Meru National Park has suffered a decades-long running fight against poachers, who are unwavering to take its precious wildlife for themselves
1. For a few years in the 1960s, Elsa the Lioness was the most famed animal alive.
Raised by people after her mother’s death, she was ultimately released back into the wild. Her story, which was made into a popular film, motivated thousands of people to become involved in wildlife preservation.
Elsa’s home was Meru National Park in Kenya. At that time, Meru was a magnificent wildlife haven, home to thousands of huge animals as well as many Lions. But in the years after Elsa’s passing, the park was swarming with poachers and its wildlife was almost wiped out. Only in the last few years has it begun to recuperate.
This is the tale of the vicious battle for Meru National Park: a battle that was motivated by the story of Elsa the Lioness.
Meru National Park is massive (Credit: Robert Harding/Alamy)
Meru National Park is wild and rough, covering an area double the size of the Isle of Wight. It was once a showcase of conservational diversity. Its grassy plains maintained vast herds of buffalo and zebra, together with elephants, Lions and leopards.
In the 1960s the park became globally famous. That was acknowledgements to Born Free, a blockbusting book by Joy Adamson. It narrated the true story of how Adamson raised an orphaned Lioness cub called Elsa.
In 1956, Adamson’s husband George killed Elsa’s mom when she charged him. He understood afterwards that she only did so to protect her cubs, and so he and Joy decided to raise the young Lions by themselves.
Joy was strongminded to teach Elsa to stay alive on her own, and ultimately released her into Meru National Park. Elsa lived for several years and raised three cubs, before dying of a tick-borne illness in 1961.
Joy and George Adamson (Credit: Marion Kaplan/Alamy)