In her first work about life with the lion Elsa, which she and her husband raised after its mother was killed just after birth, Joy Adamson wrote of a long, and frightening, safari.
Toward nightfall we lost our way in the dark. Elsa lay down every few yards, making it very plain that she had had enough. Although she was nearly full-grown, she still liked to suck my thumb when she felt nervous, and there was a lot of thumb-sucking that night. At last some tracer bullets, fired by the advance party, guided us to the camp. When we staggered in after our nightmare march, Elsa refused food and only wanted to be near me. I also could not eat from exhaustion and could well imagine the effort it had cost Elsa to carry on. She, of course, could not know why we were doing such a senseless thing as to struggle across sharp lava at night, and it was only her affection for us and her trust that kept her going. In spite of the hardships she had endured on this safari, in the course of which she had walked well over three hundred miles, the bond between us had only been strengthened. As long as she was with us and knew herself to be loved and secure, she was happy. To feel that we were responsible for such a proud, intelligent animal, who had no other living creature to satisfy her strongly developed need for affection and her gregarious instincts, attached us all the more deeply to her. Sometimes, it is true, she was unwittingly a nuisance; for instance, because we could not leave her in the care of anyone else, we became to some extent her prisoners, but she gave us much in return for these small sacrifices. The difference between her reactions and ours came only from her natural characteristics intended to be developed and used in the normal life of a wild lion. It was very touching to watch her trying to control the strong forces within her and to adapt herself to our way of life in order to please us. Her good-natured temperament was certainly due to part of her character, but part too may have come from the fact that neither force nor frustration was ever used to adapt her to our way of life. For we tried by kindness alone to help her to overcome the differences that lie between our two worlds.
Later she wrote the following as the couple attempted to return Elsa to the wilds:
I took Elsa away from the camp to our tree. Would this be the last time we would see it together? She knew something was wrong; and though I tried to keep to our normal routine and had taken the typewriter along and made the familiar tickings to appease her suspicions, she was not reassured, nor could I type properly for my mind was too upset. Although we had prepared ourselves for this release and hoped it might give Elsa a happier future than she would have living in captivity, it was a different matter when it came to making the break, and actually to cut through our affection and leave her, possibly never to see her again. Elsa must have felt my emotion for she rubbed her silky head against me.
The river flowed slowly in front of us, as it had flowed yesterday and it would flow tomorrow. A hornbill called, some dry leaves fell off the tree and were carried away by the water. Elsa was part of this life. She belonged to nature and not to man We were "man" and we loved her and she had been brought up to love us. Would she be able to forget all that had been familiar to her until this morning? Would she go and hunt when she was hungry? Or would she wait trustfully for our return, knowing that up to now we had never let her down? I had just given her a kiss to reassure her of my affection and to give her a feeling of security, but was it a kiss of betrayal? How would she know that it needed all the strength of my love for her to leave her now and give her back to nature to let her learn to live alone until she might find her pride -- her real pride?