18/04/2024

The Lion ​Whisperer

The Lion ​Whisperer

 What South African zookeeper Kevin Richardson does may raise a few eyebrows, but he’s on a mission to show another side to the elusive “King of the Jungle.” With an innate love for animals that started when he was a young boy, Kevin Richardson should be lauded for his conservation prowess with lions, hyenas, and leopards. Best known as The Lion Whisperer, he spoke exclusively to Upscale Living magazine about what it takes to ensure the preservation and protection of these magnificent beasts.

​Richardson has formed such a strong connection with the wild lions near Pretoria, South Africa, that he has been accepted as one of their own. This closeness allows Richardson to understand these majestic creatures on a much deeper level than previously thought possible — observing each individual’s behavior, instincts, and emotions as a member of their pride.

​Eventually, a friend who had a marketing background asked me why I was so opposed to being called ‘The Lion Whisperer’ as it differentiated me in the marketplace and was instantly recognizable. He told me people don’t remember people’s names, but by titles like ‘The Lion Whisperer,’ they do. So, I decided I’d give it a try. Richardson has forged such meaningful bonds with these lions that he even places his arm in one of their mouths without fear of it being ʙɪᴛᴛᴇɴ off, confident in the trust they share. Naturally, the main ʀɪsᴋ people think I face is being ɪɴᴊᴜʀᴇᴅ or ᴋɪʟʟᴇᴅ by the animals I interact with. This was probably more of a real ᴛʜʀᴇᴀᴛ in my earlier, formative years as I was learning a lot in a short space of time with no mentor to bounce things off. Having worked now with lions, leopards, and hyenas for two decades, the ʀɪsᴋ factor does reduce but is always there and something I don’t take lightly.

​Gone are the days that we should tolerate animals being ᴘᴜᴛ in cages, given food and water, and think that’s good enough. They need so much more than this, and the issue, when you are keeping animals such as lions in captivity, makes it that much more complicated. There are so many viewpoints surrounding this issue as with most things in the world today.

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