In writing the story of Elsa, I have made
Much use of my husband’s records, as
Well as including his letters in the last
Chapter, and I would like to say that it is
Therefore partly his book as well as mine.
There are several other people to whom
It also owes much: Lord William Percy
Who has written the preface and honored
Elsa with his friendship; Captain Charles
Pitman, the former Game Warden of
Uganda, who has contributed the foreword
And given me valuable information;
Cecil Webb, formerly Curator of Mammals
At Regent’s Park Zoo, and Director
Of Dublin Zoo, who has helped me with
The revision of the text; Dr. E. G. Appelman,
Director of Blydorp, who checked
Certain zoological data. I would also like
To thank Mrs. Robert Atkinson and Mr.
Adrian House for taking such a personal
Interest in the production of the book.
But I owe
most to Mrs. George Villiers
Without whose help and advice, particularly
In regard to the collation of the
Material, this record of Elsa’s life would
Never have appeared in its present form.
WHETHER FACT or fiction lies at the root of tales which
Credit the Assyrians with having trained lions as cheetahs,
Greyhounds or retrievers are to-day trained to hunt in cooperation
With man, the Adamsons can certainly claim to
Be the first for several thousand years to have made an
Approach to achieving that result with a lioness-and that,
Not by any deliberate attempt to do so, but merely by allowing
The animal to grow up in their company and never
Allowing her nature to he subjected to the strains of being
Confined in any way.
The history of their lioness ” Elsa,” reared from earliest
Infancy to three years old and finally returned to a wild life,
Forms a unique and illuminating study in animal psychology
-a subject to which the last half-century has seen a
Wholly new approach. Partly, no doubt, in revolt against
The tendency of nineteenth-century writers to attribute to
Animals anthropomorphic qualities of intelligence, sentiment,
And emotion, the twentieth century has seen the
Development of a school of thought according to which
The springs of animal behaviour are to be sought in terms
Of ” conditioned reflexes,” ” release mechanisms,” and the
Rest of a wholly new vocabulary which is regarded as the
.gateway to a clearer understanding of animal psychology.
To another way of thinking which cannot reconcile that
Mechanical conception with the diverse character, intelligence,
And capabilities exhibited by different individuals
Of the same species, that gateway to understanding seems
As far removed from truth as the anthropomorphism of
A previous generation, and more apt to raise a further barrier
To a sympathetic understanding of animal behaviour than
A revelation of it.
To whatever way of thinking the reader of Elsa’s
History may lean, it provides a record of absorbing interest
Depicting the gradual development of a controlled character
Which few would have credited as possible in the case
Of an animal potentially as dangerous as any in the world.
That such a creature when in a highly excited state, with
Her blood up after a long struggle with a bull buffalo,
And while still on top of it, should have permitted a man to
Walk up to her and cut the dead beasts throat to satisfy
His religious scruples, and then lend her assistance in
Pulling the carcass out of a river is an astonishing tribute
No less to her intelligence than other self-control.