For Ralph Helfer, working with animals has always been a lifelong dream. Starting out working in a small pet shop, Helfer learned all about the cruelties and abuse that can happen while training and working with animals. Vowing to make a difference any way he knew how, Helfer made it a mission to do whatever he could to change the way animals were treated both in private conditions and in and on the farms of those who raised wild animals for commercial gain.
Now one of Hollywood’s top animal behaviorists, Helfer has completely revolutionized the way wild animals are treated and trained, using something he likes to call “affection training.” It is used by professional trainers, zoologists, and even many animal lovers who want to form a better bond with their pet. But in the beginning, Helfer needed a guinea pig, an animal to help him prove to the world that love and trust are much more powerful tools than anger and abuse.
Ironically, that “guinea pig” came in the form of a four month old lion cub named Zamba. When Zamba came into Helfer’s life, he was well on his way to achieving his boyhood dream. He had created a wild animal haven where everything from lizards to elephants received the very best care possible. He had thought about and developed his “affection training” theory, though still lacked the one animal to help him prove his case. Having wanted a lion since he was a boy, Hefler was confident that Zamba was the animal for the job.
Over the next 18 years, Zamba helped Helfer prove his theory ten fold. Zamba and Helfer did everything together. Where there was one, there was the other…and throughout the course of this beautiful and poignant story, it’s easy to tell that both of their lives were changed for the better.
Despite Zamba’s wild popularity in the 1960’s and 1970’s (he was a Hollywood star, gracing the silver screen in The Lion, The Greatest Show on Earth, and several hundered commericals and TV shows), his biggest achievement may have been his abilitiy to form a powerful and spiritual bond with the man who raised him. Zamba: The True Story of the Greatest Lion that Ever Lived is a story of friendship, trust, and the emmense raw power of love.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.