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  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: Most people look at a lion and go regal ... king of the jungle ... but

  • man-eater. I think a lot of people think I'm dancing with death. Naturally, one's going

  • to go, well this guy's crazy and it's only a matter of time before he gets eaten. The

  • instinct for an animal to kill or a lion specifically is always there and when they get into that

  • mode of kill ... one bite and you're dead. YOU WON'T FIND A LION ROAMING THE WILDS OF

  • AUSTRALIA AND YOU'LL NEVER FIND ANYONE LIKE THIS MAN.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: The truth is there is no other animal that will humble you quicker

  • than a lion. IF THE LATE STEVE IRWIN HAD A KINDRED SPIRIT,

  • IT WOULD BE KEVIN RICHARDSON. HE SHUNS THE COMPANY OF PEOPLE, INSTEAD HIS

  • LIFE CENTERS ON LIVING WITH ONE OF THE MOST FEROCIOUS PREDATORS ON THE PLANET.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: You know I might piss one of them off one day and he might take my head

  • off but so be it. TO UNDERSTAND KEVIN'S OBSESSION, I'VE TRAVELED

  • THOUSANDS OF KILOMETRES TO SOUTHERN AFRICA. KEVIN RICHARDSON: You get adventurers in the

  • world man, pioneers, explorers ... without them, without those people in the world, the

  • world would still be, you know, such a small little place. Christopher Columbus and all

  • these adventurers ... people must have though they were completely loony in their time.

  • LOONY AS IT MAY SOUND WE'RE HEADING STRAIGHT INTO LION TERRITORY.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: You get some of the prides are really grumpy and will eat you pretty

  • quickly but it's only a matter of time before one of them comes and investigates you and

  • the rest could be history. TIM NOONAN: You don't get nervous?

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: No, no, I think if I was getting nervous after this period of time,

  • I think I would be sitting myself down and saying well what are you actually doing here.

  • KEVIN IS PREPARING TO WALK FREELY AMONG A PRIDE OF LIONS, WITH NO CAGE AND NO PROTECTION.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: You've always got to observe who looks like they're grumpy, who looks like

  • they're affable before you just go in there guns blazing.

  • AT THIS MOMENT HIS ONLY ARMED WITH A DEEP UNDERSTANDING OF ANIMAL INSTINCT AND LION

  • BEHAVIOR. KEVIN RICHARDSON: I'll announce myself ... you

  • know, I'll talk to them ... and so that they know it's me coming. I'll talk so that they

  • can hear my voice and at least then when you walk in they know what to expect.

  • BUT THEN SOMETHING INCREDIBLE HAPPENS ... THIS IS A LOVE STORY LIKE NO OTHER.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: This feared predator ... this lion, this killer, this man-eater has the

  • ability to show such love. FAR FROM BEING MINDLESS MAN-EATERS, KEVIN

  • BELIEVES THE LIONS HAVE A GENTLE SIDE THAT FEW KNOW ABOUT.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: What amazes me is they jump on me, gently, they don't unsheathe their

  • claws and when they bite me, it's gentle. BUT DON'T BE FOOLED ... THESE BIG CATS ARE

  • FAR FROM TAME. SO, I'M FILMING FROM THE SAFETY OF A CAGE AND AS I FOUND OUT, THEY DON'T TAKE

  • TOO KINDLY TO STRANGERS. TIM NOONAN: Anyone else would run a million

  • miles from these cats. When you walk up to them, what do you see?

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: It's hard to explain what I see when I walk up to the lions because

  • to everyone else watching their mind obviously flicks back to documentaries of lions jumping

  • on the back of buffalos' backs and taking down wildebeest and zebra ... all these big

  • herbivores. So I think people have got that in their head. To me ... these are just my

  • ... you know, my friends. KEVIN RICHARDSON: This is a consequence or

  • a result of 12 and a half years of constant bonding a brotherhood.

  • KEVIN'S FIRST CONTACT WITH LIONS WAS WHILE VOLUNTEERING AT A SOUTH AFRICAN WILDLIFE PARK.

