Lions Snuggle Up To The Man Who's Trying To Save Them
They call him "the lion whisperer" but Kevin Richardson is trying to do a whole lot more than just get up close and personal to the lions he's rescued.
He's trying to raise awareness for the plight of African lions - who have lost 42 percent of their population in just the last 21 years.
Richardson, who started the Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary in South Africa's Welgedacht Private Game Reserve, has recently been fighting hunting and entertainment industries that breed such majestic animals for various forms of sick human enjoyment.
But Richardson made a name for himself after he encountered cubs at a lion park for the first time, and became a "self-taught animal behaviorist," as he calls it on his website. He also admits breaking "every safety rule known to man when working with these wild animals."
Richardson says he's trying to fight the misconceptions that breaking a wild animal's spirit with chains "is the best way to subdue them." Rather he tries to get to know animals as individuals, with individual personalities. "He uses love, understanding and trust to develop personal bonds with them," his website explains.
In an attempt to get his lion-loving message across, he recently had some stunning portraits taken of him and his lions - over 30 of them.
But not everyone was all awww's about it.
Some people have voiced concern about the attention Richardson gets for his little rescued pride of lions (his website points out that he "has been featured prominently as a result of his ground breaking work on many local and international News Networks, Newspapers, Magazine and Actuality Programs including Sky News , CNN, ABC News, NBC , CBS, RTL, Carte Blanche and Top Billing").
"I also recall there was a guy who was a bear whisperer," one commenter pointed out on Facebook. "He wasn't whispering when a bear eventually ate him."
Still, Richardson seems to have responded to some of the very real issues lions face, like the canned hunting industries that exploit lions on a large scale in South Africa. He told the Smithsonian Magazine that "if cub petting and canned hunting were stopped immediately," he would give up all of his lions.
Perhaps what Richardson shows is a sheer love for animals that comes from a place of pure goodwill - even if reality is often a lot more complicated than that.
"This is the love," one commenter wrote.
It certainly looks like it.
Decide for yourself: Learn more about Kevin Richardson's work here.