One day, Ralph Helfer, a celebrated animal behaviorist, received a surprising phone call. His close friends had found a young lion near death by the Zambezi River in Zambia and had rescued him and brought him back to the States. Ralph had often spoken of wanting to raise a lion from a young age — he had been developing a philosophy of training animals based on love instead of fear, which he termed “affection training.” Weeks later, Zamba, then a two-month-old cub, arrived.
As Helfer peeked into Zamba’s box, he saw a small lion cub tilt his head, wait a single beat, then amble right into his arms. Hugging Helfer’s neck with his soft paws, Zamba collapsed on his chest, got comfortable, and fell asleep, their faces touching. They didn’t move for the next two hours. Zamba was home.
For the next eighteen years, Zamba would appear in many motion pictures, on television, and in the pages of magazines. Along with Helfer’s other famous animal actors — including Modoc the circus elephant and Gentle Ben the bear — Zamba proved Helfer’s theories resoundingly correct, and affection training revolutionized the way animals are trained and treated in the motion picture industry.
Through both happy and tough times the bond between Helfer and Zamba developed into the most important of their lives, and Zamba is now enshrined in Helfer’s heart and the memories of moviegoers everywhere as the greatest lion that ever lived. With stories that range from the hilarious to the incredibly sad and poignant, Zamba will give any Lion King fan a new hero and touch every animal lover’s heart.