As Friends of Conservation celebrates its annual gala, guest speaker and passionate wildlife advocate John Rendall talks Christian the Lion and the enduring importance of education.
The YouTube clip of Christian’s reunion with John Rendall and Ace Bourke has been viewed more than 100 million times.
You’ve probably seen the YouTube clip, a grainy film segment from 1971 that’s been viewed more than 100 million times: Two lanky, long-haired Aussies share a joyful reunion with Christian, the lion they took home from Harrod’s department store and raised in London before releasing him back into the wild in Kenya a year later. “When you have a lion cub by itself,” explains Rendall of their extraordinary bond, “it’s going to look for companionship. So we became Christian’s family.”
Rendall has made it his life’s work to promote wildlife conservation ever since—and that passion brings him to Chicago for Friends of Conservation’s annual gala, where he will serve as guest speaker and wild kingdom ambassador. “This species of animal is threatened because of environmental problems and the lack of land,” notes Rendall. “When we took Christian to Kenya there were 400,000 lions in Africa; today there are less than 20,000.” He adds, “Education is vital—that’s why the women’s community center built by [Friends of Conservation founder] Jorie Butler Kent near the gates of Mkomazi National Park is so important.”
Does Rendall ever tire of talking about his youthful adventure with the lion cub? “Oh no. It’s a good thing. Every now and then someone says, ‘The bloody lion made me cry again.’ I say, ‘Good!’” The FOC Conservation Ball takes place October 21 at the Four Seasons Hotel, 120 E. Delaware Pl. Tickets $400.