Myself and the Foundation are largely excluded from coordinated efforts (such as petitions and statements) of lion charities, even though we have considerable reach and influence. Est. Neither study has been published yet. Kevin Richardson is all but ordinary with his unique career in wildlife conservation and filmmaking. Do you disagree with these findings? It also does not address the fact that historically, and indeed today, the support and love of wildlife species have been advanced by the up-close relationships some humans have with animals. It amazes me that people get hung up on this. They are upset and shocked about canned hunting. Are large donations from visitors not positive behavioural outcomes? I do, however, credit them with the respect, passion and love I have always brought to my work. If I had not acquired cubs and not made the movie, nothing would’ve transpired. Thus, Richardson started thinking about moving away from the Lion Park and getting a large conservation sanctuary on his own, which would allow the captive lions to roam freely and not suffer behind cages.With the help of Rodney Fuhr, Richardson previously managed a special facility called the “Kingdom of the White Lion” in Broederstroom, which is an 800 hectors park. During this program, it was exposed that the Lion Park (it is no secret that I started my career there) had sold lions to canned hunting facilities for several years. He focuses on working to minimize the number of animals in captivity. I see this with online activists that often have never set foot in Africa, they have a lot to say, but don’t understand what it’s like at the coalface. This… is really sad. We asked Mr Richardson some tough questions, and he replied with passion and transparency. If so, would this not qualify as supporting the industry you purport to condemn? Does watching presenters on National Geographic Wild, capture and play with dangerous snakes, stimulate the demand for snakes being kept as pets? My relationship with them has paved the way in creating unique opportunities, such as Wild Aid shooting a PSA for lion awareness and conservation, just as it does for Tag-Heuer that pays for some vet bills and the excellent care that these animals receive. The outcomes also provided information that can help NGOs to tackle carnivore coexistence issues on the ground. Has any been purchased and, if so, where? I don’t feel the need to convince people that there is a deep understanding between these animals and me; I know it to be true, and that is all. The ability to access the lions without anesthetising them has opened up exciting and enlightening scientific results. If I had never met two lions back in 1998, or if I had terminated my relationships with the (fully grown) lions in my care, would the demand have slowed down? These are the communities that resort to wildlife snares and poaching for survival. There are also four leopards, 11 elderly spotted hyena and two striped hyenas. Either an animal is hand-reared from birth, or the use of sticks and chains break the animal’s spirit making them submissive. The animals in sanctuaries that allow petting are victims of exploitation for financial gain. We will not be accepting any permanent ‘rescues’ as we appreciate the psychological and physical needs that big cats require in captive environments which is so much more than a few acres of land, food, water, shelter and a couple of enrichment programs. Although difficult to talk about, one of my dearest lionesses, Amy, died recently of leukaemia. I think that individual will do so regardless of any guidelines. What worries me is that these facilities, dependent on the public to keep running, are existing hand-to-mouth, with no contingency plan and what happens now to the animals in a scenario such as the COVID-19 outbreak? Despite his success at cultivating intimate bonds with the dangerous predators, Richardson has seen his fair share of dangers and close encounters. One of his encounters occurred during his first few years working with the lions. We have so much evidence of this it is difficult to aggregate. I don’t particularly like seeing certain species in zoos, but regardless of one’s views on zoos, I am surprised when people are willing to put certain wildlife sanctuaries and rescue centres in the same category as retrograde zoos in Europe. Some 30 hours in a Tanzanian park encapsulated in a single image. Image Source. Click here to receive our stories and photo galleries via email. I have been supporting Painted Dog Conservation Inc. for several years and have travelled to Australia 3 times and done 12 speaking events for them – which helped raise AUS$300,000. It was amazing to watch even our grumpiest lion rolling around, purring happily and enjoying the effects of “the love drug”. When I see the happiness on his face, there is no way on earth I would deny him this small pleasure amongst the monotony of his existence. I think with the release of the “Tiger King” docu-series, the world is waking up to the reality that it’s a long, long, expensive commitment to house and care for a