In 1969 Ace Bourke and John Rendall were two young Australian travellers who had just arrived in London when they bought a lion cub from Harrods department store. It was an impractical “impulse” buy, but while he was a cub they felt they could look after him as well as anyone, and do their best to secure his future. They called him Christian.
Ace and John lived with Christian on the King’s Road, Chelsea and when Christian grew too big they moved to the country until it was arranged for Christian to be returned to the wild in Kenya.
Two documentaries entitled The Lion from World’s End, and Christian the Lion were made about his life in London, his return to Africa, George Adamson assembling a “man-made” pride around Christian, and his rehabilitation back into the African wild. Ace and John also wrote A Lion Called Christian (1971) which was re-published in 2009 with superb photographs by Derek Cattani who documented Christian's early life.
Forty years later the YouTube clip featuring Christian’s unforgettable reunion with Ace and John, a year after his return to Africa, introduced a new world audience who are intrigued and enchanted by Christian’s extraordinary story. With the mutual love and trust he shared with Ace and John, he has become a symbol of the potential of human-animal relationships and the importance and urgency of animal and wildlife conservation.
As well-known author Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson says of the reunion with Christian
“it reminds us that love can transcend any bounds.”