For the first time in about 3 years, I decided to watch To Walk With Lions. The film, depicting the real life story of George Adamson (of Born Free fame) moves me deeply – not least because of the incredible performance of Richard Harris in the role of George, depicting the final months before his murder in 1989.
But beyond the legendary character of Mr Adamson, the film is really about the rise of the next generation of conservationists, in this case: Tony Fitzjohn. It was by sheer coincidence then, that I found myself at an IWCT (International Wildlife Coalition Trust) event just days later, to raise awareness of Tony Fitzjohn’s work in Tanzania over the last 26 years, continuing George’s legacy. There is something quite wonderful about revisiting a story that moved you, and then so unexpectedly coming across the next (real life) chapter. The fundraising event, attended by IWCT patron Dame Judi Dench, was specifically supporting Fitzjohn’s work with African Wild Dogs – considered a pest to many game reserves and sanctuaries in Africa, due to their high success rate in killing game (and not always eating it…) the Wild Dogs, or African Painted Dogs are killed or driven out by farmers and game keepers alike. Even Shamwari was in the process of selling its Wild Dogs at auction when I arrived to volunteer there in 2008; after their clever hunting technique of chasing animals onto the electric fence to kill them, left several animals a night dead, but the Wild Dogs unable to feed off of them, as they too would end up with a nasty electric shock. The IWCT believes in supporting and protecting the welfare and rights of all animals, but is currently focusing its campaign efforts on dogs in the Philippines (stopping the dog meat trade) and supporting African Wild Dogs, which are too often treated as commodities. The organisation was holding this special evening to raise funds for new tracking collars for a pack of Wild Dogs that the George Adamson Wildlife Preservation Trust has been breeding for re-release in Tanzania. As well as having the acclaimed Dame Judi Dench as a patron, the organisation also boosts the likes of Peter Egan as patron, who works closely with the charity Animals Asia, and is best-known for his Ever Descending Circles fame. I must extend my thanks to Anneka Svenska for the invitation to, unwittingly, discover what happens when you continue to walk with lions, and African animals alike.