What Makes the "Lion Whisperer" Roar? | Science | Smithsonian
But, Richardson's unique relationships with these large and magnificent Richardson's interactions with hand-reared lions and spotted hyenas through the use. One recent morning, Kevin Richardson hugged a lion and then turned away to check Like Richardson's lions, Freddie wasn't tame—he had an exclusive relationship with Boone. Are hyenas the most misunderstood animals in the wild?. Lion Whisperer Kevin Richardson and a wild lion; all photos are courtesy of This relationship between Richardson and the lions—and even.
What Makes the “Lion Whisperer” Roar?
With their parallel and unknowable lives, animals offer us relationships that exist in the realm of silence and mystery, distinct from those we have with others of our own species.
A rapport with domesticated animals is familiar to all of us, but anyone who can have that kind of relationship with wild animals seems exceptional, perhaps a little mad. Some years ago, I read a book by the writer J. Allen Boone in which he detailed his connection with all manner of creatures, including a skunk and the actor dog Strongheart.
Kevin Richardson (zookeeper) - Wikipedia
Boone was especially proud of the friendship he developed with a housefly he named Freddie. The man and his fly did household chores and listened to the radio together. Befriending a housefly, crazy as it seems, raises the question of what it means when we bond across species. Is there anything to it beyond the amazing fact that it has been accomplished? Is it a mere oddity, a performance that is revealed to signify nothing special or important after the novelty has worn off?
Does it violate something fundamental—a sense that wild things should eat us or sting us or at least avoid us, not snuggle us—or is it valuable because it reminds us of a continuity with living creatures that is easily forgotten? The first time he laid eyes on a lion was on a first-grade field trip to the Johannesburg Zoo. He was impressed, but he also remembers thinking it odd that the king of the jungle existed in such reduced circumstances.
He found his way to animals anyway. Are hyenas the most misunderstood animals in the wild? They're intelligent, they have a sophisticated social order, and their famous laugh isn't even a laugh. Richardson was a rebellious youngster, a hell-raiser. He is now 40 years old, married and the father of two young children, but it is still easy to picture him as a joy-riding teenager, rolling cars and slamming back beers. During that period, animals were pushed to the margins of his life, and he came back to them in an unexpected way.
In high school, he dated a girl whose parents included him on family trips to national parks and game reserves, which reignited his passion for wildlife. After college, while working in a gym as a trainer, he became friendly with a client named Rodney Fuhr, who had made a fortune in retail. Like Richardson, he was keen on animals. InFuhr bought a faded tourist attraction called Lion Park, and he urged Richardson to come see it. Richardson says he knew little about lions at the time, and his first trip to the park was a revelation.
I visited those cubs every day for the next eight months. The lions wake up early, and their roars rumble and thunder through the air when the sky is still black with night. Richardson wakes up early, too. He is dark-haired and bright-eyed, and has the handsome, rumpled look of an actor in an after-shave commercial. His energy is impressive. He is the first to admit to a hardy appetite for adrenaline and a tendency to do things to an extreme. He is also capable of great tenderness, cooing and sweet-talking his lions.
On my first morning at the reserve, Richardson hurried me over to meet two of his favorite lions, Meg and Ami, whom he has known since they were cubs at Lion Park.
Extraordinary video shows 'animal whisperer' cuddling up to deadly lions and hyenas
When Lion Park first opened, init was revolutionary. Unlike zoos of that era, with their small, bare enclosures, Lion Park allowed visitors to drive through a property where wildlife wandered loose. The array of African plains animals, including giraffes, rhinoceroses, elephants, hippopotamuses, wildebeests and a variety of cats, had once thrived in the area, but the park is on the outskirts of Johannesburg, an enormous urban area, and over the previous century most of the land in the region has been developed for housing and industry.Man plays with Hyena - Animal Odd Couples: Episode 2 Preview - BBC One
The rest has been divvied up into cattle ranches, and fences and farmers have driven the large game animals away. Lions, in particular, were long gone. Once enjoying the widest global range of almost any land mammal, lions now live only in sub-Saharan Africa there is also a remnant population in India.
In the last 50 years, the number of wild lions in Africa has dropped by at least two-thirds, fromor more in the s some estimates are as high asto perhaps 32, today.
Apart from Amur tigers, lions are the largest cats on earth, and they hunt large prey, so the lion ecosystem needs open territory that is increasingly scarce. As apex predators, lions have no predators of their own. In most of Africa, there are far more lions in captivity than in the wild.
And no one could resist it. Unlike lots of other animals that could easily kill us—alligators, say, or poisonous snakes—lions are gorgeous, with soft faces and snub noses and round, babyish ears.
As cubs, they are docile enough for anyone to cuddle. By the time the lions are 2 years old, though, they are too dangerous for any such interactions. Very quickly, there are more adult lions than there is room in the park. Richardson became obsessed with the young lions and spent as much time as he could at Cub World. He discovered he had a knack for relating to them that was different and deeper than what the rest of the visitors and staff had; the animals seemed to respond to his confidence and his willingness to roar and howl his version of lion language.
Lions are the most social of big cats, living in groups and collaborating on hunting, and they are extremely responsive to touch and attention. Documentaries Commercial filming crews are welcomed into his sanctuary to do filming of the predators. He has starred alongside his lions in countless documentaries that not only detail his controversial relationship with the carnivores but also highlight the plight of wildlife in Africa and around the world.
It also serves to dispelling myths about these species of big cats. The documentaries allow the audience to look closely into the relationships and bonds that Richardson share with these amazing predators. Lions — The New Endangered Species? Throughout the short film, Richardson continuously brings attention to the contemporary issues and consequences surrounding the loss of wildlife habitats in South Africa. A short clip taken with the GoPro cameras.
One of the best-selling wildlife movies which has won many awards in the South African Film and Television awards. Instead this movie features Richardson in the role of a guide with Mara Douglas Hamilton and together they undertake an extraordinary journey across Africa.
As an adult, Richardson believed that he would never have a career working with animals and that it would remain a hobby of his. He started taking courses in physiology and anatomy in college  and started a career in exercise physiology. When he was twenty-three, he had the opportunity to work as a handler and cared for two six-month-old lion cubs, Meg and Ami which he later rescued. His early years took place at the Lion Park near the outskirts of his home in Johannesburg.
They also have a volunteer programme which generates income, and volunteers who help to run the sanctuary. While specializing in lions, he also interacted with hyenas and leopards. Richardson has a special facility called the Kingdom of the White Lion in Broederstroom.