Secrets of the Wild World offers you an ecovolunteer stay in the animal sanctuary founded by Kevin Richardson (Lion Whisperer). Come and work on Kevin Richardson’s property and with his animals!
Most volunteers meet Kevin Richardson and see him with his animals. However, there are times when Kevin Richardson is unavailable (e.g., while traveling) and this should not be the sole purpose of your trip.
Click for more information on this eco-volunteer program.
Who is Kevin Richardson ?
Kevin Rene Richardson was born on October 8, 1974, he is popularly known as “The Lion Whisperer”, a South African Youtuber and the owner of a self-made sanctuary where African lions are kept.
|Birth||October 8, 1974|
|Nickname||“The Lion Whisperer”|
The Youth of Kevin Richardson
Kevin Richardson was born in 1971 in Johannesburg at the “Nightingale” Clinic. At the age of 16, he began to take an interest in animal behavior. For several years, it was simply a hobby for him. He started studying marine biology, then physiology and anatomy. At the end of his studies, he became a physiotherapist.
At the age of 23, Kevin Richardson had the opportunity to work with 6-month-old lion cubs at the Lion Park in Johannesburg. These two cubs were named Tau (which simply means “lion” in Tswana) and Napoleon. Following this experience, he started working part-time at Lion Park. With his team, Kevin Richardson trains the lions for film and documentary shoots.
His Career at the Lion Park
It was during his years at Lion Park that Kevin Richardson developed his unique relationship with the lions. I spent quite a bit of time at Lion Park myself, and had the opportunity to go behind the scenes. The rangers bottle-feed the lions from their first weeks, and then spend a lot of time playing with them. The lions are social animals, and they bond with the rangers. Kevin Richardson isn’t the only one who hugs the lions. But Kevin takes the closeness a step further and breaks all the safety rules that other people impose on themselves. Kevin has been attacked by a male lion before, and he was lucky to get away, but that didn’t stop him from continuing. He relies more than ever on his intuition, and keeps his distance if he doesn’t “smell” a lion at any given moment. In addition to lions, Kevin Richardson works and develops relationships with other animals, such as hyenas and leopards.
The Kingdom of the White Lion
After Lion Park, Kevin Richardson works at the Kingdom of the White Lion, next door to Lion Park. This private reserve is not accessible to visitors. It is dedicated to white lions, lions with very light coats and blue eyes. These lions are very rare in the wild, the “white lion” gene is a recessive gene. But in captivity, the Lion Park, then the Kingdom of the White Lion and now other centers are breeding white lions among themselves: they are now quite numerous in captivity.
The Kevin Richardson Sanctuary
Part of the Pride Kevin Richardson, it is at the time of the Kingdom of the White Lion that Kevin Richardson becomes very famous. Several documentaries were made about him, and his book “Part of the Pride” was a success. If you want to know everything about Kevin, you can get his book here. Thanks to this newfound fame, Kevin Richardson is able to open his own wildlife sanctuary, the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary, in a private “Big 5” game reserve an hour outside Johannesburg. The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary currently has 13 predator enclosures, and a large natural area where Kevin takes the animals in turn to stimulate them. Many film shoots, both about Kevin Richardson and the animals, take place at the sanctuary.
Unlike Lion Park, Kevin Richardson does not breed lions at his sanctuary. In South Africa, many establishments breed lion cubs, offer tourists the opportunity to play with them and feed them. The problem is that it is dangerous to release lions raised by humans back into the wild. They have lost their instinctive fear of humans and frequently become man-eaters. As for zoos, they usually have enough lions, because they reproduce very well in captivity. On the other hand, hunters are willing to pay a lot of money to shoot a lion, often without knowing that the lion is not wild and has been bottle-fed by nice tourists… Kevin Richardson is against this practice called “canned hunting” and for this reason refuses to breed his lions.
The Kevin Richardson Sanctuary can be visited during a stay in the Johannesburg / Pretoria area. Or, and this is much more interesting, you can go and work as an eco-volunteer in this sanctuary, as well as in the “Big 5” reserve that surrounds it. This is the best way to share Kevin Richardson’s philosophy, and to contribute to its development. The stays last from 7 to 28 nights on site.
All the details about the eco-volunteer program at the Kevin Richardson Center.
Richardson has faced various dangers where he has been punctured, bitten and scratched but these dangers do not stop him. In an interview he mentioned “Obviously you realize the danger when you work with animals of this caliber, I’ve weighed the pros and cons, and the pros far outweigh the cons”. He puts it right, however, by noting that many photos and stories only show the best things.. “People like to take things out of context. They don’t have any idea about the relationship I have with this lion. As a rule, Richardson only interacts with lions he has been in contact with since their birth.
Richardson lets it be known that his work differs from that of zoologists who interact with completely wild animals that they have not raised, or even from that of trainers whose animals perform on stage day after day.
Richardson did work as a lion caretaker at one time for the lion park that was the subject of the 2014 60 Minutes tv show. This report reveals that the Lanseria Lion Park was breeding lions to ensure a year-round supply of cubs. Once the lions reached maturity, they were shipped to canned hunting operations because they were too dangerous to be near tourists.
When Richardson discovered the park owner’s true intentions of canned hunting, he left the park.
Works / Publications
Richardson has been featured in various documentaries, films and commercials. It was during his time at Lion Park that Michael Rosenberg decided to use Richardson in documentaries such as “Dangerous Companions” and “In Search of a Legend”. “Growing Up Hyena” is a documentary in which Richardson seeks to change the misconception of the hyena as a feared and hated scavenger.
Richardson’s work in the Okavango Delta and in Lydenberg led to the documentary on black leopards entitled “In Search of a Legend“. Due to the intensity of filming, Richardson has relocated all of the animals to a facility located on the White Lion Kingdom property.
Richardson is married and has two children.