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Zamba: The True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived

4.26  ·  Rating Details ·  1,067 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
When Ralph Helfer, now one of Hollywood's top animal behaviorists, first began working, he was shocked by the cruelty that was accepted practice in the field. He firmly believed in "affection training" -- that love, not fear, should be the basis of any animal's development, even when dealing with the most dangerous of creatures. Then Zamba came into his life -- an adorable ...more
ebook, 288 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published July 1st 2005)
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Alice Yes if you liked this make sure to read Modoc as well
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Bark's Book Nonsense
I enjoyed this book much more than Modoc because it seems truer a story. As much as I enjoyed Modoc it read like a smashing together of events contrived by author Helfer.

Some backstory here, Helfer didn't come across Modoc the elephant until her later years and when he wrote the book telling about her life he recreated her past story based on interviews and, dare I say it, his own imagination. So parts of that book read like a fairytale to me. This one seems filled with true emotion and even th
Jen Kayna (Habitat for Happiness)
This is a lovely (true) story of Zamba, a lion rescued from Africa and raised with a compassionate approach to training, which was unheard of in the 1950s. The book contains a collections of mini-stories about Zamba's adventures with his owner Ralph. For the most part it was a very light read, but it did have a few very sad, heartbreaking moments. I would have loved for the book to go into more detail about how specifically Zamba was trained, what his day to day life was like and more detail abo ...more
Such a beautiful story of a true relationship with a man and a lion. It is a book that you won't want to put down. Needless to say, the end is a tear jerker.
Dee Toomey
Nov 07, 2010 Dee Toomey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Zamba...the story of a man and his lion. But yet, this is a story of more then that. This is the story of kindred spirits, of uncondiitonal love, and of what life will be like when, indeed, one day, "the lion will lay down with the lamb". Ralph Helfer lived his life fulfilling his calling to raise and train animals not with fear and over-bearance, but with gentleness, love, and respect. Zamba the lion was the product of Helfer's "affection training" and a more lovable lion never lived. If you lo ...more
One of the best books I have read in my whole life!!!

Zamba is a lion cub who is taken in by Ralph Helfer, the author. This story explains the bond between the two and their encounters throughout Zamba's lifetime. Ralph also tells about his Affection Training Theory and how Zamba helps to prove this method the way to train animals.

If you liked this book youi might also try:

Modoc:The True Story Of The Greatest Elephant That Ever Lived by Ralph Helfer
Wesley The Owl by Stacy O'Brien
April Hochstrasser
After such a stunning book as Modoc, I expected the same from Zamba. However, it was very preachy, about training animals with affection rather than fear, and very self-agrandizing for the author to make the claims that he did. Not much content, especially compared to Modoc. I wouldn't waste my time.
Brenda E Gould
This author also wrote Modoc ( a true story about the friendship between a man & elephant), I loved that book.
This book reveals the affectionate training method used or training exotic animals and about the amazing Lion- Zamba. Reflects nature's harmony & how we can strive to achieve it. Zamba was truly a king.

