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Zamba: The True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived Paperback – June 27, 2006


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Zamba: The True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived + Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived + The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (June 27, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060761334
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060761332
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (65 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #68,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Legendary Hollywood animal trainer and behaviorist Helfer captures an incredible story of love between man and lion that displays all the qualities that made his previous book, Modoc: The True Story of the Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived, so moving. Here Helfer is involved with the subject, which adds emotional depth to a lifelong adventure. Starting with his somewhat brutal childhood on Chicago's South Side, the author deftly develops his story of the spiritual harmony he finds in nature and the violence he sees in the film industry's use of animals. His unique bond with a lion cub he names Zamba grows into a lifetime relationship that includes countless guest stints in movies and television shows, and leads to Helfer's development of a system of animal training "based on love, not fear," called "affection training." It "has revolutionized the way animals are trained and treated in the motion picture industry." The heart of the book is an account of Helfer's trip to Africa to assist Zamba with a starring role in The Lion, where the author's bond with his lion becomes a true spiritual connection that will touch the heart of any animal lover. 8 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–From a young age, Helfer had a way with animals and an urge to work with them. After an inauspicious start as a teen helper in a Los Angeles pet store, he gradually acquired animals that movie studios used in their productions. He was the first Hollywood animal trainer to use affection rather than fear. He showed that his method worked better, and now, of course, it has become commonly accepted. He even turned an orphaned lion cub into a vegetarian for a brief period, to test a theory. Over the years, Zamba appeared in many movies and television commercials and shows, riding to jobs in the back of Helfer's station wagon, uncaged. The author reminds readers that wild animals are never thoroughly predictable and are not house pets; even Zamba surprised him occasionally, although never in a dangerous way. The special bond between these two mammals; Helfer's ideas about animal-human communication and understanding; and the many stories, both humorous and touching, make this a fascinating book.–Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

I highly recommend this book to every one who is an animal lover.
LoriAnn Manesiotis
I picked up this book at a barnes and noble, read the first chapter, and couldn't put it down.
Normalinda Escalante
What an amazing story of true love between a human and an animal!!
Jenncat5

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dkbonnell on August 28, 2005
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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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Kimba W. Lion VINE VOICE on August 24, 2005
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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By JLP on July 6, 2006
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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