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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lion Whisperer champions big cats

Zoologist Kevin Richardson became a Youtube sensation when footage of him swimming and frolicking with lions in his native South Africa went viral.

Now the ‘Lion Whisperer’, as he has been christened by South African media, has written a book about his life and work with lions and other African wildlife, in conjunction with Sydney writer Tony Park.

Part of the Pride is an eye-opening account of how Kevin learned - often the hard way - how to interact with big cats without the safety net of fences, whips, sticks, chains or guns.

And his secret?

“Lions are social animals,” he said during a recent trip to Sydney. “They love grooming each other and being on top of each other, they’re clan animals.

“And I’ve taken 11 years to get to know them (at my park). When you’re truly integrated with a pride of lions there’s no need for scars. Lions don’t injure each other within a pride.
My theory was if I’m truly accepted by a pride why should I be injured?

“If you just look at how lions live in the wild they don’t have any time for other lions except for their own pride…they seem them as competitors. If they wander into each other’s territories there are warnings and then fights. I find it bizarre that people want to put themselves in those situations (where they don’t know the animals).”

That’s not to say Kevin has had a pain-free time of it.

He once went toe-to-toe with a lion he didn’t know so well - a foolish act, he will readily admit - and it was only the fact that the animal had been de-clawed, and a colleague intervened, that he is alive today to talk about it. But he doesn’t hold a grudge. If anything, he vigorously champions their cause.

“People need to realise we really need to think about how we treat and keep animals in captivity,” Kevin said.

“Humans are the problem – there are too many humans, unfortunately. We can bang on about diseases and poaching, but animal numbers will continue to dwindle if we encroach on their habitats.”

Kevin was in Australia last month to find a distributor for his movie White Lion - Home is a Journey. I sincerely hope he did, because if it’s even half as good as this wonderfully engaging book it will be well worth your time.

Part of the Pride - My life among the big cats of Africa by Kevin Richardson with Tony Park, RRP$34.99, Pan Macmillan.

By RR with No comments


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