga.
True, the instances of friendship between man and wild beast today are not the rule; they take careful cultivation. It would be foolhardy indeed for the average person to venture into the wild and try to approach lions, leopards, and elephants. But while such friendship between wild beasts and humans is relatively rare today, what about the future? Will it be the rule?
[Box/Pictures on page 8]
Lions Can Be Tamed!
“COME and take some photographs of me with my lions,” said Jack Seale, director of Hartebeespoortdam Snake and Animal Park in South Africa. Nervously, I followed him to the lions’ enclosure, hoping he would allow me to take the photographs from outside the protective fence.
The enclosure was clean, with plenty of shade from surrounding trees. Nine healthy lions quickly recognized their trainer as he stepped into the enclosure with an assistant. The lions made friendly growls and paced about excitedly.
“Come inside,” Jack said. I pretended not to hear. “Come inside,” he repeated louder. To defend themselves from the lions, all they had were sticks! My heart beat rapidly as I fought cowardice, finally climbing inside. Quickly I began clicking my camera as Jack fondled some of his magnificent charges. What a relief I felt when all of us were safely outside! But I need not have feared.
“The reason we go in with sticks,” Jack explained afterward, “is that the lions are affectionate and give love bites. We hold out the sticks so they can chew them instead of our arms.” Jack and his pride had just returned from the Etosha National Park in Namibia. Why had he taken them so far away into the wild? He explained:
“They were used to film a documentary about what the research scientists are doing to control the population increase of lions in the wild in Namibia. But my lions prefer the life they have grown used to here. In Namibia, as soon as they saw my truck, they came up to it. There was no difficulty in getting them to come back home.”—Contributed.
Courtesy Hartebeespoortdam Snake and Animal Park
[Picture on page 9]
Randall Moore, with his charges in the African bush