captive wild animal properly. We are aiming to host a fundraiser in Monaco, but with COVID-19 and its detrimental impacts throughout the world we’ve had to push this out. The film required lions, and I knew I could help make the film happen. Now, there are models to help not just lions but other predator cats in the wild. KR: Having now watched it, I can say I am honestly stupefied at both the way the animals are being kept and the people who appear in this show. Some examples of using my influence are the many interviews I’ve done. Celebrate Africa and do good. The film is fostering worldwide condemnation of the industry as a whole. Conservation researchers were concerned, having already noticed the reduced recruitment rates of wild lions in this area due to increasing pressure from human encroachment. What are your thoughts about the series? We excitedly offered distribution support through one of our foundation’s contacts in the television landscape. Last week I was sitting with another lion, and as I always inspect them, I found a thorn in his foot that was going septic. His highly praised work within this field has made it possible for him to create his own lion sanctuary. Yet Kevin Richardson’s lions seem calm in his presence. Richardson ignored the signals that Tsavo gave him and eventually approached the lion, earning himself a massive paw to his face which momentarily caused Richardson to faint. If we are going to make this correlation than we need to hold everyone to the same scrutiny, as any image taken out of context can be misunderstood. One of notable interest was the interview with CBS 60 Minutes when I revealed my thoughts about the captive lion breeding industry and canned hunting. Take the example of the struggling tour guide, (especially considering the devastating effects of COVID-19 on tourism) whose client insists on a cub-petting experience. As a self-taught animal behaviorist, Richardson maintains that love, trust, and respect are the foundations of his relationship with the cats. This era of my life will be over, and I will engage with the new world of conservation that emerges and the new challenges that it brings. When I returned, the vet and staff said she was waiting for me. The fact that money exchanged hands has never been denied. The guidelines refer to “changing trends in tourism” and link to a news article that says TripAdvisor won’t sell tickets for activities with wildlife interactions. * AG editorial note: We have confirmation of proof of payment to both the Namibian Lion Trust and the University of Pretoria. To ask me to stop interacting with them is like asking a person to please refrain from ever hugging their child again. Safari company Our foundation also supports the University of Pretoria’s Carnivore Working Group and have provided finishing funds for projects that need additional support to complete. The demand for petting small, cute animals has always existed. Required fields are marked *. Although we don’t publicise it much, my work supports scientific research that benefits wild lions and other predator cats in the wild. If not, where did the cubs for the movie come from? KR: We have released some hyena into the wild, but as many know, this is not viable with lions and leopard that were born and raised in captivity. For this reason, it is essential to, wherever possible, buy back this habitat, open it up to the wider reserve and safeguard these expanded swathes of wildlife habitat. There are studies (an example can be found here) that have been conducted that suggest that the actual and statistical educational value of captive wild animal centres is negligible. What started as a menial job at The Lion Park (now called The Lion & Safari Park) turned into a passion for cats and a mission to conserve the incredible species. Most of the lions are well over 12 years old, many 15, 16 and 17. Although the researchers had collected a lot of data on these wild lions, the government asked for proof and researchers needed a comparative model to prove their theory. Many people also, in turn, view him as a hero for his conservationist efforts and his dedication towards protecting the wildlife and nature. The princess lends weight to our organisation and being South African, it was important to her to represent an animal so iconic to the country in her position of influence. The charity turned us down because one or more of their board members refused to partner with me. Richardson isn’t the Mowgli type, raised in the wild with animals all around him. A few weeks too early / late or a few kilometers off course and you could miss the greatest show on Earth. The lion doesn’t care if the shoot is for an NGO or a brand – the lion is concerned only that it is enjoying the stimulation and the treats that come with a shoot. Kevin Richardson loves lions – to the extent that he has rescued and rehomed several. I would like it on record that I want nothing more than to use whatever influence I have to support the efforts of those who are committed to this campaign.

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