  • THERE, HE MET TWO CUBS THAT CAPTURED HIS HEART ... AND HE WON THEIRS.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: I met these two lions, I fell in love with them, there was almost like

  • this bond, I became almost a brother, an honorary brother ... I began to realize that, you know,

  • you can't just look at all predators out there and say well that's how a lion behaves. They're

  • characters and that's what I wanted to get to know. You know I didn't wake up one morning

  • thinking I was going to go and save the big cats of Africa, it was more of a progression.

  • TODAY, HE OWNS A 1800 ACRE GAME RESERVE WHERE FOUR LION FAMILIES RUN WILD.

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: Before I knew it there was 9, then there was 15, then there was 25, now

  • I'm sitting with 39. BUT ACROSS AFRICA, THEIR NUMBERS ARE PLUNGING.

  • HUNTED BY POACHERS, POISONED BY FARMERS, THEIR HABITAT BEING DESTROYED. THEY DON'T GET RELOCATED

  • ... THEY JUST GET SHOT. KEVIN RICHARDSON: Lion numbers have dropped

  • by a staggering amount from around about, who knows, but from around about 300,000 about

  • 15-20 years ago, down to about 20-23,000 to this day, which is horrific and means if it

  • continues to decline at that rate, in another 10-15 years ... goodbye to lions.

  • THAT'S WHY KEVIN IS PREPARED TO PUT HIS LIFE ON THE LINE TO RAISE AWARENESS OF THEIR DESPERATE

  • PLIGHT. TIM NOONAN: If they didn't know you, do you

  • think they might eat you? KEVIN RICHARDSON: The lions? For sure.

  • TIM NOONAN: What do you think they see you as?

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: These lions definitely see me as more than just a human acting or being

  • an honorary pride member. But then on another occasion, you sit there and you realize that

  • they do see you as something different but just accepted you into their clique. So if

  • anyone else had to come here and try and do this, you know, they're not really part of

  • this group ... if anyone could understand the love they have for their pet ... I could

  • probably say times that by 10 (quite frankly, that's how you could get killed by a lion!

  • If he lies on top of you, he could crush you to death!). I'll swim with the lions in the

  • river, walk with them in the open areas amongst the game. I'll do most things that people

  • would do with their pet dog with the lions. THAT EVEN INCLUDES AFTERNOON NAPS ...

  • TIM NOONAN: Are there times when you're not welcome?

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: Well there's times when you feel less welcome into a pride of lions

  • and there's times when you walk in there and you just feel like you rule the roost and

  • that everyone's just full of love and wanting a piece of you.

  • BUT THEIR VIOLENT INSTINCT IS JUST UNDER THE SURFACE THE WHOLE TIME. ONE WRONG MOVE AND

  • EVERYTHING CAN FLARE UP. KEVIN RICHARDSON: Sometimes that biting will

  • turn to real biting very quickly, so that's why I just nip it in the bud. If you react

  • badly and you start pulling or you start getting nervous or panicking he will bite down on

  • you. So you've got to just make him realize that you're not afraid of him and he can't

  • just bite your leg at will. TIM NOONAN: Have you been hurt?

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: Yes, I get bitten, I get scratched, I get jumped on, my back gets put

  • out ... my shoulders ... fortunately I've never been hospitalized by a lion. That scar

  • there and there ... is really a lion of his size bit me accidentally. This K9 here the

  • top one went straight through to the bone almost. That was really a reaction, he got

  • a bit of a fright and he turned around and whack right through the arm.

  • TIM NOONAN: Do you worry that one day they might turn on you?

  • KEVIN RICHARDSON: No I don't worry about lions turning on me because the day that, that happens

  • and you start to think about one day will these lions turn on me you shouldn't be doing

  • it. Don't have any regrets, I live a no regrets policy in my life, so probably do it all the

  • same again if I was brought back down to Earth again, given a second chance. I like living

  • life, not just existing life and for me I'm truly living when I'm with the lions.

KEVIN RICHARDSON: Most people look at a lion and go regal ... king of the jungle ... but

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Lion Man, Kevin Richardson

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    Tina Ting posted on 2016/03/05
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