Meet Kevin Richardson, a zoologist and animal behaviorist, has raised and trained some of the most dangerous animals known to man. The kind of animals most people come to see on African wildlife safaris are what Kevin refers to as his playmates.
To do this he does not use the common methods of breaking the animal’s spirit with sticks and chains, instead he uses love, understanding and trust. With this unusual method of training he has developed some exceptionally personal bonds with his students. He sleeps with lions, cuddles newborn hyenas, and swims with lionesses. Kevin can confidently look into their eyes, crouch to their level and even lie down with them – all taboos in the normal world of wild animal handling – yet he doesn’t get mauled or attacked. Some people call him crazy; others shake their heads at his unique method of interacting with the animals. To others he is a hero because he has been able to tame and handle beasts that haunt our imagination, triggering our deepest fears. This has earned Kevin the name the Lion whisperer. The Lion whisperers secret – get to know the particular personality of each animal, what makes them angry, happy, upset, irritated – just like a mother with a child.
Kevin’s interaction with these animals has raised questions, and dispelled certain myths. Kevin goes to show that animals do have individual characters, they do show feelings and most of all they can develop a special bond with a man. Not only does the whisperer get them to do things but he makes these dangerous creatures to show their playful side. The relationship Kevin has with these creatures is that of respect. Both man and animal have great respect for one another. Kevin treats each individual differently, speaking to them, caressing them and, above all, treating them with respect. Richardson, who has been working with the animals for the last ten years, has had his share of close encounters. This in the early days of his work when a four-year-old male lion gave him a lesson he will never forget. He says the beast put him to the ground and bit him until something in his passive attitude stopped the lion. Honestly I don’t understand what he means by that. Maybe the lion wasn’t just interested in having him for lunch. I mean how do you put sense in a lion that is about to turn you into a snack?
Having learnt his lesson early on the lion whisperer says he relays on his instincts to gauge situations and will not just approach a creature especially if it doesn’t feel right. He is also more confident with animals he has known since birth.