It took a crazy mind to raise her.After she was orphaned,few were crazy enough to give her a chance of survival.And in the wild,even the best's survival is not guaranteed.Brute strength and muscle,always carry the day,though even that, is just a fraction of the requirements.Add to that some top-notch brains and an unparalleled scheming prowess,and maybe then,just maybe,survival can be considered with a little bit more confidence.Especially if you belong to a species of outright winners,The Lion.But Elsa was different.She joined the fray as an underdog,for no one stood for her.
The lions,being too busy fending for their respective prides,would obviously have no time for a lone cub,that stood no chance,in a jungle that seizes the slightest opportunity to embarrass the lion and all that belongs to it.An extra burden,therefore,when already burdened,that's a no,no.Ifanything,its the opposite that would be most appealing.You do not swim into a storm,you navigate around it.Unless you are an eagle.But these were lions which,in order to eat,someone or something else has to die.A life has to depart,for another to be sustained.There are no two ways about it.You either take,or you are taken.Period.Simple rule of the wild.And hunger pangs, know nothing about patience,as a virtue.When they strike,everything else has to give way.All activity comes to a standstill,and give way to just one activity-hunting for prey.
Now the trouble with Elsa,she was born prey,though she belonged to a renowned family of hunters.Most prides,will have nothing to do with a weakling.A cub that is on her way out.If hunger doesn't get her,the hyenas will.Or the fox,on her way to the beauty pageant contest.She was that defenseless.Though males will kill a cub the way you snap your finger,they took no particular interest in Elsa.She wasn't noticeable.She couldn't even make the wild grass sway,this side or that.Even when she approached,it was like a fly.Hardly anyone's immediate concern.No body was rattled by her entry.Like some scholar said,you do not respond to a mosquito with a hammer.The males were too busy with the real,wild issues(A king will not sit on his throne to settle a domestic quarrel,when there is the issue of a meteor,that is on a collision course with his Kingdom).
Elsa,was a baby whose odds were placed mightily against her.For her biggest foe,he who took her mother's life,when she was only a few days old,was also her biggest defender.I say this because when the gentle conservationist,George Adamson, shot her Mum,it was so he could live.It was in self-defense.Or he would have made dinner for Elsa and her sisters.He'd realize later though,that the reason this lioness went for him,was because,back in that grassland,lay her little cubs.She was only doing what she does best-defend her family.So Elsa's Mum, lunged at George Adamson,because she felt he'd come too close for comfort.And George,who years later,ironically also died by the bullet,missed nothing with his rifle from a few hundred yards,leave alone ten or twenty,like in this case.So when Mum made that fatal lunge, in an instant,Elsa and her sister's,'Big One' and 'Lustica' were orphaned.The odds,like i said, were stacked against these three.And even though the imposing Rotterdam Zoo made room for 'Big one' and 'Lustica', Elsa had to stay on and fight for her place.The Dutch,were not about to deny us the privilege of hosting the most famous lioness,since the man eaters of Tsavo.These,being now permanent residents of some museum in Chicago, Illinois, as if The East African Railway,which gave them their notoriety and fame, was constructed in the United States.We were keeping our Elsa.
There was nothing about her that suggested fame.No one could have told that she would pack movie Theaters, decades later,half-a world away,in Las Vegas and Hollywood,Los Angeles.Or prod the world to move millions of dollars,in conservation efforts,like it did,not so long afterwards,for the endangered tiger in Sri Lanka,also half a world away.Even George and Joy,attributed huge chunks of their fame to this elegant Lioness.Their cause's destiny and effectiveness was effectively transformed single-handedly by the amazing feats accomplished by her.The Big Cat diary,The Marsh pride,all these owe their fame and success to Elsa,for she made it before them,thus swinging the world's spot-light to the big cat of Africa. The Adamsons were heard more,listened to more,respected more.Even studied more.The Leakey's almost pale in comparison,their selfless efforts not withstanding.Because,unlike The Adamsons,they had no Elsa,of their own.Tragic.
Now,when three years after her mum's death,months after her own successful re-introduction into the wild, Elsa showed up with cubs of her own,at the Adamsons enclosure,nothing could have been more gratifying to the conservationist.Not all that begins on the downward,spirals further downward, unless you let it.You stop digging,if you wake up to the fact that you are already in a hole,as a sign that,for you,the only place you are headed is upwards.He beamed with pride,and felt he'd repaid his debt,though not in full.He'd killed Elsa's Mum,yes in self-defense.But he'd raised Elsa the best way he knew how,and here were the cubs to prove it.Wow.
Hope In Adversity
It took a grotesque picture of a starving child,with a vulture lurking in the background in wait,to swing the world into action in unprecedented proportions,to save Ethiopia,and the Sub Sahara region,way back in the nineties.In the absence of that picture,the world,as we know it,was a mere two weeks away from an irreparable imbalance on humanity and the Eco-system,albeit largely in one region.I do not know if this particular child lived to see another day,or if she made dinner for the vulture.Yet even if she didn't,still she saved many more.Millions of lives were saved,by her predicament.Sometimes dawn may take long in coming.But it always comes eventually.If the Ethiopian kid didn't make it,the current generation of Ethiopian leaders,Long-distance athletes,soldiers,all probably owe their current thrive to her.And the photographer who took this picture,like the pilot who dropped that load aboard the plane christened 'Enola Gay' on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,was forever transformed by what he saw.So much so,that years later,when he couldn't handle the guilt,Kevin Carter,a South African,tragically chose to take his own life.Only a few,in a world of billions, even know of the existence of that kind of human suffering,leave alone being witnesses to it.And those who witness it,are never the same again.
Back to Elsa.She's buried inside Meru National Park.Or rather,the park is buried inside her.Her genes roam the earth,refusing to fade away,even as mankind keeps encroaching on what's rightfully theirs.Every time a pride conquers a valley,a hill,a grassland,i like to think its because Elsa chose to live.And God knew the reason why he sent George in Elsa's way.And Joy.And other unsung heroes of the wild,who trained and cared for Elsa,forcing her to go out there and hunt even when all she wanted was her peace, and saw her blossom into the one Lioness that,even after her re-introduction to the wild,refused to completely sever her ties to man.She went on to conquer the wild too,and only a bout of Babesis,more like Malaria to humans, could put her to sleep,on Adamson's lap.
A Hotel's Honor For The Hunter.
Now her name,emboldened in eternal gold,is etched firmly in the annals of history.And life itself.
And like her offspring,now roaming the grasslands of The Serengeti,where George had her 'children' moved to,so will we.Multiply.Grow.Spread,far and wide.She defied death,when she stood zero chance of wild survival,now she's defying the normal way of doing things.For even in death,she lives more.She rose from obscurity to celebrity status,and surgically healed an ailing tourism industry,then on its deathbed,swinging the world's attention to this East African nation,richly endowed.
In tribute to this great addition to life,and every one else,who beats the odds, overturns the patterns,the sequence and the normal,who challenges the 'status quo' while daring to dream,stands the elegant posture of Elsa Hotel, Meru.Kenya.