Controversial Style of Interaction
Richardson’s rise to fame as “The Lion Whisperer” has a lot to do with the unique and mostly controversial way in which he interacts with the big cats. He does not use the common and traditional methods of breaking and training the animals with sticks and chains. Instead, his training of the predators, especially the lions involve him cuddling, playing and even sleeping with them. He starts by interacting from the time the predators are cubs, feeding them and taking care of their needs.
Starting from the time that he volunteered at the Lion Park, Richardson would enter into the enclosures of the cubs and spend time playing with them, getting to know them. Although many wranglers do that, most stop when the cub reaches 6 months old. Most cubs at that age, already have the ability to fatally injure a human. However, Richardson would still bravely venture into the enclosures, continuing to interact with the cubs and watching them grow. This earned him his position as the Star Wrangler at the park as audiences’ were mesmerised by his interactions and antics with the cubs.
Most if not all of his methods could be said to be taboo in the world of animals handling and many people have warned him against it. There have been many instances in the past of these predators attacking their owners who have brought them up from young. However, he continues with these interactions with the lions even after they grew into fully grown adults which allowed Richardson to develop exceptionally personal bonds with the predators. He mainly relies on his instincts and past experiences to handle the large predators which outweigh him 10 times more and could easily kill him without much effort. He named each and every one of them and sees himself as part of their prides. The lions show him a form of acceptance and respect by not mauling him and instead hugging him and playing with him.
Through this intimate knowledge of the predators, he is able to understand and even make the predators listen to him. This enables Richardson to have another source of funding for his sanctuary which is from the media world. He is able to get a lioness, who naturally does not even approach rivers unless for a drink, to jump into the river and go swimming with him. Hence, commercial shooting provides a much needed financial boost to sustain the sanctuary.
His methods of training and interacting with the animals defiantly go against the traditional methods and even safety precautions which make him a sort of a controversial icon in the media world. Kevin Richardson can be said to be the first man to truly tame and have long term relationships with the very beasts that most of us would not even get in close contact with. Hence, the reason behind him being named as “The Lion Whisperer”.