The Adamson Lions


The story began in 1988, when Gareth Patterson visited the Kora Game Reserve to assist and work with his mentor and a great legend of our time, George Adamson, most commonly known as the “Lion man of Africa”. Gareth remained the next six months discussing, reminiscing over their favorite topic – lions. A similar sense of urgency for the future of lions was expressed by both during this time.

George was given three tiny cubs, a few days after their mother was shot. He found himself once again in the familiar role of mother and teacher, one he had performed so many times before, with no less than 25 cubs. He named the male, Batian and his two sisters, Rafiki and Furaha and so these new “infants” were to change their lives forever.

Six months later, having returned to South Africa in January 1989, Gareth was to receive the most distressing news. George Adamson had been killed by “shafta bandits”. This was indeed a sad day for Africa, but mostly for all lions concerned. Whos was to replace George’s tireless efforts, to help rescue their future?

Gareth Patterson was born in England, but lived most of his life in Africa where his love for wildlife was born. His first encounter with the wilds began as a trainee game ranger at the Sabi Sand Game Resrve. He was later to accept the running of conservation trails in the Natal Drakensberg. A post became available in the Mashatu Game Reserve in Botswana, to which he applied and soon found himself in the challenging position of studying lions. His research and findings subsequently led him to write his first book “Cry for the Lions”, an account of recordings based on the strong bond between the then infamous large male “Darky” and himself. Gareth was to leave the reserve and embark on a journey across Southern and Eastern Africa that would hopefully determine the status of the lion on his continent. In Kenya, Gareth met George Adamson, a man he had long admired and who had been an inspiration to him since a very young an impressionable age. “Where the lion walked” became his second book, based on this incredible adventure.

Before George was murdered, the future of the orphaned cubs was secure. After his untimely death, this all changed. This dilemma posed a new challenge for Gareth, for he was to take up the now important role of foster parent. The time had arrived. Gareth would be a worthy successor. George Adamson’s legacy would live on.

The decision to move the cubs to the safety of the Tuli Bushlands in Botswana was the only solution to take. The necessary arrangements carried out were plagued with numerous complications, but the young cubs would eventually arrive in their new home, where Gareth had now made camp. The next two and a half years comprised mainly of educating the cubs, teaching them all the essential skills they needed to survive in the wild. After successful rehabilitation and following their release, two tragedies occurred that unfortunately marred this happy tale. Batian, the pride male, was shot and fuaha and her two cubs Sala and Tana, became the same victims some time later. Understandably, Gareth was devastated. Long, arduous years getting to know these lions were destroyed overnight. Gareth was always committed to returning the lions to their natural home – the wilderness.

And so it was to be, that these orphaned cubs whose mother had been gunned down years before by their most lethal enemy – man, were to meet the same fate.

These incidents prompted Gareth to leave the Tuli Bushlands he knew so well. The memories remain vivid even today. Various Lion projects have since kept him occupied, and it is to this cause, assuring the same freedom for future generations, that Gareth continues unrelentlessly to pursue this commitment.