Downside, the author spends a lot of time touting his philosophy and the stories of Zamba seem anecdotal, rather than the primary focus of this book.
A good read about Ralph Helfer and Africa USA, his collection of animals used in filming TV shows and movies, mainly back in the 60's. I thought certain parts of the book were fictionalized for more dramatic effect than really happened after reading the book, "The Gentle Jungle" which was written by his wife several decades previous. So I'd recommend reading that book rather than Zamba.
Nadine Smith
Mar 15, 2017 Nadine Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: chosen-for-me, 2017
I enjoyed the story of Zamba very much. Amazing what animals are capable of doing and understanding.
Kody Simpson
Mar 02, 2017 Kody Simpson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Truly amazing story :). Sad ending :(
Melissa Conner
Oct 28, 2010 Melissa Conner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 beha
Sophie Holin
"Zamba: the True Story of the Greatest Lion That Ever Lived" is a book narrated by an animal trainer, Ralph Helfer, who uses love instead of fear to control his animals. He adopts a cub lion from Africa, names him Zamba, and spends the next 18 years on many adventures with him. Zamba acts out scenes for advertisements and movies including one that was to be shot in Africa. Half the book is about their adventures on the East coast of Africa, shooting the movie. Finally Helfer ties it together in ...more
May 23, 2011 Iskreads rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 8th-roberts
Zamba-A True Story of The Greatest Lion That Ever Lived by Ralph Hefler, is one of the most interesting books that I have ever read because of its incredibly touching story line, the messages that emerge from the book, and the novel is also full of emotional adventure. This book gives an excellent insight of why it is extremely important to train animals based on "love not fear" which is referred to as "affection training"- a term Ralph Hefler created and demonstrated. This is one of the main t ...more
Rylie Strong
Mar 02, 2016 Rylie Strong rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Zamba by Ralph Hefler was a phenomenal book. I recommend this book to anybody that is an animal lover. Zamba will make you want to cry, laugh, and save all of the animals in the world in one paragraph alone. Zamba was given to Ralph when Zamba was around six months old. The story tells the miraculous journey of Ralph and Zamba. It describes Ralph’s use of affection training and how it has such a positive impact on his and Zamba’s relationship, Zamba and his other animal friends, and many more. I ...more
Pemi Ludi
Buku ini berdasarkan kisah nyata penulisnya. Kisah tentang singa yang diperlakukan dengan kasih sayang oleh pemiliknya, Ralph Helfer seorang animal behaviourist, sehingga menjadi singa yang jinak dan sangat bersahabat dengan manusia.

Zamba, nama singa itu, didapatkan Ralph dari seorang teman lamanya pada umur dua bulan setelah ditemukan sekarat di pinggir sungai di Afrika. Ralph Helfer yang sangat ingin membuktikan teorinya tentang pendidikan dengan kasih sayang terhadap binatang merasa lewat Zam
Aug 27, 2008 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: animals, nonfiction
I am more than a little disappointed by this book. I've slowly read my way through all the stories of Africa USA over the years (it would not be a stretch to say I am a zookeeper today because of Helfer's wife's book!), and I've loved them all along. Perhaps that is part of the problem with this book -- there's not really anything new here, just a retelling of the same story (unlike the others which had largely new material in each). Being involved in the exotic industry myself now for several y ...more
Jan 20, 2010 Lulu rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The author, a pioneer in what he calls “affection training” of animals, runs an exotic animal ranch, working with movies and television that require animal stunts. He details how he raised a lion, Zamba, from a cub, not merely as a tamed animal or even a pet but a true member of the family. Zamba stars in a couple of movies and many ads, but Helfer talks mainly about the metaphysical bond he and the lion had, their trip to Africa to shoot a film, and the tragic storm that destroyed his ranch.

Shazza Maddog
Apr 25, 2013 Shazza Maddog rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ralph Helfer was one of the first animal trainers to work with positive reinforcement - and he worked with wild animals. Elephants, wolves, big cats. He provided animals for movies and television shows for years during the 60s and 70s.

His favorite was an African Lion, a massive cat who arrived from Africa when he was only a few months old. The cub was found next to the Zambeze River and named Zamba. Ralph raised Zamba like he might a child.

I have read a book by Ralph's wife, Toni, The Gentle Ju
Jul 27, 2008 Kelly rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be titled, "Ralph Helfer: The True Story of the Greatest Lion Tamer That Ever Lived". It was preachy, conceited, juvenile, moronic, and down-right stupid. I don't care how much you train a lion, it is still a lion. They are wild and dangerous and I would never let my kids that close to one.

Also, I found it very insulting the way he portrayed people who hunt. I think it was very unfair and childish and untrue. His portrayal of his Charles Dickens-ianesque villianious Uncle was o
Jan 13, 2013 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the true story of a lion who was raised from a cub and lived his entire life with Ralph Heller, his owner. He starred in movies and TV shows, but he also slept on the bed (one specially made to accommodate both lion and human) and rode int he car (a convertible, resulting in head-turning!)

