Kevin, also known as The Lion Whisperer, is a world-renowned wildlife conservationist and filmmaker. Through his unique ability to relate to lions, as well as his work in the media and activities alongside fellow campaigners, researchers and scientist, Kevin’s mission is to highlight the status of Africa’s most iconic predator.
Kevin was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1974. 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 four, 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 - later known as Tau and Napoleon - at a local lion park. 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 the extraordinary personal relationships he developed with the animals.
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 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 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 southeast boundary of the newly formed Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve in Pretoria, South Africa. Here he implements a no breeding policy for lion cubs and has aligned his fight against 'canned lion hunting' with the Campaign Against Canned Hunting (CACH) and various other organisations such as Lionaid. His work contributes directly to Protecting African Wildlife Conservation Trust (PAWCT), which actively funds leopard and lion conservation.
His television work has been screened across multiple platforms worldwide, with recent examples including: The Lion Whisperer (France 2 – highest rated show in the strand), The Lion Ranger series for Nat Geo Wild, Lions on The Move on multiple channels, and Lions, The New Endangered Species for GoPro, which now has more than 31 million views online. In addition, Kevin’s appearance ‘on CBS’ 60 minutes in the US scored the show its highest ratings in two years with over 18.5 million Americans tuning-in and learning about the plight of dwindling wild lion populations and the horrors associated with cub petting and the 'canned lion hunting' industry. In June 2014 he launched his own YouTube channel - Lion Whisperer TV – allowing people to follow his lions and work on a daily basis.
In March 2015 Killer IQ: Lion v Hyenas featuring Kevin and his animals premiered on the Smithsonian Channel and graced the front cover of the institution’s respected magazine. Since then, the series has also been shown on a number of other channels globally. Working with the world’s leading experts this ground breaking two- part series explores the cognitive behavior of lions and hyenas. Kevin has 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 has also taken part in many speaking events discussing lions and lion conservation and recently 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). His association with Australian non-profit organization Painted Dog Conservation Inc. (PDC Inc) helped to raise over $100 000 dollars at three separate speaking events in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney in 2013 and he has continued to fund-raise for them since this time.
Collaborations with world recognized artists and photographers also 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 has Prince William as its patron and New York artist Suzanne Unrein’s stunning impressionistic paintings featuring Kevin and his lions have also been auctioned to raise funds.
Currently he's working on an ambitious land acquisition project to further protect wilderness areas.
Here is a link to pioneering dentistry work recently conducted on many of the animals at Kevin's sanctuary:
In addition to negotiating major media exposure for Kevin Richardson, which has included 18.5m tuning in to a CBS interview in America and obtaining the highest ratings for the show for two years, plus a front cover and major feature for Smithsonian magazine, Wild Thring Media has also brokered numerous sponsorship and commercial deals. Examples include:
GoPro USA: A 14 minute sponsored film was created with Go-Pro equipment, focusing on Kevin’s unique work with lions. To date it has attracted 32m views on YouTube.
Fixodent: A unique sponsored film following a dentally challenged lion in Kevin’s park has been viewed by 12m people to date and won a prestigious Bronze award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.
Kevin also has current sponsorship deals with Craghoppers, Carhartt (both clothing brands) and Casio (watches).