Tony Fitzjohn, conservationist who brought lions back into the wild and helped save the black rhino – obituary
Anthony Raymond Fitzjohn was born July 7, 1945 and adopted as a baby. His biological mother was a Waaf and his father was a married RAF man; it was a wartime affair.
Raised in North London by Leslie Fitzjohn, a banker, and his wife Hilda, a charity volunteer, he attended Mill Hill School in London on a scholarship.
“He was always a very striking individual,” recalls former Labor MP Bob Marshall-Andrews, chairman of the George Adamson Wildlife Trust and lifelong friend who played rugby with Fitzjohn at school. “And he was always a maverick. Anyone who knew him at the time would have said, “He will either be a huge success or the complete opposite.”
After leaving school, Fitzjohn worked for Express Dairies and then took an Outward Bound course where he met a man who had worked as a ranger in the Serengeti.
It inspired him to travel to Africa where he drove a bus to Cape Town and then hitchhiked to Kenya, where he met Joy Adamson, who was setting up her Elsa Trust at Lake Naivasha. She introduces him to her husband George and to Kora, where he does a bit of everything – driver, pilot, mechanic, porter – and is constantly surrounded by lions.
At one point Fitzjohn was responsible for two-year-old Christian, a captive-bred cub who had been purchased from Harrods by two young Australians and brought to Kora to be rehabilitated in the wild.
Christian rose to fame when a YouTube clip was released of the reunion between him and his owners after a year in Africa. “In appearance and temperament,” wrote George Adamson, “Tony was Christian’s counterpart. camp without warning, for weeks, and materialize again just as unexpectedly.
“There the parallel ended, because his dexterity with girlfriends was in a different league than Christian, and I never found Christian with a bottle on his elbow…”