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Joy Adamson was a conservationist who pioneered the movement to preserve African wildlife. She won renown with her books about raising the lion cub Elsa.
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The film starred Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna as George and Joy Adamson. By the time of the film's release, Adamson had turned much of her attention to a young cheetah, which she named Pippa. Helping Pippa learn to be a wild cheetah became the subject of the 1969 book The Spotted Sphinx.
While on the big screen, George and Joy were depicted as a happy, loving couple, the pair became estranged over the years, and they stopped living together as early as 1971. According to some stories,
they were divided over their conservation work. George preferred to be in the field, while Joy did more lecturing and writing. There are also reports that Joy Adamson had an intense personality and did not get along well with others much of the time. One associate told People that Adamson "was so stubborn and unyielding and people did not live up to her expectations."
Adamson spent the last few years of her life exploring her interest in leopards. She was given a leopard cub in 1976, which she named Penny, and she lived in an area where she could observe other leopards in the wild. In addition to her animal studies, Adamson took the time to write her own autobiography, 1979's The Searching Spirit.
On the night of January 3, 1980, Adamson took her usual evening stroll. She never returned home. Only a short distance away, her body was found on the road. It looked like she had been killed in an animal attack at first. A few days later, the authorities determined that Adamson had been stabbed to death. A former employee was arrested and convicted of the crime.
Many were shocked by Adamson's tragic death. The World Wildlife Fund was among those who expressed sadness at her untimely passing. In a statement, the organization praised her for her "ability to present wild animals in such a way that people could relate to them" and credited her with helping "wildlife everywhere." Shortly after her death, Adamson's final book, Queen of Shaba, came out, which detailed her studies on leopards.
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