Virginia McKenna

Virginia McKenna is perhaps best known for her role as Joy Adamson in Born Free, one of many films she made with her late husband Bill Travers. A leading British star of the 1950s and ’60s, her other films include Carve Her Name with Pride, A Town Like Alice, The Smallest Show on Earth and Ring of Bright Water. Her stage career has ranged from Perdita in Peter Brook’s 1951 production of A Winter’s Tale to Gertrude in the RSC’s Hamlet in 1984. In the 1970s she starred in West End productions of the musicals A Little Night Music and The King and I (opposite Yul Brynner). Bill and Virginia started Zoo Check in 1984 with their eldest son, Will, after the premature death of Pole Pole, an elephant they had come to know during the filming of An Elephant Called Slowly eighteen years before. Pole Pole had been captured from the wild by the then Kenya Government as a gift to London Zoo. Zoo Check later became the registered charity the Born Free Foundation. Virginia has travelled extensively over the years visiting zoos about which the Born Free Foundation has received complaints. Wherever possible, she accompanies rescued big cats to Born Free’s sanctuaries in India and South Africa. Virginia’s books include Into the Blue (1992), Some of my Friends Have Tails (1971) and On Playing with Lions (1966), which she co-wrote with Bill. She was also a contributor to Beyond the Bars: the Zoo Dilemma (1987). She has four children, nine grandchildren and a great-grandson.