I Work With Animals! Kevin Richardson, Lion Tamer
Just another day at the office: Kevin Richardson swims with Meg the lion in the Crocodile River just south of the Magaliesburg mountains, near Johannesburg, South Africa. BARM/Fame Pictures
Name: Kevin Richardson
Job: Animal behaviorist, lion tamer, author and film producer based in South Africa
This amazing shot of you and Meg had animal lovers in a tizzy. When did you start working with lions?
About 11 years ago I met a guy who owned The Lion Park in South Africa. I had the opportunity to go there and met two lion cubs that kind of touched my heart. Next thing I know, 11 years have gone by and I'm still very friendly with these lions Tau and Napoleon. I now work at a facility that I helped set up with one of the owners of The Lion Park called The Kingdom of the White Lion.
Do you have a specialty?
I specialize in indigenous animals -- hyenas, leopards, cheetahs, lions, all of our African predators, really.
How did you train for your job?
There's no book written for it! I think it's something one develops over the years. There's no substitute for experience. You've just got to pioneer things, push the barriers a bit.
[Laughs] A bit. You know, a lot of people ask me these things. I don't know how I do it, it just kind of works out.
What is your educational background?
I went to university and studied zoology for two years but got fed up because in zoology, you study a lot of sea creatures -- urchins, microscopic organisms. You don't ever really get to study mammals as one would imagine. I didn't want to spend my life studying a garden snail! I eventually studied physiology and anatomy, and then I went to work on people doing exercise physiology.
And you didn't like working on people?
People were never my first choice. I thought animals would always be a hobby because I had to go get a career. But when you're passionate it's only a matter of time before something comes along that suits that passion. In the back of mind I think I always knew exercise physiology would've bored the hell out of me.
What's the trade-off? Salary?
You're not going to get rich working in this field. I have a really great boss who is equally passionate about the animals. Still, my job is not just a guy who rolls around with lions all day -- I have a busy day and chores. From working with animals to producing a feature film, to starring in documentaries to raising babies to managing a game park. A typical animal keeper in South Africa will earn between R5,000 to R10,000 a month ($550 to $1,100 in US currency).