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.