The Lion Whisperer

Man who walks with lions

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Kevin Richardson’s wildlife sanctuary is in Welgedacht Game Reserve, which is part of a larger conservancy known as Dinokeng. Dinokeng is Gauteng’s only Big 5 game reserve. Kevin’s sanctuary houses 22 hand-reared lions (including white lions), 13 brown spotted hyenas, two striped hyenas and four stunning black leopards and the man they call the Lion Whisperer.

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Lions in Kevin Richardson’s Sanctuary

Volunteers were involved in the day to day running of the sanctuary, from feeding and cleaning the enclosures, to game park management.

Some of the jobs were fence inspections, creek crossing construction, dam building, tree watering and water plant control.

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Kevin Richardson’s Wildlife Sanctuary

When Kevin was filming, we were able to help with the animals and watch. An Argentinian crew filmed him and five lions in one of the enclosures while we were there.

Later that week, he spent two days with a 60 Minutes CBS crew who stopped by before covering the Oscar Pistorius trial conclusion in Pretoria.

That’s why he’s called the Lion Whisperer.

Volunteers were housed in comfortable accommodation within an electrified enclosure. The building used to be the Old Trading Post in Welgedacht.

The big five were on the reserve, with wild elephants roaming near our fence at night. Lion roars and jackals calls often spooked Kevin’s animals and the volunteers!

Two brown water mongooses – Monster and Agua – lived at the Trading Post not far from the water crossing where they had been found in very poor condition.

A very impressive compound with reticulated ponds was under construction and for two of our seven days they were our responsibility.

Monster and Agua were so funny to interact with, especially after cleaning out their pond and giving them fresh water. They would splash feverishly in the pond like otters.

A free-roaming black backed jackal that had been hand-reared ignored the electric fence and came inside the compound to play with the other dogs on the property.

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A black jackal comes to the door at Kevin Richardson’s


Kevin’s volunteers were more diverse than our Moholoholo crew. They were more international, slightly older and mature with a mixture of doctors, teachers, an architect and advanced university students.

Moholoholo seemed to recruit their volunteers from the UK and the average age was between 18 to 21 years old.

Kevin and his wife Mandy were the perfect hosts. They are both very natural, normal people living an extraordinary life.

They welcomed everyone as if they were part of their family and they regularly shared a Friday night braai (barbeque) with volunteers.

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Photos: Tony Isaacson

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This was truly a very unusual experience. To meet someone as unique as Kevin and to watch first-hand the special relationship he has with his lions was simply awesome.

Irene Isaacson travelled at her own expense.

Discover South Africa

South Africa has plenty of voluntourism opportunities. If you’re a wildlife lover, this is a great place to visit. Check out this post for funny pictures of Africa.

South Africa also offers fantastic diving opportunities, such as the Sardine Run and other encounters with marine life.The Lion Whisperer