It is almost exactly 40 years since two young Australians had what has become a famous encounter with a lion in the depths of the African bush.
John Rendall and Anthony Bourke had come across "Christian" late in 1969, at what was then a zoo in the upmarket London department store, Harrods.
Alan Johnston speaks to John Rendall about their decision to release him into the wild in Kenya and the extraordinary moment that became a YouTube sensation.
United States


00:00:00hello and thank you for downloading witness from the BBC world service and it's more than forty years since two young Australians borderline Cup on a whim in London Alan Johnston explains how they and the animal went on to become a you tube sensation it is nineteen sixty nine
00:00:21and two Australian friends John Randall and Anthony ace Burke have just arrived in London they've already found working somewhere to live and now they're exploring the city they decide to look round the famous department still Haaretz I'm back in those days it sold exotic animals John Randle then
00:00:42in his mid twenties remembers walking in to the zoo's on the second floor all in the center of it with these two beautiful beautiful lined cups Christian instantly the mile was called Marcus then but we not quite sure the prices but he became Christian very very quickly and
00:01:00he had a nature that was instantly attractive you could see he was not frightened he was not distressed he was just above the door he just did through people you couldn't attract his attention he was just completely oblivious to us and that is very very irresistible and how
00:01:19quickly did you arrive at the remarkable decision to buy yourself this line a short time Harrods we're not selling him to the first person who wanted him Harris insisted that we came each afternoon to to play with him when the store closed so it took us a few
00:01:38weeks before we could actually taking away but by then we had realize what we were taking on so we walked out to the store with him on a lead and I'm guessing he was the size of a very very large cats at that stage he wait thirty five
00:01:53pounds and yes he was a winner looks good solid solid dog people listening to this again to say that you were mad you it taking this line back to your home in west London if you were worried about yourselves and what about the danger to your friends the
00:02:11call is to the flat to to milkman two kids on the street to the general public customers in the shop the shop below %HESITATION below your flat when you were at you kept running around in that will we had to double guess all the time thinking now what
00:02:26is going to happen music now is someone going to come in the door now is someone going to bring a child is will they have a dog whatever it was it double guessing to make sure that the situation did not arise and I'm very proud to say that
00:02:40it didn't happen you could see was a gentle gentle creature and Kristin the line wasn't moving just anyway he'd moved into the king's road and in the last days of the sixties this was the heart of swinging London Janice all the Chelsea neighborhood was home to rock stars
00:03:09and celebrities fashion design and in this relaxed conventional sort of place Christians seem to fifteen he drank too many admiring visits to the trendy furniture shop with John worked and the young mind started to become something of a celebrity himself would television appearances when he called the B.
00:03:31B. C. studios all security decided that all the gold in the building the regulations said nothing about alliance and Christian welcome the we have to wait Christian up many mornings this somebody Blinky little line that come out and have his first meal which was a liquid meal of
00:03:54porridge and things then we take him up to the garden for have a bit of a run how often I was enough a very lazy animals in a they don't have to be given a huge amount of exercise they come back to the shop we go to sleep
00:04:07and then unity would come in in the afternoon this one individual is this wonderful girl unity who'd had a Linus in rhyme used to come in and play with him and they'd be down in the basement romping around dragging old mattresses having a fabulous time and then there
00:04:23would be time for his supper and he'd come up into the shop and he'd be in the shop wandering around for the you know the rest of the evening I was sort of character personality was emerging in Christian as he padded around flattened and the shop beneath way
00:04:39you what we realize that we were living with an incredibly complex intelligent animals have a sense of humor he was very observant and always looking always reacting to things sometimes creating situations where he would %HESITATION want to play and he would make it look as if you were
00:04:57hiding from him you were aware of being in the presence of this really intelligent animal was there ever a single moment when you were scared of Christian in the flat he did grab a further build one day which he was not going to give back ladies yeah he's
00:05:15not all these said no I'm not giving that back but you know it wasn't an attack he was just saying right no this is mine but it was a glimpse into the wild side absolutely Christian was now nearly a year all he already weighed as much as a
00:05:30man and he was growing fast it was definitely time to find a more secure surroundings than his flat in Chelsea eventually and experts in Lyon behavior George Adamson agreed to try to release them into the wild so he was flown to Africa room gradually introduced his natural habitats
00:05:51in northern Kenya a year later John Randall in ace Burke went out to see how Christian was doing would he remember them how would he react just a few weeks earlier another line being re introduced to the bush in the same area had killed a man in great
00:06:11excitement we stood the bottom of this hill and waited to Christian came over the brow and the moment we saw him recognized him of calls %HESITATION now much heavier two hundred and fifty odd pounds and he starts walking very very slowly down towards us curiously not stalking us
00:06:31if he'd been set the body language was of curiosity not attack and that is the kind of key to that reunion you can see Christian thinking is at them is it then he slowly slowly walking down and eventually we couldn't resist and called him and that's when we
00:06:50called him that's when he took off and you see that sprint down the hill and leaping into our moms and of course he's very vocal he's making all these wonderful now on our around noises and it was a euphoric moment really that's the two Australians hog and played
00:07:09and wrestled with Christian wild lionesses were accompanying him trotted up and joined in the fun the whole scene was captured on film and decades later it surfaced on the internet set to music tens of millions of people around the world being moved by the images of the six
00:07:42group re re union the revival in the African bush of an unlikely friendship forged in faraway London in the recently re published book aligned called Christian John Randall and ace Burke had knowledge that back in nineteen sixty nine they were naive they concede that buying exotic animals only
00:08:04fuels the trafficking of them and this kind of trade is now outlawed in Britain today John Randall says nobody should try to raise a line in an urban environment in the way that he did the dangers are obvious but Joan was profoundly influenced by his contact with Christian
00:08:23he became interested in conservation work and today he's heavily involved with the George Adamson wildlife preservation trust as for Christian his re introduction to the wild was successful he was last heard of early in nineteen seventy three crossing the Tana river and heading north and it's very likely
00:08:46that today the reliance prowling the canyon bush who were descendants of Christian the lion from London Alan Johnston for details of our complete range of downloads and our terms of use go to BBC world service dot com slash put costs

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