Kevin Richardson is a world-renowned wildlife conservationist and filmmaker, recognized by his persona as the ‘Lion Whisperer’. His mission is to highlight the status of Africa’s most iconic predator, the lion, through his work in the media and alongside fellow campaigners, researchers and scientists.
Kevin was born on the 8th October 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa. He spent his childhood in the suburb of Orange Grove, far from the African bushveld he would grow to love. At around the age of 4, his love of animals manifested itself with the rescue of a baby bird he helped raise with his father. He soon became known locally as 'The Bird Man of Orange Grove' and began to take in many more waifs and strays.
As Kevin grew up, he planned to follow a career with animals and set his sights on veterinary science. However, during his teens his focus was far from his studies and the young rebel was not accepted onto the course. He shifted his focus to zoology, before finally completing his BSc majoring in anatomy and physiology.
In 1998 he was given the chance to work with two lion cubs at a local lion park, who later became known as Tau and Napoleon. Here he honed his abilities and unique skills to work with lions in a hands on, interactive manner challenging many misconceptions, and was soon dubbed 'The Lion Whisperer' due to his extraordinary personal relationships with these prides of lions.
Although he started his career at a lion park that allowed cub petting for tourists, he began to understand the pitfalls of this industry, and never felt comfortable with the answers being given as to what ultimately happened to the lion cubs once they grew up. Like many of these parks in South Africa, once cubs grow too big to pet most potentially end up supplying the controversial 'canned lion hunting' industry.
Towards the end of 2011 Kevin made the decision to break ties with the park and moved all of the animals in his care to a new facility on the South-East boundary of the newly formed Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve in Pretoria, South Africa. Here at the Wildlife Sanctuary Kevin implements a no breeding policy of lion cubs and has aligned his fight against the biggest threats that lions face. These being habitat loss (largely due to human encroachment), human – lion conflict (retaliatory and pre-emptive killings), illegal bush meat trade (consequences which include indiscriminate snaring and prey depletion), unscrupulous trophy hunting, lion poaching (for the lion bone trade in the far east) and to a lesser extent disease.
The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary’s mission is to provide a self-sustaining African carnivore sanctuary for the purposes of wild species preservation. Through education, outreach and funding, the mission is to bring awareness to the rapid decline of large carnivores in Africa due to habitat loss, human-predator conflict, the illegal bush meat trade, unscrupulous hunting, disease, and illegal trade.
The Kevin Richardson Foundation was launched in 2018 as a non-profit conservation organisation with nature’s most majestic creature, the lion, at its heart. The foundation is committed to changing and reversing the state of Africa’s declining lion population by purchasing habitat and raising awareness to create safe, natural spaces where lions and other native species can flourish. By partnering with specialised organisations and engaging with impoverished communities on the fringes of these protected areas, the foundation also aims to minimise human/wildlife conflict whilst improving living conditions for local villages.
The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary is home to 24 lions rescued from captive-breeding and cub-petting facilities. The Foundation would like to improve the quality of life for these animals, as well as establish better security for them as poaching for the lion bone trade increases steadily.
Starting this foundation has been in Kevin’s heart since 2011 and finally he is positioned to embark on the wider conservation work he truly cares about. Along with the launch of his foundation in 2018, Kevin’s conservation efforts include the successful release of captive-born spotted hyena into the Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve in February 2018. In addition to the Lions at the Sanctuary, there are also 12 Hyenas and 4 Black Leopards.
His television work has been screened across multiple platforms worldwide including ‘The Lion Whisperer’ (France 2 – highest rated show in the strand), ‘Lions on The Move’ multiple international channels, ‘Lions, The New Endangered Species’ (GoPro - over 45 million views), ‘Lion Whisperer’ (60 minutes USA – CBS - highest rating in 2 years with over 18.5 million Americans watching) highlighting the plight of dwindling wild lion populations and the horrors associated with cub petting and the 'canned lion hunting' industry.
‘Killer IQ: Lion v Hyenas’ featuring Kevin and his animals premiered on the Smithsonian Channel and featured in their respected magazine plus other channels globally. Working with the world’s leading experts this ground breaking two-part series explored the cognitive behaviour of lions and hyenas. Kevin also provided unlimited access to the sanctuary for Natalia Borrego (one of the experts in the series), to complete her PHD in lion cognition.
Kevin played a major role in the film “Mia and the White Lion” which has so far been released in 36 territories around the world and has grossed more than $36.4 million. Kevin acted as advisor and trainer throughout the film and he was the main conservation inspiration for the story of the film.
Kevin has taken part in many speaking events on lions and lion conservation and was a guest speaker at Google Zeitgeist, amongst influential speakers like former US presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton and esteemed scientists like Dr Craig Venter (Responsible for DNA sequencing the human genome).
Collaborations with world recognized artists and photographers help to raise awareness and funds for conservation. Fine art photographer David Yarrow is donating a percentage of his print sales of Kevin’s animals to TUSK, Britain's leading African Wildlife Charity which features Prince William as its patron. In 2019 David Yarrow has launched a spectacular, limited edition print “Pride Rock” with a donation to the Foundation from the sales made.
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