Lions are the second largest cat in the animal kingdom. As such, they are highly protective of their own, especially their young cubs. One man learned that lesson the hard way when he tried to touch a mama lion’s new cub. It’ll shock you when you find out how this man made it out alive.

20. The Zookeeper

Image: Honest To Paws

Kevin Rene Richardson, also called “The Lion Whisperer”, is a self-taught zookeeper. He resides in South Africa and has dedicated his life to working with African lions. Richardson goes out of his way to educate people on lions and how to interact with big cats.

19. Sanctuary

Image: Craghoppers

Richardson has his very own wildlife sanctuary called The Kevin Richardson Wildlife Sanctuary. The sanctuary works diligently to educate people, bring awareness of lions to others, and help preserve their lives. Lions are currently pretty threatened.

18. Threatened

Image: Craghoppers

Due to habitat loss and poaching, there are way fewer lions in the wild than there once was. There are as few as 15,000-20,000 lions in the wild in Africa. The conservation wants to get this message out to everyone.

17. Passionate


Richardson is very passionate about his work with the sanctuary and does not take his job lightly. However, even the most knowledgeable person is prone to make a mistake once in a while. That’s what happened with Richardson one day…

16. Mistake

Image: Honest To Paws

Richardson made a pretty big mistake one day when he was interacting with a mother lioness and her cub. Forgetting all of his own rules, he did something that did not sit well with the mother and boy did he pay the consequences for it.

15. Play Time

Image: Honest To Paws

One day, Richardson stumbled across a lioness and her cub playing around with each other. He was super excited about the moment and wanted to record it. So he set up his camera to record what was going on.

14. Bad Move

Image: Honest To Paws

After he had set up the camera, Richardson slowly made his way over to the cub. He sat down next to the baby and began to play with it. Richardson then attempted to pick the cub up and the mother was not happy about that move.

13. Jumped Up

Image: Honest To Paws

The lioness was not amused at all by the situation and instinctively wanted to protect her cub. As Richardson held the cub in his hands, she quickly leapt at the zookeeper. The situation happened in the blink of an eye…

12. Protecting Himself

Image: Honest To Paws

Kevin quickly understood what was happening and went into protection mode. He wrapped his arms around the lioness in order to prevent her from cutting up his face. She could easily tear him to bits and Kevin did not want that to happen.

11. Not Mad At All

Image: Honest To Paws

It seems that the lioness was not mad at Kevin at all! It turns out that she wanted to play too and wanted to join in on the fun. After all, Kevin was there throughout her entire pregnancy.

10. Risks

Image: Honest To Paws

Still, Kevin understood that there are risks to playing around with lions, especially larger ones. He didn’t want her to hurt him accidentally and so he took the proper precautions. No matter what though, playing with lions comes with its risks.

9. Close Relationship

Image: Honest To Paws

Usually when I come in here, I first greet mom to see how she is,” Kevin explained with the lioness at his feet. “She talks back, and I have a little bit of fun with her.” It seems that Kevin and the lioness have a very close relationship.

8. Slow Introductions

Image: Honest To Paws

Kevin continued to explain how important it was for him to get the lioness comfortable with the idea of him interacting with her cubs. “After I’ve made an introduction with her on a daily basis, I get a bit closer to the cubs,” he explained.

7. Unusual Interactions

Image: Honest To Paws

As a zookeeper and “Lion Whisperer”, Richardson is used to interacting with lions. However, it is very unusual and rare for a human to be able to interact with cubs in the manner that Kevin does. He has managed to gain the lion’s trust and in return has respected them.

6. Careful

Image: Honest To Paws

Despite his years of experience, Richardson still remains as careful as possible when interacting with the lions. He has stated that there is no way to predict a lion’s behavior, no matter what. “Not many people get to see cubs this size, never mind, interact with them,” he said.

5. Learning

Image: Honest To Paws

Since Kevin and his staff have been able to interact with the cubs, they have been able to learn a lot. They have gained tons of insight into how cubs play with each other and their parents. All of this information will help everyone better understand lions.

4. Gaining Experience

Image: Honest To Paws

Kevin and other fellow researchers are now wiser and more experienced in terms of understanding lions better. This has helped them to better interact with lions in the wild. There are a few tricks that he has learned that has helped him at the sanctuary.

3. Feeding Time

Image: Honest To Paws

Thanks to his knowledge, Kevin understood not to stay during feeding time. He would pick up all of the cubs and bring them over to the mom to show that he was not going to hurt any of them. This helped to establish trust between them.

2. Nap Time

Image: Honest To Paws

Thanks to Kevin’s hard work, the lioness truly trusts him around her cubs. Kevin has even taken part of nap time with the mom and her cubs. Just look at that bonding experience between man and giant cat!

1. Risky Business

All of this hard work and observant behavior is just part of the job for Kevin. His passion for lions has made all of this worthwhile. Thanks to his bravery and respect of wild animals, now researchers can better understand lions.