Christian was a lion originally purchased by Australians John Rendall and Anthony 'Ace' Bourke from Harrods department store of London in 1969 and ultimately reintroduced to the wild.
Rendall and Bourke (erroneously cited in various sources as Berg), with their girlfriends Jennifer Mary and Unity Jones, cared for the lion where they lived in London — until it was a year old. Christian's increasing size and the increasing cost of his care led Rendall and Bourke to understand they could not keep him in London. When Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, stars of the film Born Free, visited Rendall and Bourke's furniture shop and met Christian — they suggested that Bourke and Rendall ask the assistance of George Adamson, the Kenyan conservationist who, together with his wife Joy, was the subject of their movie. Adamson agreed to help rehabilitate Christian into the wild at his compound at Kora National Reserve.
Adamson introduced Christian to an older lion 'Boy' and subsequently to a female cub Katania in order to form the nucleus of a new pride. Tragedy struck several times: Katiana was possibly devoured by crocodiles at a watering hole. Another female was killed by wild lions. Boy was so injured that he lost his ability to socialize with other lions and humans, and was shot through the heart by Adamson after fatally wounding a man — leaving Christian as the surviving member of the original pride.
Adamson continued his work, and over the course of a year the pride established itself in the region around Kora, with Christian as the head of the pride started by Boy.
First Reunion (filmed)
When Rendall and Bourke were informed by Adamson of Christian's successful reintroduction to the wild (reported in some newspaper articles to be in 1971, and by George Adamson to be 1972), they travelled to Kenya to visit Christian and were filmed in the documentary Christian, The Lion at World's End. According to the documentary, Adamson advised Rendall and Bourke that Christian may not remember them. The film shows the lion at first cautiously approach and then quickly leap gently onto the two men, standing on his hind legs and wrapping his arms around their shoulders, nuzzling their faces. The documentary also shows the female lions, Mona and Lisa, and a foster cub named Supercub welcoming the two men.
Rendall details a final, unfilmed reunion that occurred (reported in some newspaper articles to have been in 1974, and by George Adamson to have been in 1973). This reunion occured without Bourke, and by this time Christian was successfully defending his own pride, had cubs of his own and was about twice the size he was in the earlier reunion video. Adamson advised Rendall that it would most likely be a wasted trip as he had not seen Christian's pride for nine months. However, when he reached Kora, Christian and his pride had returned to Adamson's compound the day before their arrival.
Rendall describes the visit he and George Adamson made:
We called him and he stood up and started to walk towards us very slowly. Then, as if he had become convinced it was us, he ran towards us, threw himself on to us, knocked us over, knocked George over and hugged us, like he used to, with his paws on our shoulders.
The second reunion lasted until the next morning. According to Rendall that was the last anyone saw of Christian.
Adamson counted the days from the late spring 1973 final reunion. He notes in his memoirs that after 97 days, he stopped counting.
A film titled Christian, The Lion at World's End documented the relocation of Christian from England to Kenya and his successful reintroduction to the wild.
A viral video of the first reunion (edited from the documentary) received worldwide attention more than 30 years after the event. As of August 2008 the reunion video, in its various versions, has been viewed over 20 million times. Various news sources have tracked down Rendall and Bourke for their current perspective on the events surrounding their life with Christian.