Born Free USA Co-Founder, Legendary Actress Virginia Mckenna, Featured in Winning Film
“Elsa: The Lioness That Changed the World” (Brian Leith Productions/BBC/WNET) captured the prestigious Conservation Hero prize at the 11th Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival Awards last week. In the competitive world of documentaries, the work and legacy of pioneering conservationists George and Joy Adamson won plaudits from judges and the public.
The story of how the Adamsons returned Elsa the lioness to a wild and free life in the face of widespread skepticism was the subject of a best-selling book published in the early 1960s. It has been widely credited with changing public perceptions about lions and sparked a wildlife revolution where wild animals are, today, recognized as individuals with many of the characteristics — such as affection, remorse, regret and love — previously thought to be the exclusive preserve of humans.
Virginia McKenna, OBE, the legendary actress who co-starred in the 1966 classic movie “Born Free” with her late husband, Bill Travers, and co-founded the Born Free Foundation, is featured in the film from locations in the remote north of Kenya where the Adamsons carried out much of their work.
In a statement sent from her home near London, McKenna said, “It really is an extraordinary tribute to the pioneering work of George and Joy Adamson that their story, the story of Elsa, continues to touch millions of people 50 years later. It touched my heart when, with my late husband, Bill, we made ‘Born Free.’ It reaches across the world today through the work of the Born Free Foundation and Born Free USA. It has touched the hearts of the jury through this remarkable film — so carefully produced by Brian Leith and Clare Brook and sensitively directed by Sacha Mirzoeff — in which I am honored to have had a role. Elsa truly was the Lioness That Changed the World – and she still is. Her legacy is burning bright – long may it do so!”
The award-winning actress, well-known for her roles opposite such luminaries as Yul Brynner, Gary Cooper, Peter Finch and Paul Scofield, is also internationally recognized for her campaigning work for wildlife, particularly the establishment in 1984 of the Born Free Foundation and subsequently Born Free USA, charities that today fight against the suffering of wild animals in captivity and champion the conservation of endangered species. She is also the author of the bestselling book “The Life in my Years,” her critically acclaimed memoirs, and recently was voted one of the most inspirational people of all time in a Daily Telegraph (United Kingdom) poll.
Born Free USA (BFUSA) is a nationally recognized leader in animal welfare and wildlife conservation. Through litigation, legislation and public education, BFUSA leads vital campaigns against animals in entertainment, exotic “pets,” trapping and fur, and destructive international wildlife trade. BFUSA’s Primate Sanctuary in Texas is home to more than 500 primates rescued from laboratories, roadside zoos and private possession. BFUSA brings to America the message of “compassionate conservation,” the vision of the United Kingdom-based Born Free Foundation, established in 1984 by Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the iconic film “Born Free,” along with their son Will, now CEO of both organizations. BFUSA’s mission is to end suffering of wild animals in captivity, conserve threatened and endangered species, and encourage compassionate conservation globally.
Media Contact: Rodi Rosensweig, (203) 270-8929; firstname.lastname@example.org.