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Website (101) - How to do basic web research: Was Christian the Lion really bought from Harrods?

Just the other day I received one of those silly chain mails. You know, the kind that people send to one another when they have nothing else to say. It came with the usual call to action - "You have to see this! So touching."

Well for some reason I actually clicked on the play button instead of my much used Delete icon and this movie about Christian the lion began to play. You can see it here on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVNTdWbVBgc) it has been viewed more than 10 million times.

It is a story about two young chaps who out of compassion bought a lion cub on sale at Harrods, the London department store. They named him Christian and in their innocence tried to raise him in their London flat. Of course the lion grew somewhat and they eventually had to find him a proper home. His new home turned out to be in the African country of Kenya, where he was flown to from London, with his two adoptive parents in tow.

The lads soon returned to London and left Christian there to be reintroduced into the wild.

Sometime later we find the young lads hankering after their lion. They are in fact sufficiently lonesome to actually go back to Kenya to see how Christian is doing. They are warned not to go because the lion has not been seen for months. The experts also predict that having been fully reintegrated into the wild, the lion may not recognise them. They go anyway. 

On arrival they find that that Christian now the leader of a pride of wild lions, has appeared at their camp in Kora and is apparently waiting for them to arrive.

The video ends with the lion loping purposefully out of the bush towards the two defenceless young lads. Wow! I thought now he is going to put a wrinkle on the old Roman arena stories; "Christian the lion eats Christians!". But luckily Christian gets very excited and starts jumping all over this old buddies, licking and hugging them like any normal house pet would do.

After I had dried my eyes and still clutching my sodden tissue I started to think about this. Was it possible that such as BS story could actually be true or was it just one of those web fabrications? It all felt pretty fake to me. For starters can you really see a department store selling lion cubs!

Research
I always say that when one has a question about anything in the world today - ask god. Meaning - ask the all knowing Google. I honestly believe that you can ask Google any question and he/she will know the answer. If fact if you ask Google a question and your answer has no results; your question is more than likely wrong. You need to rephrase or rethink about the way you are asking the question.

So this is what I did.
Step 1: General Google
Google: "Christian Lion"

The quotation marks are intentional. Putting the search phrase between quotation marks makes sure that Google retrieves only pages with both words on them.

Notice I don’t waste time using Stop Words like "the" and "and" because Google ignores them.

What I found almost immediately was a number of results that said Christian the Lion HOAX, Untrue story of the Lion from Harrods etc. There is even a website dedicated to the story called www.christianthelionisfake.com.

So after taking a read thru a few of these web pages I smugly thought “case solved”. I had quickly proved that the story was a fabrication.

Step 2: Verify My Results
Then being the wary web researcher I am, I asked again but I made sure that I excluded pages with the words "hoax in" them. This is what my search looked like:

Google: Christian Lion –hoax

Now all pages that came up would exclude the hoax word and would tend to give me more supportive evidence about Christian.

The page that came up first was a Wikipedia story about Christian the Lion. There was also link to a Mail Online story called "Christian, the lion who lived in my London living room". This was a story from the BBC about some young guys living in London with a lion. There were also so beautiful pics of the lion playing in the flat.

This was interesting so I kept looking. I widened my search a bit to include all references to the word lion, including lions, lion's, lion cub, lioness by using the wildcard *. This is how my search now looked:

Google: Christian Lion* –hoax
This would find all references to lion and derivatives (like above) and would still exclude the hoax word.

In these results, I found a link that lead to a site dedicated to the life of George Adamson a lion enthusiast who lived in – you guessed it - Kenya and was an expert at reintroducing tame lions back into the wild.

One more click and then I landed on a web page with the first caption above a picture of a man sitting with his arm around a full grown male lion. The caption said simply "George Adamson with Christian the Lion". Now what length do you think the hoaxers were going to back up their story? Would they manufacture pictures of Christian in Kenya? Hardly likely, more digging was required.

And the more I read about George Adamson and his lions, the more detail and pictures appeared with Christian. George was pictured in groups with the other lions, like Elsa the star of the famous movie Born Free.

Last Step Re-Check Your Source
My research results seemed to confirm that the video was real and this called for another viewing armed with better information. On my second viewing of the video I noticed that while the lion and the boys were getting reacquainted, an older man comes strolling into the picture. You will never guess who that man is? George Adamson of course!

Last bit of research I did was to look for lions and Harrods, to see if the famous department store really did have lions for sale in the 60's.

A simple search like this gave me all the verification I needed:

Google: lion harrods sale
Google dutifully splits out pages about Christian and some pages that explain how exotic animals were commonly sold in exclusive stores during the 1960’s.

And that was the last confirmation I needed. Christian the lion existed and the story is true.

The Lesson for Web research

People can and do write anything they want to and publish it on the web. Some of this rubbish gets accepted and appears in high volume, well recognised sites. Do not get taken in by stuff you read on the web. Always check more than one source on the web before you take what you read and repeat it as truth. Often one piece of rubbish can metastasize and transform before appearing in other places on the web.

Summary of Some Searching Tips
If you are looking for a specific phrase or combination of words put your phrase inside quotation marks "yellow canaries"

If you specifically want to remove a line of information from your results you can "deduct it" like this will remove

To find all derivatives of the yellow canary and yellow canaries you can use a wildcard: yellow canar* -pet

 

References:

Wikipedia : Christian the lion - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_the_lion

Mail Online: Christian, the lion who lived in my London living room - http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-452820/Christian-lion-lived-London-living-room.html

HOAX Slayer: www.hoax-slayer.com/true-love-lion.shtml

Christian The Lion Is Fake: www.christianthelionisfake.com/2008/08/13/christian-the-lion-video-is-fake

George Adamson Information and Photos

Christian The Lion - A True Story

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