The Lion Whisperer – Kevin Richardson

hug Lion Whisperer

The Lion Whisperer – Who is he?

Kevin Richardson is known as The Lion Whisperer by his fans. He is a self-taught animal behaviorist from Johannesburg, South Africa. This man is living my dream!

Kevin had his first opportunity to work with lions when he was 23, Tau and Napoleon. They were just cubs when they met while he worked in a 1600-acre Lion Park but they sparked an interest with him which launched his career. The cats and others are still with him and reside with him on his sanctuary The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary. To generate income for the facility, Richardson and his team work with animals for the commercial filming industry and make documentaries. They even have a volunteer program who help to run the sanctuary!

Richardson has worked with big cats and relies on intuition rather than static rules. He has slept next to, fed, and lived with lions. Don’t try this at home kids! Along with lions, he has worked with cheetahs, leopards, and hyenas but he prefers lions to any other big cats. Lions usually like to sleep and unwind and hence they are very relaxed cats. But, that does not mean that they are not dangerous and can easily be agitated. They can turn violent if they are irritated or frightened by something and hence, being surrounded by lions all the time means that there are certain signs that cannot be ignored. He also mentioned that his style of interacting with lions has come out from years of working with them and not just instantly.

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I first discovered The Lion Whisperer by the documentary “Dangerous Companions“. In this film you can clearly see his bond with these animals. The lions seem more like house cats and they see him as one of their own. It is amazing to see the different personalities in the lions. The hyenas behave more like dogs. They hunt in a pack, are surprisingly smart, and have a complicated hierarchy. He befriends one of the runts and has been known to take him along for rides in his truck.

kevin-richardson-lion whisperer - heyenas

The lion population occupies less than 20% of its former range in Africa. Numbers are estimated between 15 000 and 30 000 depending on who is asked. More recently scientists have started to settle on a number of 20 000 however more research is needed in to the actual numbers. If allowed to carry on declining at the current rate we will have no lions left in the wild in as little as 20 years. They are quickly becoming an endangered species.

Why Lions?

Richardson hopes the media attention of his movies will raise public awareness and educate them on the need to protect Africa’s animals. He runs his reserve due to the surprising amount of lions that need homes. People get a cute cub but forget that they grow up to be massive animals. Breeders and people looking to exploit these animals then sell them off to hunters. Kevin is working hard to helps raise awareness to stop lion hunting.

Back in the 60’s there weren’t too many parks like this. Now there are literally hundreds of parks like this, many of which offer cubs for the public to pet, because if they don’t, they lose their competitive advantage and patrons will simply go somewhere else where it is offered. At face value this doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. Mostly, the cubs seem to be cared for, get access to veterinary care and tourists enjoy a cuddle and a cool picture that they can later post on all the social media sites known to mankind. Seems like a win, win situation. Until you start to think about what happens to these cats when they stop being cute and cuddly.

“A lion is not a possession; it’s a sentient being” – Kevin Richardson

If you look a bit deeper things emerge about this sinister industry that will make any animal lovers hair stand on end. It’s known as ‘Canned Hunting’. In 1998 there were around 2500 lions in captivity. Today there is difficulty in obtaining exact numbers as many operations are very secretive about the number of lions they house, even though its law to let the permit issuing Authorities know. It should be a simple exercise of phoning Nature Conservation and asking. The number is anywhere between 6000 and 8000 in my opinion, most of which are destined for the ‘Canned Hunting’ industry.

The first question one needs to ask is, what ultimately happens to all the hundreds, if not thousands of cubs that are too old and dangerous to be petted by general public? What happens to lions once they are too old to walk safely with? Certainly not all can land up in reputable zoos around the world or game farms in South Africa that most guides will tell you they go to. They also definitely don’t repopulate wilderness areas as others would have you believe. There simply aren’t any areas suitable for captive lions that aren’t already populated by wild lions They land up being sold at a premium to farms that are in some way or another connected to ‘Canned Hunting’.

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Today’s much loved lion cub that is petted becomes tomorrows trophy and the unsuspecting tourists have blood on their hands. They are literally, unwittingly part of the process of ‘Canned Hunting’,  because they have been hoodwinked into believing that their contribution of funds is going into lion conservation. ‘Canned hunting’ isn’t a single event of a pseudo hunter shooting a lion in a situation whereby the lion has been ear marked and stands no chance of fair escape, it’s a process starting with the petting of a cute cuddly cub.

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People will pay upwards of $100,000 to kill a lion for sport. This makes me sick. How can someone call this hunting when the lions will come right up to you to say hello. Luckily the internet doesn’t stand for people like this and they get publicly shamed like The Dentist and The Cheerleader. 

Due to people like you talking about him and the issues facing lions today he’s managed to save countless animals. He opened his sanctuary from the profits of the films shot with lions and volunteers. I urge you to support him by checking out his official website and YouTube channel. Subscribe to him and donate to help keep his sanctuary up and that his kitties are fed.

Official site & Youtube channel

Other works:

These are videos that are about him and his animals. Take a peek at the man behind the lions.

National Geographic’s Wildest Moments

Growing Up: Hyena

Killer IQ: Predator Challenge



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