Armed only with his gentle nature and uncommonly brave spirit, zoologist and animal behaviorist Kevin Richardson has managed to make some pretty wild friends. Eleven years ago, he had his first encounter with a pair of African lion cubs in captivity -- an experience he says changed his life. Richardson was so impressed with the the big cats that nowadays he spends much of his time with the animals on a reserve in South Africa where his unorthodox methods have earned him an unprecedented place in an untamed pride. Richardson, known by some as "the lion whisperer" hasn't just earned a special place among a group of otherwise threatening African lions, he's a curious case for naturalists as well. Very few people, if any, have developed trust enough with a pack to interact with them so freely. In fact, just last year, we told you about Richardson's experiences happily swimming with one of the big cats -- an activity that lions are normally don't particularly enjoy.
Some might be alarmed at Richardson's cavalier interactions with lions, seeing it as an unnecessary intrusion at best and potentially lethal at worst. But despite the potential pitfalls of this unusual friendship, the courageous zoologist takes it all in stride, telling Sky News "I know they could kill me in a second, but that doesn't bother me. If I came back to life, I would do it all again."
Richardson hopes his animal friendship will help raise awareness about the precarious state of the African lion. The species, along with a number of other big cat species throughout the world have seen a dramatic decline in recent years. Perhaps, if the world really took notice of the intimate bond that can be made between man and animal, we would all be a bit more vested in their preservation. After all, friends don't let friends go extinct.