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George Adamson, a senior game warden in Kenya, kills a man-eating lion and is forced to shoot the lion's mate when she attacks him. He then brings home three orphaned female lion cubs. His wife, Joy, rears the baby animals, overcoming their initial refusal to accept milk, and becomes particularly attached to the smallest, Elsa. When it is time to send the cubs to a zoo, Joy is reluctant to part with Elsa, so George sends only the other two cubs. Elsa becomes a member of the family, freely roaming through the house and the vicinity but rarely venturing into the jungle. When Elsa reaches full size, the district commissioner points out that her presence has become a major concern and suggests that she should be sent to a zoo. Joy rebels against the idea of Elsa living in confinement, and she wins 2 months to teach Elsa to fend for herself in the jungle. Since the lion is completely domesticated and has never had to kill for food or defend herself, the Adamsons have a difficult time making Elsa understand what is expected of her. In her first introduction to hunting, she is chased by a warthog. The Adamsons finally succeed in reconditioning Elsa to life in the wild, however, and at the next mating season she goes off alone into the jungle. The following year, after a trip to England, the Adamsons return to Kenya. One day Elsa appears at their camp with three of her own cubs. She spends the day with her friends and then returns to her mate.