I initially blogged about Lion Whisperer Kevin Richardson in March of last year. He is an amazing man who believes predators can be handled without the use of punishing aversives such as chains or sticks. Of course, there is a caveat here, as he has only been able to do this by initially forming a strong human-animal bond with extremely young lions.
Here is Kevin with lioness mom, Ishca, who had recently given birth, showing how her three cubs are released back to the pride.
Kevin is just so busy and doing so many wonderful things. To keep up with it all, just bookmark his fabulous site. I’m very excited about the latest news, his new series for National Geographic, called The Lion Ranger. It is going to be launched in September, three episodes airing on September 6th, 13th and 20th.
Kevin has always shown an interest in all types of creatures large and small and from an early age at just 3, was breeding crickets under his bed and keeping a pet toad called “Paddajie”. He grew from a young boy who cared for so many animals that he was called “The Bird Man of Orange Grove” in his home town to an adolescent who ran wild and, finally, to a man who is able to cross the divide between humans and predators. As a self-taught animal behaviorist, Richardson has broken every safety rule known to humans when working with these wild animals. Flouting common misconceptions that breaking an animal’s spirit with sticks and chains is the best way to subdue them, he uses love, understanding and trust to develop personal bonds with them. His unique method of getting to know their individual personalities, what makes each of them angry, happy, upset, or irritated-just like a mother understands a child-has caused them to accept him like one of their own into their fold.
Kevin has used his unique relationship with these large predators to make documentaries and commercials while working at the Lion Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was there that award winning documentary maker Michael Rosenberg spotted Kevin’s unusual abilities and decided to capture these special relationships on film which kick started off Kevin’s documentary making career with Dangerous Companions, and other shows like Growing up hyena.
I was lucky enough to find the complete 51-minute Dangerous Companions DVD online, and it is a film that you do not want to miss.
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You definitely want to check out Kevin’s fabulous book, Part of the Pride: My Life Among the Big Cats of Africa. He chronicles his life and career while explaining his unique ability to gain the trust of predators like lions and hyenas. Working at the South African Lion Park and the Kingdom of the White Lion sanctuaries, Richardson has been accepted by some of his lions as a brother, “sometimes even a father… a friend to others, and an acquaintance to the rest.”
Although he has been attacked, he credits his “lifelong love-affair with dangerous things” for his ability to keep cool. (Although, on being nearly mauled to death early in his career, he says, “What do you do when a lion is trying to eat you? Anything you can think of.”)
Kevin also recently produced White Lion, a dream that actually became a film.
WHITE LION was shot on location, at The Kingdom of the White Lion, an enterprise 50 miles outside of the city of Johannesburg, along the Crocodile River, established especially for this film. This marks the first production – entirely about lions – starring ‘real’ lions from South Africa. “To date most lion pictures shot in South Africa, have seen the import of trained lions,” says Producer and Lion Wrangler, Kevin Richardson. “Our lions look great… they’re lean, mean and heroic – not spoiled, fat and lazy.”
The picture is the long-time dream of one of the owners of the Johannesburg Lion Park, Rodney Fuhr, who served as Executive Producer alongside his wife Ilana. Fuhr independently funded the movie, and filming was approached in a fairly unconventional manner. Richardson recalled, “WHITE LION has been a long time coming and was Rodney’s vision, dating back to the early eighties. His original idea was to follow a tawny (normal colored) male lion cub from infancy to adulthood. Since then, it has obviously progressed to the stage where we are following a white lion and his journey. We switched from a tawny – probably to make our lives a little bit more difficult and more challenging! But, such an exquisite beast certainly makes for a much more powerful story. For me, the beauty of this film is its reality component and inherent simplicity.