Friday, February 27, 2009

A Lion Reunion, or, I Will Always Love You

Many years ago, I put up the first page on the internet about Christian the Lion, which summarizes his story and includes the famous "reunion" video that snowballed into a worldwide sensation.

It was my hope that people would be moved by the obvious love Christian showed toward the people he hadn't seen for a year. And they were. Christian's story has done wonders for getting people aware of the emotional life of animals, even animals people normally regard as only vicious.

I have discovered another lion reunion story; oddly, it's from almost the same time as Christian's story--around the time Ace and John first got Christian.

At the present time, I only have the sound portion of this film. The film itself is languishing out there somewhere; I can find no references to it other than old TV program listings. This audio player here will let you hear this clip: 

The story behind what you hear is this: a woman in Africa had a preserve where she raised lions, specifically, a couple of lions that appeared in the movie "Born Free" and their offspring. She had a close relationship with her lions, but there got to be too many of them and she had to find new homes for three of them.

TV personality Jack Paar, who said he had a "thing" for lions, heard about this and arranged to bring the three lions to a game park in Florida. About a year after the lions were introduced and acclimated to their new home, he brought the woman over from Africa to see how the lions were faring.

The big difference between this reunion and Christian's reunion is that the men accompanying the former lion owner are quite skittish about the whole thing. I suppose it's because in Florida they have things they don't have in Africa, like lawsuits.

The sound clip begins with her calling to the lions, naming two of the three, Sonja and Lisa. Then you hear Jack Paar frantically telling her to get back into the car--he was on the same microphone cable as her and had to follow wherever she went.

The next voice is one of the people from the park, describing the situation, as the lions happily and lovingly greet the woman they knew so well for so long.

The skittish folk cut the reunion short, and the sad farewell she says to the lions is heartbreaking. You can hear the tears in her voice.

It is heartbreaking to me, too, that people are afraid to let love like this exist.

If anyone out there has a full copy of this film, "Jack Paar and His Lions", please let me know.

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