Joy Adamson

Activist / Writer
Date Of Birth:
20 January 1910
Date Of Death:
3 January 1980
Place Of Birth:
Troppau, Austria
Best Known As:
Author of Born Free

Name at birth: Friederike Viktoria Gessner

Joy Adamson and her husband George were among the most famous wildlife conservationists of the 1960s. Born in Austria, Joy went to Kenya, then a British Colony, in 1937. She married George Adamson, a British game warden, in 1944 and adopted Kenya as her own country. (An accomplished painter, she specialized in collecting and illustrating African wildflowers.) The Adamsons acquired Elsa, a tame lion cub, in 1956, after George had killed a lioness in self-defense. For two years Elsa and George trained the animal for a return to the wild, and the subsequent book about Elsa, Born Free (1960), was an international success. Adamson followed the book with Living Free (1961) and Forever Free (1962). Joy and George separated in the 1970s, and on 3 January 1980 Joy was found murdered in a remote region of Kenya. Paul Nakware Ekai, a Turkana tribesman who was employed by Adamson, was convicted of her murder in 1981 and sentenced to life in prison. In 2005 he recanted his 1980 confession and claimed he had nothing to do with her killing.

Extra Credit

George Adamson was Joy Adamson’s third husband; earlier she had been married to Austrian Viktor von Klarwill and Swiss botanist Peter Bally… George Adamson was shot and killed by poachers in 1989… Another expatriate author in Kenya was Beryl Markham.

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