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The lion kisser!!


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The king of the jungle doesn't frighten the lion whisperer

 

By GLENYS ROBERTS - More by this author » Last updated at 09:49am on 26th June 2007 commentIconSm.gif Comments (8)

Animal behaviourist Kevin Richardson has such an intimate bond with big cats that he can spend the night curled up with them without the slightest fear of attack.

 

Richardson, 32, who is based in a wildlife conservation area near Johannesburg in South Africa, works his unusual magic on other species too. Cheetahs, leopards and even unpredictable hyenas hold no threats for him.

 

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LionkissDM2606_468x406.jpgThis adult male is comfortable enough with animal behaviourist Kevin Richardson to permit a gentle kiss

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So instinctively in tune is he with these beasts, whose teeth are sharp enough to bite through thick steel, that mother hyenas even allow him to hold their newborn cubs without pouncing to the rescue.

 

But lions are his favourite. He lavishes them with unconditional love, he says, treating each individual differently, speaking to them, caressing them and, above all, treating them with respect.

 

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Lion5DM2606_486x465.jpgFive-year-old females Meg and Amy see Kevin as one of their own

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A former student of human physiology who once worked with pre and post-operative human patients, Kevin turned to animals ten years ago when he came to the conclusion that he could trust a lion over one of his own kind every time - well, nearly every time.

 

A close encounter with an aggressive four-year-old male in the early days taught him a lesson he has not forgotten. The animal pinned him to the ground and started biting him until something about Kevin's passive attitude stopped him in his tracks.

 

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Lion3DM2606_468x406.jpgKevin rolls around with Tau and Napoleon, two adult brother lions

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Kevin says he is most confident with animals he has known since birth, but claims he can become close friends with any lion less than a year old, when it is still flexible enough to accept him as part of its own pride.

 

"I have to rely on my own instincts to gauge an animal or a situation, and I will not approach a creature if something doesn't feel right," he says.

 

"I don't use sticks, whips or chains, just patience. It may be dangerous, but this is a passion for me, not a job."

 

LionsplitDM2606_468x200.jpgCuddles and love bites are all part of 'play' fighting

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