Lion and man meet again soon

lion and man meet again soon

Is it simply that a lion, whimsically named Christian, remembered the a walled garden — and even take it out to restaurants in the back of a Bentley? . Then recognition sets in, and soon everyone — men and beast — are. It was when two Australians bought a lion cub in the pet department of The huge, powerful animal strode towards the men, and then instead of Almost incredibly, they had first met in a shop in London. Christian, John Rendall and Anthony Burke acknowledged that back in they were naive.

His energy is impressive.

Valentin Gruener has built a close relationship with Sirga the lioness |

He is the first to admit to a hardy appetite for adrenaline and a tendency to do things to an extreme. He is also capable of great tenderness, cooing and sweet-talking his lions.

On my first morning at the reserve, Richardson hurried me over to meet two of his favorite lions, Meg and Ami, whom he has known since they were cubs at Lion Park. When Lion Park first opened, init was revolutionary. Unlike zoos of that era, with their small, bare enclosures, Lion Park allowed visitors to drive through a property where wildlife wandered loose. The array of African plains animals, including giraffes, rhinoceroses, elephants, hippopotamuses, wildebeests and a variety of cats, had once thrived in the area, but the park is on the outskirts of Johannesburg, an enormous urban area, and over the previous century most of the land in the region has been developed for housing and industry.

The rest has been divvied up into cattle ranches, and fences and farmers have driven the large game animals away. Lions, in particular, were long gone. Once enjoying the widest global range of almost any land mammal, lions now live only in sub-Saharan Africa there is also a remnant population in India.

In the last 50 years, the number of wild lions in Africa has dropped by at least two-thirds, fromor more in the s some estimates are as high asto perhaps 32, today. Apart from Amur tigers, lions are the largest cats on earth, and they hunt large prey, so the lion ecosystem needs open territory that is increasingly scarce. As apex predators, lions have no predators of their own.

lion and man meet again soon

In most of Africa, there are far more lions in captivity than in the wild. And no one could resist it. Unlike lots of other animals that could easily kill us—alligators, say, or poisonous snakes—lions are gorgeous, with soft faces and snub noses and round, babyish ears. As cubs, they are docile enough for anyone to cuddle. By the time the lions are 2 years old, though, they are too dangerous for any such interactions.

Very quickly, there are more adult lions than there is room in the park. Richardson became obsessed with the young lions and spent as much time as he could at Cub World.

He discovered he had a knack for relating to them that was different and deeper than what the rest of the visitors and staff had; the animals seemed to respond to his confidence and his willingness to roar and howl his version of lion language. Lions are the most social of big cats, living in groups and collaborating on hunting, and they are extremely responsive to touch and attention.

Richardson played with the cubs as if he were another lion, tumbling and wrestling and nuzzling.

Christian: The lion who lived on the King's Road

He got bitten and clawed and knocked over frequently, but he felt the animals accepted him. The relationship sustained him. He became most attached to Tau and Napoleon, and to Meg and Ami. He began spending so much time at the park that Fuhr gave him a job. One thing is certain: None of the Cub World animals—or any cubs from similar petting farms popping up around South Africa—were successfully introduced to the wild.

Having been handled since birth, they were not fit for living independently. Even if they were, there was nowhere for them to be released. Each park has as many lions as it can accommodate.

Christian: The lion who lived on the King's Road - BBC News

There is no spare room at all, and this presents a counterintuitive proposition: Lions are not in short supply; space for them to live wild, however, is. Some of the surplus animals from petting facilities end up in zoos and circuses; others are sent to Asia, where their bones are used in folk medicine. Many are sold to one of the roughly registered lion breeders in South Africa, where they are used to produce more cubs.

Cub petting is a profitable business, but there is a constant need for new cubs, since each one can be used only for a few months. According to critics, breeders remove newborns from their mothers shortly after birth, so the females can be bred again immediately, rather than waiting for them to go through nursing and weaning. Of the approximately 6, captive lions in South Africa, most live in breeding farms, cycling through pregnancy over and over again. The rest of the extra lions end up as trophies in commercial hunts, in which they are held in a fenced area so they have no chance to escape; sometimes they are sedated so that they are easier targets.

