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Zamba: The True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived Paperback – 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 86 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Reprint edition (2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060761334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060761332
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #151,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ralph Helfer is a well-known Hollywood animal behaviorist who was one of the first to use affection and kindness to train wild animals. He lives in Los Angeles and Kenya, where he leads safari tours.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
When I first began reading this book, I was somewhat concerned for the story began with how badly animals were treated by circus trainers in the 60's, something too painful to read about. But, it was a different era back then, and movies with "Animal Stars" as well as "Circus Stars" drew huge crowds and made big bucks. Therefore, it was comforting to know that there was someone like Ralph Helfer around, not just because he adored and loved animals, but because he was instrumental in utilizing a new tecnique called "affection training" in which to train animals. He was able to do things with animals that others only dreamed of...especially with Zamba, his closest friend of 18 years, who just happened to be a gargantuan male lion.

I believe as Ralph does...that we are just beginning to truly understand what animals think and feel. Anyone with pets can attest to this. Skeptics might say that he trained animals for the wrong reasons, but as I said, it was different era back then, and I am just thankful that there was someone like Ralph who oversaw the humane treatment of animals on movie sets.

The star of this book, however, is Zamba. What an incredible lion and best friend to Ralph. The two of them did indeed have a true bond and love for one another. It occurred to me while reading this book that I had met Ralph's wife who was mentioned in this book, Toni Ringo, as well as his daughter, Tana, at a fundraiser for cheetahs in Orange County a few years ago. Toni was an incredible and beautiful lady who was on her way back to live in Kenya. I didn't know who they were then, nor did I know who Ralph was, but I knew from the beginning of our conversation that they were true animal lovers.

I highly, highly recommend this book. I read it quickly for I didn't want to put it down. I am so happy that Ralph took the time to write this wonderful book. And Zamba, wherever you are, what an inspiration you were back when you were alive, and still are today!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was initially disappointed in this book because I have some experience with lions, and I wanted a deeper insight into Zamba the lion himself than what is presented here. But for the average person, for the person who thinks that animals are purely instinct-driven and cannot be socialized, this is an important book for a number of reasons.

Ralph Helfer revolutionized the training of animals a half a century ago. His "affection training" has become the norm, in spite of what certain money-hungry political action groups would have us believe. Having spent considerable time with both lions and tigers, I can say with confidence that what Helfer says in this book is correct: of course animals respond well to affection. I proved this myself with the wonderful experience of becoming good friends with a tiger that had been very afraid of people.

Zamba is another in a long line of animals that has become famous enough to help prove that there is no such thing as an inherently "wild" species of animal. How an animal behaves toward people depends largely on how well that individual animal has been raised and how well it knows people. This has been shown over and over: see also books titled "A Lion Called Christian" and "Little Tyke".

Just as early childhood development is so very important for people, the socialization of animals depends on the way the animal was raised. If they don't know people and don't know what to expect from people, then they are dangerous. Of course, uneducated people are dangerous to the animals as well. For example, no one should be allowed to approach a tiger without being taught how to say "hello" in tiger-ese. (It's really not that hard, and really very effective.
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Format: Hardcover
Close to the start of the book Mr. Helfer recounts his first encounter with a lion which had been fear trained and nearly loses his arm and his life. However, he realized the lion was just frightened and defending itself. It set him on the first steps to founding a new system of relating to non-domesticated animals that really caught on in the 1960s. The very first beneficiary of this system is Zamba, an abandoned lion cub, who grows into a remarkably gentle, patient and sweet animal. Mr. Helfer details several major experiences with Zamba that includes their first meeting, Zamba's first major movie and trip to Africa, a harrowing episode due to a snow storm, an even more suspenseful escape during a flood, Zamba's departure from the world and a few other experiences they had together. I would have actually liked to hear about many more of these experiences as well as how he refined and developed affection training. Mr. Helfer also raised Gentle Ben and Modoc the Elephant both of whom make cameo appearances. Several times Mr. Helfer critiques his own species quite harshly. There were certainly a few individuals detailed in the book who deserved that condemnation but there were many others who demonstrated bravery, humanity and dedication to animals as well as to people. There were a few relatively minor downsides to the book. Mr. Helfer's writing style is a bit rough around the edges. He makes a few philosophical riffs here and there that aren't anything revolutionary. The author is a bit of a mystic and describes several events which I assumed had some type of magical significance but was not convincing to me. There was actual magic and that was the strong bond between Zamba and Helfer. If you have a fascination with cats especially large ones you'll want to read this book.
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