earthandanimals

Animal behaviourist Kevin Richardson has such an intimate bond with big cats that he can spend the night curled up with them without the slightest fear of attack. Richardson, 32, who is based in a wildlife conservation area near Johannesburg in South Africa, works his unusual magic on other species too. Cheetahs, leopards and even unpredictable hyenas hold no threats for him.

But lions are his favourite. He lavishes them with unconditional love, he says, treating each individual differently, speaking to them, caressing them and, above all, treating them with respect.

Kevin says he is most confident with animals he has known since birth, but claims he can become close friends with any lion less than a year old, when it is still flexible enough to accept him as part of its own pride.

"I have to rely on my own instincts to gauge an animal or a situation, and I will not approach a creature if something doesn’t feel right," he says.

"I don’t use sticks, whips or chains, just patience. It may be dangerous, but this is a passion for me, not a job."

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