The practice is big business in South Africa, where it brings in nearly a hundred million dollars a year. Up to 1, lions are killed in canned hunts in South Africa annually. The hunters come from all over the world, but most are from the United States. In an email, Fuhr acknowledged that cubs raised at Lion Park had in the past ended up as trophies in canned hunts.

Marc Shoul Eager to roam inside the park, Meg hops from the trailer that transports her for her walk. Marc Shoul Ina powerful lobby had lions removed from a list of animals protected from canned hunting. At right, Richardson strolls with Livy and Vyetse. Marc Shoul Ami crouches in the tall grasses of Dinokeng. Marc Shoul George and Yame, cubs rescued from a theme park in Spain. Marc Shoul Livy, 5 years old, cleans Richardson as they snuggle.

Marc Shoul Bobcat the lion. Marc Shoul When he was rescued from a theme park, George was blind from poor nutrition, but surgery restored his vision and his patchy fur has filled in. After Richardson made a fuss, Fuhr finally agreed to arrange for their return.

Richardson raced to retrieve them from the farm that he says was an astonishing sight—a vast sea of lionesses in crowded corrals. He realized he had no control over the fate of the animals he was so attached to. Cub petting provided financial incentive to breed captive lions, resulting in semi-tame cubs who had no reasonable future anywhere.

lion and man meet again soon

He was part of a cycle that was dooming endless numbers of animals. He was now in an untenable position, celebrating the magnificence of lions but doing so by demonstrating an unusual ease with them, something that seemed to glorify the possibility of taming them. And he was doing so while working at a facility that contributed to their commodification. At the same time, he felt directly responsible for 32 lions, 15 hyenas and four black leopards, and had no place for them to go.

In time, though, his relationship with Fuhr came undone, and Richardson finally left his job at Lion Park. He viewed it as a chance to reinvent himself.

While he had become famous because of his ability to, in effect, tame lions, he wanted to work for the goal of keeping wild ones wild. His explanation is that his lions are exceptional, formed by the exceptional circumstances in which they were raised. A few years ago, Richardson met Gerald Howell, who, along with his family, owned a farm abutting Dinokeng Game Reserve, the largest wildlife preserve in the Johannesburg area.

The Howells and many nearby farmers had taken down the fences between their properties and the park, effectively adding huge amounts of land to the 46,acre reserve. Now the Howells run a safari camp for visitors to Dinokeng. Howell offered Richardson a section of his farm for his animals. After building shelters and enclosures on the Howell farm for his lions, hyenas and leopards, Richardson moved them to what he hopes will be their permanent home.

Bush willows uprooted by foraging elephants were piled like pickup sticks beside the road. In the distance, a giraffe floated by, its head level with the treetops.

They seemed to radiate heat; the air pulsed with the tangy scent of their sweat. Bobcat ignored him, blinking deeply, shifting just enough to allow Richardson room to sit down.

Gabby, who is excitable and rascally, flung herself on Richardson, wrapping her massive front legs around his shoulders. However, lions have an innate ability to hunt, which he has encouraged. Several times a week Valentin spends up to eight hours walking with Sirga in the bush while she looks for prey. She learned to be patient, to stalk and ambush. I thought she might become aggressive after the kill but she just came back and gave me a big hug.

There is a very strong connection between us. Now she is neither wild animal, nor pet but I try to respect her as a lion. No other humans are allowed to feed her. What we are running here is not a petting zoo. He is trying to raise funds so that he can build a mini wildlife park where the big cats can roam in a large fenced area, and Sirga can possibly have cubs of her own.

Give us a hug: Meet the man whose best friend is a lion

Lions can live to be 20 years old. But there is an increasing conflict between the wild animals and farming. Much of the livestock reared there is destined for European tables. Although they are supposedly a protected species, lions are often shot by cattle farmers.

lion and man meet again soon

Over-hunting by humans has led to a decline in natural prey for the lions. This establishes a vicious circle in which lions are forced to prey on livestock, further driving the conflict with humans. Conservationists such as Valentin try to persuade the farm owners to trap the lions instead and hand them over, so they can live on secure game reserves. A century ago there were as many aswild lions in Africa but the figure has dwindled to less than 30, Botswana is one of only seven countries in the world with a lion population of more than 1, but they have become extinct in 26 other nations.