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Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Zamba: The True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived       By Ralph Helfer
Book Review: Dr. Hari Nair

When Ralph Helfer, now one of Hollywood's top animal behaviorists, first began working, he was shocked by the cruelty that was accepted practice in the field. He firmly believed in "affection training" -- that love, not fear, should be the basis of any animal's development, even when dealing with the most dangerous of creatures. Then Zamba came into his life -- an adorable four-month-old lion cub that went on to prove Helfer's theories resoundingly correct.
Over the next eighteen years, Zamba would thrive and grow, and go on to star in numerous motion pictures and television shows -- all the while developing a deep and powerful bond of love and affection with the man who raised him. By turns astonishing, hilarious, and poignant, Zamba is not only the unforgettable story of the relationship that Helfer would come to consider one of the most important in his life but also that of the amazing career and adventures of the greatest lion in the world.
Summary: MUST read for animal lovers and mystics
This story is an absolute MUST read for animal lovers of all ages.

When I was about 9 years old I read Toni Ringo Helfer's The Gentle Jungle. It has been one of my favorite books ever since and I am now 37 (the only book I saved from childhood)! It's still on my shelf, yellowed and falling apart, and I wish it would be re-editioned. So on that note when I saw MODOC I purchased it immediately, and yesterday I ran across this book about Zamba. Both Modoc and Zamba were written about in the Gentle Jungle, but Zamba was my favorite. Those of you who have a deep love and respect for wild animals will ADORE this book.

Ralph Helfer is a special special soul, and far ahead of his time on so many levels. Although everyone who met Zamba when he was alive was changed, I dont think the world was open enough to experience this story until now, and thankfully here it IS. Mr. Helfer fits in, in my opinion, with the mystic teachers of all types who have come to the forefront today in all areas of expertise.

Several people have criticized Mr. Helfer's writing (and I'll admit Toni is a better writer) but the writing really doesnt detract from the whole of the book. I have read several of Jane Goodall's books, and found her writing to be VERY dull, and hard to get through, much more so than ZAMBA. AND we all know how important Ms. Goodall is. Whatever you think of the writing, the story here is very important. And if you can get through the parts in the middle of the book which veer off Zamba's story into other parts of the larger picture, you will be moved by this book.

NO ONE did things quite like the Helfers, and I wonder why we don't hear more about their contribution as pioneers in affection training still today. It's certain we have to share the earth with animals, but many common people cannot relate to conservation in a far-away country like Africa, for example. For them the animals arent "real" in the right way.

This story opens that door. Ralph does not make Zamba into a person. He simply writes about Zamba's beautiful heart and soul, and their relationship, lion-to-human, and all the while Zamba is portrayed as what he is--a LION. Mr. Helfer does not glamorize his experiences. He emphasizes that his animals are WILD above all else. Even Zamba.

If not for people like Ralph Helfer some people would have no way of truly getting close to wild nature and learning to RESPECT it and know that it FEELS and LOVES and is worthy of life. WHY is it so hard for some people to accept the fact that animals have complex emotions... they love, they grieve, the same as us. We can learn from them. Scientists and conservationists can teach all they want, keeping things "clinical", but for your average person, it's not enough. Mr. Helfer often refers to the way humans treat each other and the reflection of the way they treat animals. So true. We refuse to let love in, and this is reflected in how we treat others. But violent prisoners have their hard shells broken by the unconditional love of a dog.

Without a story that hits close to our hearts, for many of us, we cannot relate. Just as it wasnt enough for some people to show concern for Orcas until they saw Free Willy. That's the reality of it. We need to hear stories like ZAMBA. They offer us a deeper, and real understanding of animals. They have souls and they love. Books like this are very VERY important