This book was an enjoyable and easy read, and surprisingly good considering Heller's first book, Modoc, about an elephant, was not nearly as interesting. I think the difference is that in Zamba he is wr
Jill M
Nov 01, 2008 Jill M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book to be written at a child's level, but the writing style isn't the point. The story resonates with any animal lover because it is true testament to the effects of practicing loving kindness with animals and receiving the benefits of those relationships in return. Although the story is very moving, I am somewhat hesitant to give it a higher rating because I am aware of the atrocities of the exotic animal industry. Having volunteered for a wildcat sanctuary, I've seen what can hap ...more
Oct 01, 2007 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. I first got turned on to Ralph Helfer when I read his book Modoc. I loved Modoc and it sparked me to read up on Helfer. Turns out he is an animal behaviorist who firmly believs in and practices "affection training" with animals. His career began at a time where most trainers believed the only way to train an animal was by using fear-based methods. Ralph proved his affection training theory by raising Zamba the lion. Basically, Zamba is the story of a lion (named zamba) who was ...more
Sally Nguyen
Dec 03, 2012 Sally Nguyen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved his book. I really enjoyed the tale of ralph helfer and zamba. The book is very heartwarming. Zamba is about an animal trainer, Ralph Helfer, training a 4 month old lion cub. Ralph Helfer has his theories on how to train animals. Ralph uses the “affection training” method. What that means is that he used love and affection to help animals. So this method works because its better than being afraid of the animals and the animals being afraid of us. So pretty much this book is about a warmh ...more
Dec 05, 2012 Annick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, I loved the story about Zamba itself, but the author made the whole thing a bit too spiritual for me. He was rambling a lot about the contact with nature as being a true sign of the existence of a higher being, etc... and kind of lost me there. The whole chapter about the spiritual reading of some African wise guy was also not my cup of tea.

I did like the story itself and think it is really fascinating that one can keep an adult male lion as a pet; letting him share your bed, watch cartoo
Colleen Rue
Oct 07, 2012 Colleen Rue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love all cats,wild and tame,so I knew I had to read about Zamba.I'd never heard of his story until I was browsing for a book to read at my library.Zamba really is the greatest lion that ever lived.Mr. Helfer tells all about his lions great,long life,his acting career,and how he changed the Helfer families life.I was surprised to find out that Zamba portrayed the lion Fluffy in the Tony Randall movie of the same name."Fluffy" has been one of my favorite movies since my youth.Go read about Zamba ...more
Sep 24, 2011 Luisa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The parts of this book that intrigued me the most were obviously anything that had to do with actually raising and living with a lion. I thought that Helpher was a bit absorbed in the whole 'communication between man and nature' bit and I found it to be a bit preachy... aside from the fact that the style was extremely amateurish. I hated how he would often end paragraphs with 4-5 questions intended to make one ponder and self-evaluate. Blah. I assume that this is why I enjoyed 'Modoc' so much mo ...more
I wanted this book to be so much better than it was. I loved Modoc so I guess I was thinking it would be more similar to that. I know some fundamentals of animal training and it bothered me all of this talk of affection training. It is positive reinforcement. The old way was just punishment. Also it bothers me when people start talking about being one with nature and all of that on a crazy level. It was just a lot of spiritual mumbo jumbo through the whole thing. I don't know, I was just really ...more
Oct 28, 2012 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The true story of Ralph Helfer who worked as a stuntman for a Hollywood studio and quickly learned the importance of positive reinforcement in animal training after almost losing his life.

When Ralph invited a young lion cub into his house and his life, he was determined to use training based on love, trust and respect and not fear.

This is the story of his special bond and connection with Zamba, a lion who was used in several TV commercials.
Jan 02, 2014 Lex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of course, it ends as a tearjerker with me sitting on the couch clutching my beloved cat to my chest as Zamba's story comes to a close.

Lots of detail and life breathed into the story. I felt like I was there through the African safari and the great flood. There were quite a number of times that I laughed out loud!! Great story about a wonderful lion who has graced many films and television shows.
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“It’s ironic how committed Hollywood was (and remains) to this vision of lions as savage beasts, especially considering that there’s never been an animal who kills as viciously and indiscriminately as humans.” 0 likes
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